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The early life of Stumpf is a manifestation of two things: 1) Adversities (or hardships in this case) need not always mean that one will be more likely to be down and out than up and rising. 2) There are lessons to be learnt if you are face with headwinds early on in your life – provided you have people together and who are willing to persevere along with you.

So possessing precisely those two, Stumpf built a personality that was so strong and refreshingly different in the most effective of ways much later in life as he joined one of the foremost financial institutions in the world.

Coming from a small town called Pierz, in mid-town Minnesota, Stumpf was raised on the family dairy farm with 1o of his siblings (he was second of the Sr. Stumpf couple’s 11 children). Perhaps hard-work, and industry were in his roots – father was of German origin and his mother was Polish. Anyway, Stumpf had to contend with some difficult situations early on in his life, even poverty forcing the young man to work on his father’s farm, milking cows and doing other chores required (he did this until he was 18!). This meant that John’s academics suffered a bit – he had bad grades at school – figured in the bottom half of the class.

But, the family and the children persisted with life and persevered and made their way out of those tough times through education and, of course, along with really hard-work. Particularly, John Stumpf – who owing to his not so desirable academic performance and poor family finances, had to obtain a job as a bread-maker with a local bakery in his home-town for a year.

Then, recouping, he enrolled in the St. Cloud State University (St. Cloud, Minnesota) on a provisional basis, as things would have it before subsequently doing the regular course in earninga bachelor's degree in finance from the university.

Then, he got a job as the repossession agent at First Bank at St. Paul, Minnesota. This led him to think of equipping himself with more skills such as management et al. As a result, he did his MBA with an emphasis in finance from the Carlson School of Management.

Then, before, after, and thereafter…

His first major break in the big league – especially for someone hailing from modest living – came in 1982 in the form of a job in the loan administration department of Norwest Corporation, which Stumpf could guess many to be thinking of as an airline company rather than a finance one and which was subsequently known as Northwestern National Bank (The predecessor of Wells Fargo). So, in a way Stumpf has been with Wells Fargo since its inception (or even before that).

Having seen the difficult form of life, Stumpf was wise and industrious enough to make good of the opportunity. He did so well that he was gradually promoted to the post of Senior Vice President (no mean feat for a small-town bloke!) and chief credit officer of Norwest Bank, N.A. Minneapolis, where he held many management positions (as indeed at Norwest bank, Minnesota).

Stumpf just didn’t sit back on his laurels after that too. He was asked to assume responsibility of Norwest Bank Arizona in 1989 – what an achievement in well under a decade for someone with such humble beginnings.

He prospered and prospered…

Two years later, he was asked to assume further responsibility as regional president – this time, in addition to Arizona, he had to look after the Bank’s Colorado wing as well, which he did for the next three years up to 1994, when another state, Texas, was waiting to benefit from his capacity as the as regional manager of the bank. In the four years that he was there, Stumpf, oversaw and successfully led the bank’s acquisition of 30 Texas banks with a total assets amounting to be about $13 billion (USD). Again, that was some achievement for Stumpf, who would gain much confidence that would stand him in great stead.

The merger…

Stumpf became the head of the Southwestern Group in 1998 after the merger of Norwest Corporation and Wells Fargo & Company, where he would look after the new entity’s operations in the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas). The trend followed and more states were added under his leadership of the Western Banking Group (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming).

And history was created…led by Stumpf

The first decade of the new millennium was a defining one for both Wells Fargo and Stumpf. He led the successful integration of Wells Fargo’s $23 billion acquisition of the Salt Lake City based First Security Corporation in 2000. Not much later, in 2002, he was named Group Executive Vice President of Community. He was made President of the company in 2005,elected to the Board of Directors in 2006 and the added responsibilities helped him deliver more for the company.

CEO of Wells Fargo…

Accordingly, Stumpf, who was elevated to the post of CEO in 2007, helped it grow without even losing its basic fabric. Just one year into the leadership role, he led the company successful purchase of Wachovia in 2008- believed to be one of the largest mergers in history.That too at a time when the sub-prime bubble was about to burst on not only the U.S. but the whole world.

In the one decade since his elevation to the top post of the company (served as president of the company until 2015, and was also made the Chairman of the company in 2010), he has made the company, which is the 4th largest bank in the U.S. do what no other financial company could do – sustain customer confidence and customer focus – treating their financial well-being and prosperity as that of the company. In fact, it was his customer focus – that helping customer see through the tough times snowballed into a crisis by the subprime lending crisis of 2008.

Another factor that has helped Wells Fargo from the leadership of Stumpf is that he has retained the basic nature of the bank – that of seeking deposits and lending, that’s all: no other gimmickry.

Another culture that he was able to embed in the company working DNA was team - focused on the team, making them realise and feel the value of plural pronouns — we, us, and ours instead of I, me, and mine: values that he learnt from his day on his father’s dairy farm.

This has meant that of the mammoth 2,80,000 employees that leads, there is fair representation of multiple cultures based on the bank’s location, where it makes sure they build stores that remind customers that the bank is in tune with their culture.

Finally, one can only say that, Wells Fargo and John Stumpf – have mutually well served each other – as indeed their customers.

Other associations

Serves on the board of directors (for The Clearing House, for directors for The Financial Services Roundtable, of directors of Target Corporation, of directors ofChevron Corporation)
Serves on the Federal Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Board (as the appointed representative of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco).
Serves on the board of trustees of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Serves as Member of the California Business Roundtable
Served as director of National Association
Served as Member of Litigation Committee at Visa Inc.


Included in the 50 Most Influential list of Bloomberg Markets magazine, 2012
Banker of the Year award, 2013
Best CEO, Morning Star, 2015
  I still know the price of milk, and the cost of commodities and education.
  I shared a bed with two of my brothers. We had tough times, and we were poor, but we got through it because we were in it together. That experience really helped me see the value of what we now call culture.
  The “culture” (although we didn’t call it that) was to work hard, be a team player, and persist in the face of difficulty.” About the days with his family.
 As CEO of Wells Fargo, I am proud to be the keeper of our company’s culture. And the similarities to what I learned on the farm are many. We are focused on the team. We are about plural pronouns — we, us, and ours instead of I, me, and mine.
 We have 280,000 members, and our culture, our vision and our values are to serve customers and to help them succeed financially.
  When we hire somebody around here, we want to know how much you care, before we care how much you know.
  The primary reason we get up in the morning and go to work is not to make money. The primary reason is to serve customers; the result is you make money. We want to make sure we never get the stagecoach in front of that horse.

                                                                                                   Hope viewers caught up the spark…