Wells Fargo Shareowner Services
An Interview With Todd May
1 in 3 households in the U.S. trusts a Wells Fargo product today…a portion of virtually any issuer’s shareowners will already be familiar with the functionality and navigation of the new Shareowner Online.
Tell us, how is Wells Fargo Shareowner Services doing this year?
This has been a very exciting year for us. We’ve launched our new websites, and are partnering with the rest of Wells Fargo better than ever.
By using the bank’s check printing and mailing facilities, for example, we are delivering dividend checks with the industry’s most advanced security features. From a group that creates nearly 4 billion impressions annually, only the most precise mailing procedures and technology are used.
For our clients and shareowners, this means even more refined processes and controls. And for us, it means a virtually limitless scale and capacity.
Over the past couple of years, we have realized fabulous growth as we have successfully married a specialized, serviceoriented business with the resources of the larger Wells Fargo enterprise.
How will your technology be different or better?
Perhaps the most exciting, an impressive 1 in 3 households in the U.S. trusts a Wells Fargo product today. Because we teamed up with Wells Fargo’s online banking group, we know that a portion of virtually any issuer’s shareowners will already be familiar with the
functionality and navigation of the new Shareowner Online.
Our Shareowner Client Connect® site is all about increased usability and rapid delivery of information to issuers. For example, users can save defaults for reports they frequently run, so they are able to refresh data with just a click. We’ve also added an ExpressView feature that allows an issuer to flag accounts they frequently view. This list of accounts will be available to see at any time without needing to perform a search.
Wells Fargo is a pioneer in developing intuitive and innovative online tools – for banking customers and corporate clients. In fact, this year we’ve again been named the best consumer and commercial internet bank by Global Finance. Lucky to have access to this expertise, we were careful to develop these new sites in partnership with our retail and commercial internet banking leaders.
We are so pleased with the additional features and increased usability of our new Shareowner Online as well as our Shareowner Client Connect® portal. Already, we’re hearing many great things from both clients and shareowners.
How will this new technology impact your service delivery to issuers and shareowners?
The technology we added will only enhance the leading service we deliver today. In no way do we believe our technology will replace the need for an expert and personal approach. I truly believe we won both of this year’s large agent surveys because of our staff’s commitment to our clients and their shareowners.
While our sites will ease day to day challenges and provide additional functionality, no technology can replace experience.
The average industry tenure of our entire team is over nine years. Across account management, it’s an even more impressive 15 years.
Our clients value the team’s accessibility, responsiveness and expertise – and have responded by being the most loyal customer base in the industry.
At a time when the industry is so focused on cost basis, what is your team doing to prepare?
The strength of our team is invaluable when it comes to preparing for cost basis regulation. With a leadership team averaging over
20 years of industry experience, we really understand – and are preparing for – downstream impacts caused by this regulation.
Our operations manager, Katie Sevcik, and her team have been deeply involved in industry committees and she even presented to the IRS.
Training and clarity are key here as well. We have already held multiple training sessions for nearly every member of our team. In addition, we are focused on clearly communicating with issuers and their shareowners.
Information sharing with issuers has been taking place for months and will continue throughout 2011.
From our Shareowner Online site to mailings, we are developing materials to take the mystery out of this complex regulation for shareowners.
How is your group changing to meet the new demands of shareowners, clients and regulation?
For over a decade we’ve been known for providing exceptional service. Now, we are focused on finding ways to simplify things for shareowners and issuers and provide them with even more value.
In the case of regulation, we are one of the industry’s most active participants – both from a transfer agent perspective and the Wells Fargo enterprise as a whole. We have advocated on behalf of our clients and are now keeping their best interests at heart as we move forward with implementation.
As no two companies are alike, we are customizing our offerings more to best fit an issuer’s needs. To name a couple, we are adding additional services to our investment plan offerings and delivering seamless corporate action services that combine escrow and paying agent services.
What we are not changing is our focus on service. One of the mottos of the Wells Fargo enterprise is, “serving clients when, where and how.” Serving customers when, where and how they wish to be served translates exceptionally well to our business.
Most obvious to achieving that goal is the construction of our new websites. But we also maintain a walk-up counter that still receives thousands of shareowners each year.
How is your group “customizing” services for corporate actions?
We know that our part of a corporate action is relatively small, when compared with the scope of the entire operation. However, it is one that if not well-performed, could slow down the transaction. This is true for both public and private transactions.
As I said earlier, we truly do understand that no two companies are alike. Similarly, no two corporate events are the same. Our team really works hard to understand the client’s needs and objectives. Then, we can help with the right solution.
A one-stop paying agent and escrow combination combined with in-house investment capabilities is paramount. Our focus is on providing the highest level of service to offer a seamless process with the client and a smooth transaction to the shareowners.
Because of this, we are often appointed as paying agent even if neither side of an M&A transaction is a client.
Back to regulation, what changes do you anticipate on proxy and annual meetings?
Trite as it may be, the only constant these days is change. While we cannot predict exactly what it will look like, we believe changes will continue to accelerate in this area and that it will continue to evolve.
To ensure we are ready for whatever comes our way, we are working with industry groups to prepare. Just one example is our focus and industry involvement around the “say when on pay” proposal.
We are very concerned about fees being charged to issuers for the street side of the voting and believe that having meaningful competition for this issue would be best for the industry.
Also, concerns around overvoting are continued as we still experience large instances each year. Overvoting trends are being reviewed with applicable brokers/banks.
Any suggestions on continuing to attract registered owners?
With shareowners having more of a voice than ever before, maintaining a registered shareowner base has never been more important.
It allows issuers to have direct communication to shareowners. And it is believed that registered owners tend to hold shares for a longer period of time and will be more loyal to the board.
Investment plan services can help companies who wish to attract a registered investor base. Plans such as direct stock
purchase plans and employee stock purchase plans make it easy and attractive for individuals to become holders in your company.
With our new Shareowner Online, shareowners can easily monitor, manage their accounts and make additional investments as your customized plan would allow.
What is your group looking forward to in 2011?
Many things, actually! In some ways, 2010 was a year of building a strong foundation and we will see the results of our labor in 2011.
Effective cost basis implementation. We will be well-prepared. While we expect this change will come with many questions from issuers and shareowners, we are confident in our ability to serve them better than anyone else.
Additional technology rollouts. Important but subtle enhancements will continue to be made to our online portals, with increased features and functionality. Also, we will be rolling out what we call our Customer Service Workstation. By making vital information more accessible to our shareowner relations contact center and account managers, we will more effectively and efficiently care
for our shareowners and issuers.
Continued partnership with our issuers. This industry, perhaps more so than others, really values issuer feedback. We were fortunate to have won both of this year’s industry surveys in the large agent category – as based on the feedback of our clients.
As always, working with an amazing team. This is something I personally am looking forward to. I truly believe I have the best team in the industry. The way they partner with issuers, serve shareowners and navigate sweeping changes such as cost basis and proxy reform, only make their skill that much more apparent.