Wells Fargo's CEO Tries to Move Past Scandal With Ad Campaign

  • New CEO aims to shift attention from unauthorized accounts
  • Bank executives will spend more time talking to media, he says

Wells Fargo & Co. is seeking to shift attention away from a scandal in its retail unit and toward the ways it’s enhancing service and performance.

Tim Sloan. Source: Wells Fargo

Tim Sloan. Source: Wells Fargo

The lender will begin an ad campaign in mid-April with the tag line "Building Better Every Day," Chief Executive Officer Tim Sloan told employees Tuesday at an internal gathering in Orlando, Florida. The ads will be broadcast and will appear in print and online, Sloan said, according to prepared remarks released by the San Francisco-based bank.

"You want us to tell our story, because you believe we have a better story to tell," Sloan told employees. "You want more people to hear about how we are making things right, how we’re fixing what was broken and how we’re building a better Wells Fargo."

Sloan, 56, rose to the top job in October amid the scandal that’s cost the firm at least $200 million. Authorities fined the bank Sept. 8 after revelations that employees may have opened more than 2 million deposit and credit-card accounts without customers’ permission. The CEO and his deputies have been working for the last seven months to extricate the lender from a torrent of public criticism.

Wells Fargo dropped as much as 13 percent in the weeks following disclosure of the fake accounts. It rebounded later, gaining 12 percent since the Sept. 8 close in New York. Still, its market value has failed to keep pace with JPMorgan Chase & Co., which surpassed Wells Fargo last year to become the world’s most valuable bank.

Read More: Wells Fargo Card Requests Drop by Most Since Scandal

Employees surveyed by Wells Fargo indicate they want the bank "to invest more time and resources in sharing our story," so executives will give more interviews to journalists, Sloan told workers. The firm ran a nationwide advertising campaign late last year that featured a stagecoach in slow motion, and a narrator talking over piano music.

Retail-bank performance is still being hurt by the scandal, with credit-card applications declining 55 percent last month, the most since the bank started releasing the data. New checking accounts in February fell 43 percent.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley criticized the bank in a London speech Tuesday, saying that pressuring employees to meet sales targets was similar to what mortgage brokers experienced in the run-up to the housing crisis. Wells Fargo eliminated product targets for its 2017 retail-banker compensation plan.

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