Overseeing the Integration

By Dennis McCafferty Print this article Print

When Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia, the two companies had to merge their people and technology, as well as their financial assets.

How did you end up overseeing the Wells Fargo/Wachovia integration, since you were working for the acquired firm?

Davis: Wells Fargo has a great corporate culture and believes it should take advantage of the best existing resources in acquisitions. At the time, I was the CIO of Wachovia, and Wells Fargo didn’t have as centralized an approach to IT as Wachovia did.

My duties were all about overseeing these transitions, as Wachovia had acquired companies such as First National Bank of Atlanta, Golden West and A.G. Edwards. True, there is a big difference with respect to being the acquirer and the firm acquired. But Wells Fargo’s philosophy is all about tapping into the best talent available to do the job that’s needed. So they allowed me to leverage my skill set.

When you initially started the integration, how immense did the task look?

Davis: It was big. Between the two companies, there were more than 4,000 different systems being used. Just for e-payments, we had to decide on hundreds of systems. But there was no pressure to stick with Wells Fargo’s systems, if it could be determined that Wachovia had a better model that worked.

For mortgage lending, we found Wells Fargo’s to be superior for scalability. At the time of the merger, we had huge needs to fill the demands created by the refinancing boom. We added 10,000 employees just to handle those orders. The Wells Fargo platforms were superior in handling that demand and conducting secure transactions, so we zeroed in on those.

But, when it came to the retail brokerage side of the business, we liked what we had with Wachovia’s systems. We found that Wachovia had more experience in this area, and that its systems were better equipped to help us compete.

What were some of the initial challenges?

Davis: With anything like this acquisition, you’re bringing disparate teams together and trying to get them all to be on the same page. However, with IT departments, every member has his or her own preferences [regarding] the systems they’re using. There’s nothing wrong with that. They helped develop those systems, are working with them every day and take a lot of pride in them.

Our challenge was to get the teams to focus on the prize, which means evaluating which systems are best suited for the situation and going in that direction. Which systems allow us to serve our customers in order to be the best financial institution coast to coast? That’s what we tried to get them to determine.

For example, the online banking platform was found to be superior on the Wells Fargo side. Wells Fargo’s customers constantly said how easy it was to use and how intuitive the interface was. So that’s what we went with. At the end of the day, it’s about the customer, and the customer wants convenience.

The fortunate thing is that both Wells Fargo and Wachovia have constantly been among the highest-rated financial institutions when it comes to customer satisfaction. When you bring together two companies with such similar cultures in this respect, it makes it easier to bring the network systems together.

This article was originally published on 2009-09-01
Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.
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