Thoughts on Life & Leadership

A Junto Strategy Project

Wells Fargo, Margaret Thatcher, & Being a Lady

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 11.24.27 AMMargaret Thatcher was known for pithy quotes and perhaps one of best examples of her pithiness is the quote stating, “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

It is a saying that applies to more than just power.

One of the pillars of a healthy free-market system is a trusted banking sector. Unfortunately the banking industry has had one misstep after another over the past 40 years with the sector falling from 60% trust level to 32%, according to the Gallup Confidence in Institutions Index. And Wells Fargo has become one of the leading the poster children driving that downward trend.

Not so long ago, Wells Fargo was the gold standard in banking. It’s business results and executive leadership landed it in Jim Collins’ best selling book on leadership – Good to Great. It was the conservative, middle-American-values bank that wasn’t flashy but got results the right way. Times have certainly changed.

Since 2008, Wells Fargo has become banking’s new bad boy whose recent missteps include: creating fake customer accounts, illegally repossessing service members’ cars, identity fraud, worker retaliation, charging customers for auto insurance they didn’t need, sold dangerous investments to customers, and wrongly fining mortgage customers.

(For an in-depth timeline of the laundry list of misdeeds, click here.)

However, if someone hadn’t been paying attention, they’d never know how unethical the bank had been by reading the two-page ad the company placed in national print outlets like USA Today this past Monday. With a multi-million-dollar ad campaign (which would have been better spent helping the customers they hurt in the first place), Wells Fargo seems to have adopted a “tell everyone we’re ethical” strategy to let the public know that they are once again the blue-collar, ethical bank that puts customers ahead of the almighty dollar.

Investors and customers would be wise to not fall for it again, as this most recent national PR campaign is just one sure sign demonstrating that Wells Fargo and the banking industry haven’t really learned their ethical lesson at all.


Well to borrow from the former British prime minister, “Being ethical is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

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This entry was posted on May 9, 2018 by in Leadership, Wrong Lessons and tagged , , , , , , , .


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