Wells Fargo & Co (US)

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Wells Fargo & Co has established itself as one of America's biggest banks by erring on the side of caution rather than reckless expansion. The business was created over the past two decades in a series of careful acquisitions, not least the purchase in 1998 of the original Wells Fargo company by Norwest Corp. However the defining deal to-date came at the end of 2008. Seizing the opportunities provided by the general meltdown in the financial services industry it snapped up failing competitor Wachovia, doubling in size to become one of the country's two biggest retail banks, even overtaking rival Bank of America in several areas. It is now America's single biggest financial services company by outlets, with a vast network of 8,700 retail "stores" spread across 39 US states; also the biggest mortgage lender, having overtaken BofA in 2011; and was until late 2016 the world's most valuable bank by market capitalisation.

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Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Apr 2017: Most US banks continued to enjoy a strong boost from soaring post-election markets, aided by weak comps from the year ago quarter. JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup both reported a 17% jump in profits for 1Q, well ahead of expectations. Investment trading and modest recent upticks in lending rates both contributed to growth. JP Morgan's revenues rose 6% and Citi's by almost 3%, also both ahead of consensus forecasts. Bank of America did even better, with profit soaring by 40% on a 7% lift in revenues, while Morgan Stanley enjoyed a spectacular near-71% jump in profits and a 25% surge in revenues. However, there are always losers as well as winners. News from Wells Fargo, still struggling to repair its reputation after the sales practises scandal, was less positive. Revenues dipped slightly and profits were flat, though still above expectations. The big surprise was Goldman Sachs, whose focus on investment banking should have guaranteed strong gains. In fact, results came in well below analysts' expectations, even if they were up strongly against a dismal year-ago quarter. Unlike rival banks, Goldman's revenues from bond and equity trading actually fell year-on-year. "We didn't navigate the quarter well," said newly appointed CFO Martin Chavez.

Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Jan 2017: Here come the 4Qs! As usual it was the US banks who kicked off the reporting season. Most appear to have enjoyed a strong boost from the extraordinary market rally which followed President-elect Trump's selection in early November. JP Morgan Chase reported a 24% jump in 4Q profits, driving up the full-year figure to a record $24.7bn, around 1% higher than the year before. Net income from investment banking for the year was up by more than a third. The biggest lift came from fixed income trading, offsetting a slight decline in the consumer retail banking division. Revenues edged up 2% to $95.7bn. Bank of America also enjoyed a lift, though analysts were disappointed that it wasn't as high as they'd hoped for in the final quarter. Nevertheless, a 13% uptick in net income for the year to $17.9bn was BofA's best result since 2006, on revenues up 1% to $83.7bn. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs also reported stellar results. As expected, Wells Fargo reported a disappointing quarter, its first since the sales tactics scandal erupted in September. Full year net income slipped 4% to $21.94bn despite a 3% increase in revenues to $88.27bn. Despite a much-improved final quarter, Citigroup was even weaker for the year as a whole, with net income slumping 14% to $14.9bn and revenues down 8% at $69.9bn, as a result of higher provisions for credit losses and further eliminations of non-core businesses.

Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Oct 2016: The wind appeared to change direction for US banks during 3Q, helped along by the strengthening domestic economy and continuing troubles for several continental European rivals. After several quarters of weak or worse performance in their investment banking divisions, JPMorganChase, Citigroup and Bank of America all enjoyed a sharp uplift. Revenues from trading of fixed income, currencies and commodities (or FICC) jumped 48% for JP Morgan in 3Q, 39% for Bank of America and 35% for Citi. Wells Fargo also enjoyed a small contribution from FICC, where it only recently began to establish a presence following the purchase of parts of GE Money. This surge helped to offset another weak performance across the board in consumer banking, still hamstrung by low interest rates. JPMorganChase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America all reported modest year-on-year growth in combined revenues, though Citigroup was down slightly. Bank of America was the only one of the four to report a rise in net profits year-on-year, chalking up its best quarterly performance since 2008. Better still were the profits at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, banks with a much larger exposure to investment banking. Both reported a 60% leap on the bottom line, on revenues up 19% and 15% respectively.

Adbrands Weekly Update 13th Oct 2016: After two weeks of unrelenting pressure over Wells Fargo's fake accounts scandal, chairman & CEO John Stumpf stepped down from both roles with immediate effect in an attempt to draw a line under the furore. Following an internal investigation, Wells Fargo admitted that it found employees had routinely faked sales of new banking products to customers in order to hit their targets. New accounts were opened for existing customers without their consent or knowledge, or products were allocated to fictitious new clients. Wells Fargo said it has sacked more than 5,000 employees over the past five years for improper behaviour. It has also ended sales goals for employees. The bank's recently appointed president & COO Timothy Sloan is immediately promoted to CEO, while lead independent director Stephen Sanger, a former CEO of General Mills, becomes chairman.

Adbrands Weekly Update 6th Oct 2016: Wells Fargo remains under intense pressure from regulators, and now customers as well, over its fake accounts scandal. The US state of California - where Wells Fargo is headquartered - introduced a one year ban on doing business with the bank, and Illinois has followed suit this week, withdrawing around $30bn of short-term investments which had been brokered by the banking group. Hillary Clinton has also weighed in on the campaign trail, accusing the bank of “bullying thousands of employees into committing fraud against unsuspecting customers" by setting unfeasibly high targets for sales of new products. “It is outrageous," she said, "that eight years after a cowboy culture on Wall Street wrecked our economy we are still seeing powerful bankers playing fast and loose with the law."

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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: Like most of its competitors the current Wells Fargo has been assembled through merger or acquisition of a string of other groups. The original business was established in California in 1852 by Henry Wells and William Fargo, then the principals of New York's American Express Company. The board of that company considered the Wild West too risky to allow a branch of American Express there, so Wells and Fargo established it as a separate business of their own. The most important commodity carried by the delivery service was gold, and as a result the company soon began to offer commercial banking to its customers. The delivery business was officially spun off in 1905. 

For the next 70 years or so, Wells Fargo was primarily a city bank for San Francisco, but expanded its network to cover all of California by the end of the 1980s through the acquisition of rival Crocker and the local branches of the UK's Barclays. In 1996 it acquired First Interstate Bancorp, a multi-regional banking network first created by the founder of Bank of America in the 1920s. Two years later, Wells Fargo was itself acquired by Norwest Corporation, originally a cooperative of regional banks from Minnesota and the North West United States. The merged business retained the more celebrated Wells Fargo brand and image. The group's network expanded still further in 2000 with the acquisition First Security, another multi-state banking group based in Utah and various South Western states. 

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