Wells Fargo Hires MetLife’s Leopold for Health Push

Wells Fargo & Co. hired Dr. Ronald Leopold from MetLife Inc. to oversee a medical-benefits push as the largest U.S. home lender expands amid President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul.

Leopold, who was national medical director at MetLife, will run the newly created Health & Productivity National Practice, which helps the bank’s customers find medical plans for employees that may be less expensive and encourages workers to adopt healthy habits, according to a statement today from San Francisco-based Wells Fargo. He’ll be based in Atlanta.

Wells Fargo is seeking to expand its insurance brokerage, the world’s fifth-largest, by helping companies navigate the new law. Leopold, 54, said in an interview that he’ll help clients design programs to improve the health of workers and cushion cost increases stemming from the Affordable Care Act, designed to extend coverage to millions of Americans through exchanges run by states and the federal government.

“What the industry is reckoning with is what seems to be an inevitable jump up in the required costs,” Leopold said. “Employers are going to need to focus a whole lot more on getting their populations a lot healthier.”

Wells Fargo was little changed at $35.18 as of 2:45 p.m. in New York. It has gained 2.9 percent this year.

Companies may encourage employees to eat foods that are more healthful and to exercise, and they may also provide medical screenings, Leopold said.

Leopold, who has a medical degree from Jefferson Medical College and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, said healthier employees can be more productive. They are less likely to miss work for illnesses or to become disabled, he said.

“The sicker a workforce, the greater the rates of absenteeism from sickness and short- and long-term disability,” he said. “As we look at a population that’s getting older and also faces challenges like obesity, employers are also looking at a real productivity challenge.”