New Wells Fargo CEO brings Wall Street swagger to storied bank
|01/13/2020 | 01:38pm|
Charles Scharf will make his public debut as Wells Fargo & Co’s chief executive during the bank’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday, and those who have worked with him in the past say he is likely to strike a much different chord than his predecessors.
For years, Wells CEOs spoke with Midwestern lilts and have sprinkled their public events with folksy anecdotes. John Stumpf, who ran the San Francisco-based bank from 2007 to 2016, spoke publicly about being raised on a Minnesota farm with 10 siblings, and once recounted his own experience being upside down on a mortgage during the foreclosure crisis in 2010. Tim Sloan, who took over the reins as the bank's fake accounts scandal unraveled, once brought his family, including grandchildren, on stage at a shareholder meeting in Iowa.
But Scharf is not known for such pleasantries, several analysts who have worked with him said.
He tended to give short, blunt answers when he was CEO of Visa Inc and Bank of New York Mellon Corp, or when he was a senior executive at JPMorgan Chase & Co, they said, noting that he is not shy about showing annoyance if he does not appreciate a question or comment.
"He's not polite necessarily," said MoffettNathanson analyst Lisa Ellis, who covers Visa.
"His bedside manner needs improvement," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Gerard Cassidy, who interacted with Scharf at BNY Mellon.
"He has a straight-between-the-eyes kind of delivery," said Argus Research analyst Stephen Biggar, who has followed Scharf at each of his companies so far.
A Reuters review of a dozen transcripts for conference calls Scharf led in previous jobs offered a glimpse of his tendencies. He started sentences with phrases like, “As I've said many times," or “As I know you already know," when he seemed to think questions were repetitive. He frequently directed analysts to do their own math, rather than offering guidance.
Wells Fargo declined to comment for this story.
Analysts who cover Wells Fargo said they will appreciate directness in a CEO, after years of feeling whipsawed by a sales scandal whose breadth and consequences have taken unexpected turns. Prior management teams initially downplayed the extent of the problems, and how they might affect profits, re
gulatory relationships and Wells Fargo’s reputation with customers. (https://reut.rs/2FEiKQW)
Although associates say Scharf can be blunt at times, they also view him as knowledgeable, honest and experienced. Some compared him to his one-time mentor, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who is known to speak his mind. (http://reut.rs/2umViTT)
“There's a bit of Jamie Dimon in him I would have to say,” Biggar said.
Scharf may be the first Wells Fargo CEO with more credentials on Wall Street than Main Street. In hiring him, the bank's board agreed to let the native New Yorker keep his main work location in Manhattan, though Wells Fargo is based in San Francisco, with big hubs in Minneapolis and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Analysts do not expect Scharf to give off the same vibe as his predecessors — though they said he may make an extra effort to be courteous, given the amount of attention Wells Fargo receives. In his first internal town hall as Wells Fargo CEO, Scharf painted himself as a family man.
"I don't expect too much oomph," said Vining Sparks analyst Marty Mosby. "I think its going to be very collegial."
By Imani Moise