Wells Fargo reveals the cost of privilege

“Cross selling is a way of deepening customer relationships.” 

That was the go-to response by John Stumpf, chairman and CEO, Wells Fargo when cross-examined by United States Senator Elizabeth Warren about questionable sales practices and quotas within the world’s second largest bank. 

Stumpf’s steadfast commitment to his remarks demonstrates how privilege undermines accountability at the highest levels of society. Privilege breeds a culture where the success of a few overshadows the survival of many. Privilege makes it possible for these two realities to coexist. 

For the few at Wells Fargo, the reality of a deeper “customer relationship” likely grew out of privileged “best practices” repeatedly sold by highly-compensated marketing and consulting firms. Its widespread acceptance, coupled with hefty financial rewards, outweighed any sense of moral hazard. 

For the many consumers at the mercy of Wells Fargo, this “best practice” translated into products and solutions seeking out problems to solve — eight to be exact. Eight products for each customer. For Wells Fargo, that number defined a “deep” and vested customer relationship. And it’s privilege that allowed this practices to continue for so long. 

The bank’s current tagline reads, “Together we’ll go far.” For consumers, perhaps it should read with fair warning, “Together we’ll go far, because eight products comes with a lot of interest, just not any interest in you.” 

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