– Khalid Taha, Former Wells Fargo Retail Worker & Current Committee For Better Banks Member
My name is Khalid Taha, and until July 2016 I was a personal banker at a Wells Fargo in San Diego, California. When I came to the United States as a refugee, I had high hopes. After years of being torn by war, first in Iraq and then in Syria, my family and I moved to San Diego. I expected to find a good job in the United States, with good working conditions. But the reality I encountered was different.
The unreasonable sales quotas at Wells Fargo have taken a huge toll on workers like me. The branch where I worked was structured in such a way that we had to meet sales quotas every day. If I did not meet my sales goals I could get written up and risked being fired. This kind of pressure meant we had to prioritize selling products, rather than just focusing on what best matched our customers’ needs. On a daily basis, I had a quota of approximately 10 to 15 personal accounts, 2-3 new accounts, 2-3 credit cards and/or loans; and a daily referral for an insurance or mortgage product.
Wages for frontline bank workers are very low, with the average teller earning about $12.40 per hour. Even though we made incentive bonuses for meeting high sales targets they did not add up to a lot of money. The strongest incentive for meeting our sales goals was to avoid disciplinary action and termination.
In fact, in all the time I worked at Wells Fargo, I never heard of a worker being fired for overzealous selling. If workers were fired it was because they couldn’t meet the excessive sales targets.
Not only were the sales goals hurting the lives of Wells Fargo’s workers, they were hurting our customers as well. I would constantly have customers come in saying that they could not afford the monthly maintenance fees for their checking accounts because they were on a fixed income. Wells Fargo’s solution was always focused on selling a new product, so the workers would be directed to tell the customer to open a savings account, so that they would not have to pay the maintenance fee for the checking account.
But opening a savings account meant the customer had to enroll in automatic funds transfer from their checking to their savings accounts. With less in the checking account, they were more likely to be hit with overdraft fees of $35 per occurrence. Instead of helping lower income customers to avoid paying fees, Wells Fargo’s insistence on selling new products ended up taking more money out of the customer’s pocket.
That’s why last year I decided to join The Committee for Better Banks. I have met other workers who like me want to improve our jobs and the banking industry.
– Cassaundra Plummer, Former Well Fargo Teller & Current Committee For Better Banks Member
I know firsthand from working in the banking industry for more than 7 years that sales goals make it nearly impossible for frontline bank workers to help customers find the financial products best suited to them. This is a pervasive problem throughout the banking industry.
Most recently, I worked at TD Bank. I began as a part-time teller in 2010 and later was promoted to Assistant Head Teller.
At my branch it was the norm to disregard for the customers’ needs and only focus on the sales. My manager pushed me to only talk about the positive’s of products and to avoid discussing fees and the things that were negative. He would say things like “you don’t have to tell them all of this, that’s why we give them the paperwork.” I would respond saying “but no one ever reads the paperwork,” and he would say “exactly”.
Conversations like those where I made it clear that I was uncomfortable giving advice that would harm consumers’ financial health, led my manager to tell me that I wasn’t a team player. Then he retaliated against me by regularly changing my approved paid-time off, scheduling me to work all holidays and other gestures of disdain throughout the course of a day.
At TD Bank most tellers have a goal of 1000 to 3000 sales points per quarter. Most accounts will give a teller around 30-50 sales points. That is a lot of sales referrals. When tellers or representatives are not meeting their sales goals, management starts a progress improvement plan where they constantly observe and coach. Employees going through this plan are treated like students in detention, and many are terminated if they don’t improve. I want consumers to know that bank workers do not push products on them because they just want to make some extra money for themselves; many bank workers are worried every day that if they do not meet that sales goal, they will be fired.
I used to think that it was just my branch, that my manager was just a bad apple. When I joined the Committee for Better Banks, I was surprised to learn that frontline bank employees at all of the major banks struggle with sales goals.
– Julie Miller, Former Wells Fargo Branch Manager & Committee For Better Banks Member
Hello my name is Julie Miller. I’ve worked in bank related services for almost 20 years. I currently manage an insurance agency, but, prior to that I worked in retail banking at Wachovia and Wells Fargo for 10 years.
My last banking position was as a branch manager of a Wells Fargo in Allentown, PA. As a branch manager, I saw firsthand how the sales goals structure and the pressure to “sell at all costs” came from upper level, corporate executives. Corporate executives designed the sales quota systems and created the culture of harassment and fear when we did not meet them. When John Stumpf blames the frontline workers for the unauthorized accounts I am disgusted.
As a branch manager, I was instructed by Wells Fargo to increase my branches sales by more than 35% every year. My branch was not in a huge city or major metropolitan area, therefore, there is a finite customer base. So, where was that additional 35% supposed to come from? The only place it could come from was our existing customer base, which means selling them more products and services that were often unneeded and unwarranted. It was called the Great Eight.
I was told by Wells Fargo district and regional management to make my personal bankers and tellers sell, sell, sell, which often came at the cost of customer service and offering honest, sound financial advice. Bankers became so desperate to reach their sales goals (to avoid being terminated), that they would “churn” accounts. This is when you close accounts and open up new ones for the same customer in order to manipulate the sales system.
If the employees working under me didn’t meet their goals, I was told to “write them up”. I knew it wasn’t right to push products on customers they neither needed nor wanted, so I stopped pressuring my employees to do so. Well Fargo came down very hard on me for not making my employees sell enough and my District Manager stated “Work them like dogs if you have to. Do whatever it takes. If your bankers can’t do it then make up the difference yourself”.
I am speaking up today to shed light on how banks are structured to make bank workers meet aggressive sales quotas every day/week/month. The public needs to hear what bank workers are going through to meet their sales quotas. This is one of the reasons we are organizing in the Committee for Better Banks- to have a collective voice and worker protections when we speak up against predatory practices.