Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Don’t Put Shareholders First, Wells Fargo CEO Warns

Tim Sloan says the bank has prevented a crippling talent drain by better looking after its employees.

Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan has some advice for any other leaders trying to attract and retain staff in the aftermath of a scandal: stop putting investors first.

The bank faced a potential mass exodus of talent last year when it admitted thousands of staff had sold millions of customers fake accounts without their knowledge. The offenses occurred over a number of years amid an aggressive sales culture imposed by management that pressured underlings to hit unrealistic sales targets.

Sloan stepped in to the top job in October, replacing John Stumpf, who resigned after eventually assuming accountability for the disaster.

“When you put your shareholders first—I hope Warren Buffett isn’t listening by the way—but when you put them first, then you’re going to make mistakes because you’re going to make short-term decisions that aren’t focused on creating a long-term, successful company,” Sloan told a conference yesterday.


Buffett is CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, one of Wells Fargo’s biggest shareholders. The billionaire investor would perhaps take issue with suggestions the bank’s old sales culture entailed looking after shareholders, given the ultimate damage it caused to its share price. Still, he has kept his shares in the company while Sloan tries to rebuild its tattered reputation.

“Wells Fargo designed a system that produced bad behavior,” Buffett said in November. “When you find that out you gotta do something about it, and the big mistake was they didn’t do something about it.”

Within days of taking the reins last year, Sloan had apologized to staff, telling them that the scandal was indeed management’s responsibility and not theirs. “Many felt we blamed our team members. That one still hurts and I am committed to rectifying it,” he told staff during a speech in North Carolina.

Since then, the bank has stopped paying employees based on how many products they sell. It also increased its minimum wage to $13.50 an hour from $12.00 in January—though at the time said the raise had nothing to do with the scandal.

“Turnover now in our retail bank is the lowest it’s been, that I can recall in my 30 years at the company,” Sloan, who was speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference in California, said yesterday. The bank, he added, isn’t having any trouble attracting new employees.

Sloan isn’t the only CEO to recently warn of the perils of focusing on immediate share-price gains. As recently reported by Chief Executive, past and present CEOs as well as chairmen from the likes of Shell, Pfizer and Levi Strauss have called on the introduction of rules that make it easier for public companies to focus on long-term goals.

Measures the Aspen Institute recommend include discouraging the issuance of short-term earnings guidance and encouraging more transparency of long-term corporate value. “The goal is a better deal for Americans working to support their families and communities—and the restoration of public trust in capitalism itself as an economic system that works for all,” the Institute said.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.