A: Wealth, brokerage and retirement is the biggest. We have 10-11 percent of the deposits in the country. We have about 1-2 percent of the wealth. We have all these warm leads. We could double our size of business if we just got those customers who call us theirs to bring their wealth to us. That is by far the biggest. Others that are really important: credit cards, insurance, international. We help U.S.-based customers do business internationally. And we do correspondence business with about 3,000 banks across the globe.
Q: Senator Elizabeth Warren has talked about legislation to end Too Big To Fail. How concerned you are about that?
A: No company in America should be too big to fail. Failure is an important part of the free enterprise system. I believe we are not too big to fail. And I believe that [with] Dodd-Frank … I think Too Big to Fail has been solved.
Q: Then why have the giant banks gotten bigger?
A: Our banks are tiny compared to the size of our economy. Our bank in asset size is less than 10 percent of the U.S. economy. If you take banks around the globe … most countries have five or six banks. We came from a place where we had 14,000 banks. It’s very unconcentrated here. In fact the top four banks in the U.S. make up about 50-60 percent of the banking in the U.S. You take the top 5-6 banks in Australia, in England, in Germany, in Canada … it’s usually 100 percent. Furthermore, those banks are a multiple of their economy. Swiss banks are two times the national economy.
Q: The bank has been subject to repeated litigation related to mortgages since the crisis. Last October, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued the bank and accused it of “Kafkaesque delays” in loan modifications and violating the National Mortgage Settlement. What’s your take on that? Is the bank doing everything it should in terms of streamlining loan modifications?
A: We don’t agree with his finding at all. For mortgages that we own, some of those we actually own on our balance sheet, we have forgiven $8 billion of principal on those, more than any bank by some distance. We’ve also modified over 900,000 loans. We’ve also held hundreds of modification weekends where we help people. … We’ve done more than what was asked of us in that. We have one state out here who said “Wells Fargo, you didn’t do this right.”
Q: You took home $66 million in compensation last year, must of it from vesting shares of stock. Your shareholders have the say on pay, and they gave the bank’s executive pay a 97 percent approval rating. How does that $66 million square with your Midwestern values and your upbringing?
A: Most of my compensation is market-based. So, in other words, it’s at risk. It’s performance-based. I’m willing to put myself at the same risk our shareholders are. There is no question that’s a lot of money. I get it. I understand that. But the principles that we set for compensation are the principles that have guided us for a long time. Obviously the shareholders are very pleased. I don’t know of any other bank that gets a 97 percent support from their shareholders on compensation not only for me but all of our named executive officers. I think our pay practices, that are set by the board, are appropriate for our company at this time.
Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683