NEW YORK (Reuters) - Among its regional bank-wide sales campaigns, Wells Fargo & Co’s (WFC.N) “Jump into January” programme was notorious for the impact it had on staff.
Initially designed to motivate branch employees to exceed sales goals, the pressure to beat higher daily sales targets instead encouraged them to forge customer signatures, hold off on opening accounts signed for in December and target friends and family to make up the numbers.
The campaign was highlighted in an internal Wells Fargo report released on Monday that blamed the bank’s sales culture and the management of its retail division for years of sales practice abuses.
The campaign “became a breeding ground for bad behaviour that helped cement the sales culture’s negative characteristics,” witnesses told the report’s authors.
“The January campaign also resulted in increased employee turnover and, in some areas, no paid-time-off or training during the month.”
To meet their targets, bankers were encouraged to make lists of friends and family who were potential sales targets
One branch manager had a teenage daughter with 24 accounts, an adult daughter with 18 accounts, a husband with 21 accounts, a brother with 14 accounts and a father with 4 accounts.
The report said that, “many employees believed that their future at Wells Fargo depended on how many products they sold.”
In total, 5,300 staff were fired for sales practice abuses over five years. Most of the employees that were fired admitted that they engaged in misconduct, but frequently said they did so because of the culture at the bank, the report said.
Branch-level managers said they often felt pressure from their supervisors to make sales, but that only rarely were they explicitly instructed to engage in misconduct.
One regional president was particularly aggressive in her Jump into January campaigns, creating a practice known as “running the gauntlet”, in which district managers dressed up
in themed costumes and ran down to a whiteboard to report the number of sales they achieved.
The manager was fired for cause in February.
“Jump into January” ended in 2013 and was replaced by another sales programme.
The bank ended all sales goals for retail bankers in September 2016 and in January introduced a new incentive programme that focussed on customer service rather than selling products.
Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Muralikumar Anantharaman