Wells Fargo Case Analysis

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  • Topic: Wells Fargo, William Fargo, Henry Wells
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  • Published : April 22, 2007
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Annette Garcia
Mikey Tran
Thy Nguyen
Omar Ennabe

April 24, 2007

Wells Fargo & Co. is a diversified financial services company in the United States with consumer finance subsidiaries doing business in Canada and Puerto Rico.

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, Wells Fargo is a result of a merger between California-based Wells Fargo & Co. and Minneapolis-based Norwest Corporation in 1998. The new company chose to keep the name Wells Fargo, to capitalize on the 150 year history of the nationally recognized Wells Fargo name and its trademark stagecoach.

Wells Fargo & Co. is one of the United States top-40 largest private employers. They ranked fifth in assets and fourth in market value of their stock among their peers.

As of December 31, 2006, Wells Fargo has 6,062 retail branches, over 23 million customers, and 158,000 employees.

The company credits its success to its diversified financial services shown below.


On March 18, 1852, in New York City, Henry Wells, William Fargo and others signed an article of association for a joint stock company to do banking and express business in distant California. The company opened its first office, in San Francisco, in July 1852.

In 1853, the immediate challenge that faced the presidents of the company (Morgan and Barney) was to try and establish the company in two highly competitive fields under conditions of rapid growth and unpredictable change. At the time California did not regulate the banking or the express industry so both fields were wide open. Because it was so easy for anyone to establish a bank, Wells Fargo actually entered the market pretty late and faced well established competition. From the beginning, Wells Fargo offered diverse and mutually supportive services: general forwarding and commissions; buying and selling of gold dust, bullion, and specie (or coin); and freight service between New York and California.


During this time Wells Fargo expanded rapidly. It became the West's all-purpose business, communications, and transportation agent. The company developed its own stagecoach business, helped start and then took over the Overland Mail Company, and participated in the Pony Express. In 1866 when Wells Fargo consolidated under its own name the ownership and operation of the entire overland mail route between Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean and many stagecoach lines in the western states.


In 1904 Wells Fargo & Company Express moved to New York City. And in 1905 Wells Fargo separated their banking and express operations. Then in 1918 the government forced Wells Fargo Express to consolidate its domestic operations with those of the other major companies. In late 1923, Wells Fargo Nevada National Bank merged with Union Trust Company, to form the Wells Fargo Bank & Union Trust Company.


The war years were uneventful and prosperous for Wells Fargo. In the 1950's the grandson of Wells Fargo's President I.W. Hellman III, acquired two San Francisco Bay area banks and opened a small branch network around San Francisco. In 1954 the name of the bank was shortened to Wells Fargo Bank.


In 1960 Wells Fargo Bank merged with American Trust Company to form the Wells Fargo Bank American Trust Company. This was a merger between two of California's oldest banks which created the 11th largest banking institution in the United States. It was renamed again in 1962 to Wells Fargo Bank. In 1967 Wells Fargo together with other three banks introduced a Master Charge Card (now Mastercard) to its customers as a plan to compete with Bank of America in the consumer lending business. In 1968 Wells Fargo changed from a state to a federal banking charter. When the charter conversion was completed in 1968, the bank again renamed to Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.


Wells Fargo Domestic profits grew faster than those of any other U.S. bank between 1970 and 1975. Wells Fargo...
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