Wells Fargo & Co. bought Wachovia Corp. for $12.7 billion a year ago, amid the blur of the financial meltdown, but the San Francisco bank is taking a decidedly slow approach to the takeover at the branch level.
For customers, the most visible signal of Wells Fargo's presence here - the switch to signs with its stagecoach logo - is not expected until 2011. In the meantime, however, Wells Fargo has been busy behind the scenes.
A significant shift takes place effective tomorrow, when Wachovia's system of managing branches is replaced by Wells Fargo's. With the change, one person - the store manager - will be in charge of everyone who works at the branch.
Under Wachovia's model, different sets of bank-branch employees reported to three different managers.
"It all depends on me," said Keisha Evans, who has been what Wachovia called a financial-center manager for five years and is taking on the new role at her branch at Broad Street and Glenwood Avenue in North Philadelphia.
Another key change is that Wells Fargo employs more staff per branch than Wachovia does. That means the company plans to hire 300 people in Pennsylvania and Delaware for teller positions and other jobs through the end of 2010.
Vince Luizzi, regional president for Wachovia's 170 branches in the Philadelphia area and Delaware (and a Wells Fargo veteran), said the changes were needed to institute what Wells Fargo refers to as its community-bank model.
It is more costly to employ more people per branch, but the idea is that it enables Wells Fargo to get more of each customer's banking business.
Wachovia's streamlined model, which came from predecessor First Union, was designed to wring inefficiencies out of retail banking.
"The idea was that it would have been more efficient to have a group that focused on sales and a group that focused on service," Luizzi said.
Debbie Bianucci, president of BAI, a Chicago group that provides research and educational services for the retail-banking industry, said branch-management models ranged from the community bank, where all the decisions are made in the branch, to the large-retailer model, where the branch is just the delivery vehicle for services controlled in a central location.
"There is no right answer. It really is about how the bank executes on the strategy it chooses," Bianucci said.
Since July, Wells Fargo has been working on the selection of Wachovia financial-center managers for the new post of store manager.
Eighty-two percent of the financial-center managers were awarded the Wells Fargo jobs, said Rosie Saez, director of human resources for Wachovia in Pennsylvania and Delaware. The remaining 18 percent got jobs as service managers in bank branches, she said.
Evans has no doubt that she is ready for her new role. "I think I just ran my branch the same way," she said.
Her Broad and Glenwood branch is adding three staff members, bringing the total to 14.
Joe Cleary, manager of Wachovia's Center Square branch in Philadelphia, said one thing he liked about the Wells Fargo structure was that it was easier for tellers to advance because there was an intermediate position between teller and the basic banking job.
"They want their tellers to be the next CEO," he said.