Wells Fargo & Co.'s Secret to Stellar Growth

The art of cross-selling, and how it puts the bank head and shoulders above the competition.

Motley Fool Staff
Motley Fool Staff
Dec 7, 2015 at 8:01AM

The financial crisis of 2008-2009 hit many industries hard -- especially banking. Like many other businesses, banks struggled to keep their heads above water. However, Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), with the help of then-CEO Dick Kovacevich, figured out a clever way to stay afloat and outpace the competition even in the midst of a volatile time for the industry. 

Tune in as Motley Fool analyst Gaby Lapera and senior bank specialist John Maxfield talk about how the company managed to do this.

Listen to the full podcast by clicking here. A full transcript follows the video.


This podcast was recorded on 11/30/15.

Gaby Lapera: Let's talk about that. There's this Wells Fargo article on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. It's about cross-selling. Maxfield, do you want to explain what cross-selling is?

John Maxfield: Yeah, so just a little bit of context. So Wells Fargo, right? I mean, anybody who listens to this show regularly knows that I'm a pretty big fan of Wells Fargo. I mean, this is, like, an amazing company, right? When you look at its metrics and particularly over the years and particularly when you consider that it's a bank, and the troubles that most banks went through during the financial crisis.

Well, it turns out, well, one of the things that makes Wells Fargo such an amazing organization from an investor's perspective is the fact that it sells multiple products to every customer. I think its average is like 6.13 products per retail customer. And most other banks are, even though they don't report those figures, they are presumably much lower than that. And it's that selling multiple products to the same customer, whether it's checking account, credit card, mortgage, what have you, wealth management product, it's the selling of those multiple products to that same customer; that is what cross-selling is.

Lapera: Right, and it's actually really impressive. You stated that the average Wells Fargo customer has around 6.17 accounts with them. Back in 1999 that was only three accounts on average per customer, and I believe that their goal is to have eight per customer.

Maxfield: Yeah ... and I think I'm probably going to totally get this pronunciation wrong, but this is a former CEO, Dick Kovacevich, who was really the force behind the merger of equals that brought, that gave us the Wells Fargo that we know today. And he came out with this initiative called, I think they called it, The Great Eight. But in the Wall Street Journal article they are referring it to as The Gr-8, like "Gr" and then dash-8. Gr-8.

Lapera: Even bankers have a sense of humor.

Maxfield: Yeah, so at least I hope that they do that as a joke. Because maybe their sense of humor is like my knowledge about science. They don't know enough about humor to even know if that's funny or not.

But anyway, Kovacevich came out with that, and that, really, since then over the last almost two decades, that has really been able, that has really pushed their margins and put Wells Fargo in a position to outperform the vast majority of its competitors both in terms of stock price and in terms of growth in its dividend share buybacks and things like that.