Wells Fargo hires Santander US CEO Scott Powell to serve as chief operating officer

Will play key role in rebuilding megabank’s reputation

It’s been more than three years since Wells Fargo’s pristine reputation came crashing down after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the city and county of Los Angeles fined the megabank $150 million for opening millions of fake accounts in customers’ names.

Since then, the bank paid out nearly $2 billion in fines and settlements covering various issues, including the fake account scandal, which led to hundreds of millions of dollars in payouts to regulatorsaffected customers, and shareholders.

The bank has also had four different CEOs in the last three years as it worked to address the numerous internal issues that led to its fines and regulatory issues and repair its broken reputation.

The bank went outside the organization for its last CEO hire, selecting Charles Scharf, the former chairman and CEO of Bank of New York Mellon, to lead the bank.

And now, the bank is hiring another outsider to help Scharf right the ship.

Wells Fargo announced Monday that it is hiring Scott Powell away from Santander US to serve as the bank’s chief operating officer.

Powell is the CEO of Santander Holdings USA and the CEO of Santander Consumer USA Holdings, the company’s largest U.S. subsidiary.

Powell is leaving Santander effective immediately, and will join Wells Fargo as its COO on Dec. 9, 2019. At Wells Fargo, Powell will report directly to Scharf and help Scharf run the company.

Specifically, Powell will “oversee regulatory execution and relations, enterprise shared services and a range of operational functions across the company,” Wells Fargo said in a release.

Powell will also “be empowered to execute on the company’s regulatory commitments, build the strongest possible operational standards and governance and deliver consistent, high-quality customer service,” the bank said.

Scott Powell

In its release, Wells Fargo reveals why Powell is appealing to the company: his experience at Santander.

“As CEO of Santander Holdings USA, Powell led its financial turnaround, including resolving significant regulatory issues, implementing customer-focused oversight programs, improving financial and operating controls and increasing community and employee engagement,” Wells Fargo said.

And with Wells Fargo still facing at least one more billion-dollar settlement, the bank seems to feel that Powell will help it weather the remaining storm.

Prior to leading Santander’s U.S. business, Powell held a number of senior roles at JPMorgan Chase, including head of consumer banking, lending operations and consumer risk management. Powell was also CEO of consumer lending at Bank One, and spent 14 years at Citi in various risk management roles.

“I have known Scott for many years, and his tremendous experience, proven track record and unquestioned integrity will make him a great addition to our management team,” Scharf said in a release.

“He’s the ideal person to take on this new position as we seek to transform Wells Fargo so that high-quality execution, clear accountability and operational excellence become unquestioned components of our culture,” Scharf added. “These elements are critical for us as we tackle our most important priority, regulatory remediation, and also create the foundation from which to build Wells Fargo and to best serve our customers.”

Powell, like Scharf, will be based in New York, separated from the bank’s headquarters in San Francisco.

“I am truly excited about the opportunity to join Wells Fargo and take on this new role during a critical period in Wells Fargo’s history. Like Charlie, I have long admired and respected Wells Fargo,” Powell said.

“The company plays an important role in the U.S. economy, and we must ensure we are operating seamlessly and with the utmost integrity. I recognize that expectations are high and that we have significant work ahead of us,” Powell added. “By working together and holding each other accountable, I’m confident that we will meet those expectations.”

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