Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bank analyst airs service grievances with Wells Fargo

It's easy these days to criticize a company online when you have a bad experience at a restaurant, big-box store -- or a bank. Rarely does an aggrieved customer have a distribution list of journalists around the country.

But that's what happened Tuesday when bank analyst Dick Bove of Rochdale Securities, a frequent source for financial magazines, newspapers and CNBC, and a stalwart defender of the nation's big banks, sent out a note detailing his frustrations with Wells Fargo's customer service.

His list of grievances would read strikingly familiar to most everyday customers, and resonates particularly here in Charlotte.

For background, Bove, who lives near Tampa, revealed that he was a long-time Wachovia customer and said the Charlotte bank "excelled in customer service." After Wells Fargo acquired the bank as it teetered on the edge of failure, the service began to decline, Bove says, and is now "unacceptable." Here's what happened to him, as he recounts:
  • No one greets him when he enters his local branch. One time, the banker he wanted to meet made him wait, went to the bathroom, then left the bank.
  • Another time, Bove came to the branch with a "low six figure check" and some questions. A banker told him he couldn't help, and to call Wells customer service line. The customer service rep on the phone told him to go back to the branch.
  • A banker called him telling him to refinance his mortgage through HARP, though he did not qualify. Four months later, the bank rejected his refinancing application.
  • Wells charged Bove fees on his checking account for "unexplained reasons." He decided to just pay them rather than go through the bank's bureaucracy.
Of course, Bove acknowledges that this is just one man's experience. But as an analyst, his opinion matters a deal more than the average Joe. In his note, he says that he now doesn't take what the bank says at face value despite long believing Wells Fargo is the best run bank in the country.

For the record, Bove still feels Wells Fargo's stock (at $33.41 this morning) is undervalued. 

Also for the record, Bove is closing Wells accounts and opening ones at JPMorgan Chase.


Update: Wells Fargo provided the following statement:
While we do not comment on analyst reports, it is important to note that Wells Fargo conducts more than 60,000 surveys of its retail banking customers every month. Throughout the merger nearly eight out of 10 customers indicated they were "extremely satisfied" with their recent visit to a Wells Fargo retail banking store, the highest possible rating. During the second quarter 2012, customers again rated their experience in our stores at an all-time high, based on survey results.
Customer service is incredibly important and central to our vision and values at Wells Fargo, just one reason we survey our own customers as we know our most important feedback comes directly from them. We look to the data, we also recognize that we're only as good as our last interaction and we remain committed to putting our customers at the center of everything we do.
Wells Fargo ranked #1 in customer satisfaction among the largest U.S. retail banks in the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey in 2009 through 2011. Wachovia ranked number one in the survey from 2001 to 2008.
At Wells Fargo's investor day in May, community banking regional president Stan Kelly said the bank's internal surveys showed that service in North and South Carolina was better than anywhere else in the country.

21 comments:

jjw901 said...

Whew! For a while there I didn't think the CO was going to have it's daily negative bank story.

Anonymous said...

Why does his opinion matter more than the "average Joe" simply because he is an analyst? Once again, let me reiterate: businessmen are not gods, even though they think they are. They are human just like you and me and are probably just shocked and horrified that they can be treated badly just like the average person.

David said...

I'm sure Mr. Bove would completely agree with you. Mr. Bove is a respected analyst, and as such probably has a larger than an "average Joe's" banking relationship. I expect his thought process is if he receives such poor service then the "average Joe" probably receives just as poor if not worse service. Since the "average Joe" doesn't have a platform to inform the masses, Mr. Bove did it for them.

Anonymous said...

"Also for the record, Bove is closing Wells accounts and opening ones at JPMorgan Chase." oh snap!

Anonymous said...

Here's Bove hyping Wells Fargo nine hours before he downgraded it to a sell. Bove should be in prison.

http://www.zerohedge.com/article/dick-bove-states-wells-fargo-proving-itself-be-standout-nine-hours-he-downgrades-sell

Andrew Dunn said...

Anon 11:04, I said his opinion has more weight than the average Joe because 1) he gives investment advice to clients, many of whom, presumably, take it; and 2) as a prominent figure in the banking world, he has a larger platform of listeners. Wasn't trying to say that he's more important than anyone else.

Melissa Thayer said...

I have banked with Wachovia since 2005, I had great service then and now that they are wells fargo I continue to have great service. My local banks still have the same people. When the one baker went to the restroom then left the branch...did Mr. Bove not let him know he was waiting for him. When he went to the bank and they told him that only customer service could help? We would need more details because what is someone going to do over the phone with a paper check? That is common sense. Knowing he did not qualify for a refinance through HARP, why did he apply? So he was surprised he was rejected. He may be a respected business analyst but he is not a very bright one. he decided to just pay these unexplained fees? Um...as for them to be credited if they can not explain them. Or, actually go ahead and just pay them...that's why an article to the left of this story says "Another record quarter of profits for Wells Fargo."

Anonymous said...

Big banks long ago dumped any concept of customer service.

If you want customer service then go to a local community bank.

Cedar Posts said...

