Stumpf says Wells Fargo unlikely to pursue naming rights

In an interview, John Stumpf said the bank is seeing more lending demand but is also looking at other areas for growth.

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John Stumpf, Wells Fargo CEO, was in Minneapolis for the Tuesday groundbreaking for the new office project near the Vikings stadium.

Photo: Richard Sennott • richard.sennott@startribune.com,

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When the “Sunday Night Football” blimp floats over the new Vikings stadium, viewers will catch the big Wells Fargo name.

It just probably won’t be on the stadium.

John Stumpf, head of the San Francisco-based bank, said in an interview Tuesday that Wells Fargo likes to hang signs on its own buildings, and has skipped naming rights other than one arena it inherited with its purchase of Wachovia in 2008.

“We traditionally don’t name stadiums,” Stumpf said. “It’s not traditionally what we do.”

Stumpf has led Wells Fargo & Co. for nearly seven years now, out of a near depression and into a new era of challenge marked by an onslaught of financial regulations and a restrained appetite for loans.

In Minneapolis for the groundbreaking Tuesday on the two Wells Fargo office towers that will rise next to the stadium, Stumpf sat down before hitting the road to visit his 85-year-old mother and 91-year-old father in his hometown of Pierz, Minn., north of St. Cloud.

Q: Nationally, Wells Fargo has been trimming its real estate. Last year the bank said it shrank its real estate by about 18 million square feet in the previous four years, to about 98 million square feet. How much will it shrink?

A: I think we could do more. We’ve not said how much more. As we redo or refresh a store, we’re able to use new ways of designing the footprint such that we can have the same number of people in a smaller place and we can sell the excess off or lease it.

Q: Going into the second quarter, have you seen any uptick in mortgage purchase originations?

A: It’s too early probably to tell where we are. At the end of the second quarter, we’ll announce it then.

Q: What about overall lending? Are you seeing a trend up?

A: All lending, yes, we’re seeing more demand. People are feeling a little bit better about the economy and they’re starting to borrow. If you take the last year, we grew loans by about $40 billion, which is a 7-8 percent net number. It’s pretty broad, but it’s not as robust as it needs to be.

Q: The competitive environment in mortgages has gotten a lot tougher, with smaller players getting more aggressive as the overall pie is shrinking. What does the bank do to grow mortgages?

A: We had probably an oversized share of the market for the last few years because a lot of others left the market. Today we are holding to our credit standards, but we are also making sure that we have enough people … so that we can serve our customers. We’re not going to put our shareholders at risk to get some kind of share that we think we have to have.

Q: Do you get more aggressive going down the credit score spectrum? Last February the bank said it would originate loans backed by the FHA with scores as low as 600. Would you go lower?

A: I don’t know if we would or not. But if we would, it would be with the understanding internally that there would be other things that we’re going to be more restrictive on. … There are probably people who could get a mortgage, should get a mortgage, could afford a mortgage, who are not getting a mortgage. It’s probably too restrictive today.

Q: The big issue facing all banks is revenue growth. Absent mortgage, where does that come from for Wells Fargo? If you were to list in rough order of importance where you see the most opportunity …

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