Wells Fargo charged my brother an $12.00 fee to cash a check from the North Carolina Sweet Potato Growers Assoc.

The check was for contract work he had supplied and was drawn on a Wells Fargo account.

But since he wasn't a Wells Fargo customer they wanted a fee.

$12 bucks to cash an $800 check.

Crazy.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bove can now write about pushy sales tactics, because that's what he'll get at JPMorgan Chase.

Anonymous said...

Show me where good Customer Service exists on a consistent level ANYWHERE anymore!

George Hanson said...

My Wells Fargo "private banker" doesn't know a stock from a bond, I kid you not. An 8th grader could do a better job. The level of personnel they now have in the branches is just laughable!

Anonymous said...

@Cedar Posts

When you open a corporate account at Wells Fargo they offer an account that charges the person cashing the check the fee or they charge the business that wrote the check, Seems the sweet potato growers wanted to pass along the fee. If your brother had opened a free savings account with no min balance, he wouldve saved the $3

Tom said...

I'm right there with you Mr. Bove. My wife and I began banking with the original Wachovia over 20 years ago. They were the best in customer service. We even continued to bank with them when my wife went to work for BofA where she spent over 15 yrs. I noticed a drop in their customer service when they were acquire or merged with First Union. They may have used the Wachovia name, but the service wasn't as good. But the real drop off in customer service occurred after the Wells Fargo takeover. I experienced some of the same things that Mr. Bove described and first closed my 2 daughters' accounts that they had throughout college and then closed all of mine. While closing the final account, I finally had someone act like they wanted me to stay, but it was too late.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this article...the service has taken a nose-dive since WF has come into the picture. WF calls the branches "retail stores"...and the focus isn't on taking care of current customers...it's opening new accounts!! Just the moniker "retail stores" is frightening. The upper mgmt PUSHES monthly goals for new business...so much in fact...I personally know of a college student opening a new acct...and a week later going into a different branch...only to have her account closed and re-opened...so the personal banker got his credit. I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg on the ruthless means that WF will show....I took my business to BB&T...another "local" bank - with many years of service..and you never hear negative things in the news about them...I don't think they "touched" the toxic mortgage business, unlike the others.... just my opinion...

J said...

There's a pretty easy fix for bad interaction in a bank branch: Simply stay until you are satisfied.

I recently moved into the treasurer position of a non-profit, and went into a WF branch to get my name put on the checking account. The lady that greeted me at the front door said "you must have someone currently on the account with you to be added." Wrong answer, I said. There are 2 other officials on the account. One lives in Raleigh and the other in Wilson. Neither one of them needs to drive all the way to Charlotte. A WF account is a WF account, no matter which branch I go into. I have the necessary paperwork and I intend to finish this business here, today. Stunned, she meekly slithered away and found an available business banker to help me.

Of course, as you would expect, the banker spent the whole time trying to convince me to move my personal accounts to WF, but I simply said, "No, thank you" to each offer, and he eventually got the hint. I got my name on the account and all is well.

So, if you go into a branch and get a brain-dead non-answer to your questions, just park yourself and insist on answers. Force the employees to do their jobs.

Anonymous said...

@ Andrew Dunn,

Using the criteria you define in your 11:40 post, I'm curious as to why you never quote individuals who aren't "stalwart defenders of the nation's big banks".

Specifically:

* Tyler Durden of ZeroHedge
* Karl Denninger of Market Ticker
* Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism
* Max Keiser
* Gerald Celente
* Jim Rogers (the commodity expert, not the Duke CEO)
* Mike "Mish" Shedlock
* Peter Schiff
* Lauren Lyster of RT's Capital Account
* Janet Tavakoli
* Jim Grant of "Grant’s Interest Rate Observer"

Andrew Dunn said...

Anon 3:59, I'll take that as in earnest. We subscribe to or receive a number of research reports from different viewpoints that you'll see referenced from time to time in this blog. Others we read you won't see quoted, but rather will inform things we write. For example, I read ZeroHedge regularly but you likely won't see Tyler Durden quoted since he's not an actual person but likely a pseudonym for a group of writers.

If you wan't to talk more about it, shoot me an email or give me a call.

Anonymous said...

Wells Fargo is really Norwest which was primarily a mortgage and loan bank. The origins of bad customer service originate from management and the corporate culture of a loan bank. This is the reason why they never were in a hurry to go national and merge with Wachovia in that they know nothing about retail banking and their fee based banking model is outdated. This model only works when your product is superior and you are not trying to sell a commodity which most customers can get a deposit account for free and any local bank or credit union. I would guess that less than half their employees bank with them and they get a free account lol so how long can company in which the employees have such a low opinion of last anyway. Not very long.

Anonymous said...

I banked with my local bank, now named WF, for 35 years. The service became so bad I closed my accounts and found a new bank, a REAL bank. After repeatedly getting poor service at the branches, online and on the phone I gave up. The last straw was their inability, after 4 days, to give me the correct balance on a Savings account...this account had no transactions for the prior 6-12 months. I reported this final incident to the Comptroller of the Currency but they turn their heads.

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