There are many ways of assessing principles and values that corporations subscribe to. You can start by examining the public statement of its values and beliefs and comparing that to its corporate behavior. You can also look at its customer’s assessment of their dealings with the firm and its employees’ level of trust and confidence in management. We can probably all agree that the degree to which a firm or individual values integrity can be found by examining how they hold themselves accountable for their actions.
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, refused to say who was responsible for the corporate culture that regulators say led to the creation of more than 2 million deposit and credit card accounts that customers didn’t necessarily authorize. Instead, we saw the dodge and deflection pattern that has become all too prevalent these days. Stumpf appears to blame more than 5,000 low level employees who failed to “honor” the banks culture and proudly indicates that they have all been fired.
Going back to corporations making public statements, we must applaud Wells Fargo for publishing their statement called Vison and Values in which Stumpf proclaims, “Everything we do is built on trust. It doesn’t happen with one transaction, in one day on the job or in one quarter. It’s earned relationship by relationship.”
As studying corporate cultures and behavior is one of my strong interests, I was intrigued by that statement and decided to read the entire 38-page document.1 I was particularly interested in the word “accountable” and discovered that it appeared 4 times. Here are a few excerpts that really got my attention:
From the Section called “Our Vision”.
“We want to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially.”
“Our vision has nothing to do with transactions, pushing products, or getting bigger for the sake of bigness. It’s about building lifelong relationships one customer at a time.”
From the Section called “Our Values”.
“People as a competitive advantage”
“We strive to attract, develop, retain, and motivate the most talented, caring team members who work together as partners across businesses and functions. In hiring, we really don’t care how much people know until we know how much they care. We like to say that we hire for attitude and train for aptitude. We provide the tools and training that team members need to succeed in their work, and we want them to be responsible and accountable for their businesses and functions”.
“Honesty, trust, and integrity are essential for meeting the highest standards of corporate governance. They’re not just the responsibility of our senior leaders and our board of directors. We’re all responsible.”
“We have to earn that trust every day by behaving ethically; rewarding open, honest, two-way communication; and holding ourselves accountable for the decisions we make and the actions we take.”
“What’s right for customers”
“One of our top priorities is protecting customers’ confidential data and information. Customers trust us to use that information to provide them with products and services that can save them time and money.”
“Diversity and inclusion”
“We need to attract, develop, and retain the best-qualified, most diverse group of team members we can find, and each leader is accountable for measurable, sustainable results in this effort.”
“We all have the responsibility to be the link between the vision of Wells Fargo and our customers. This is not the exclusive domain of managers. We define leadership as the act of establishing, sharing, and communicating our vision, and as the art of motivating others to understand and embrace our vision.”
“Leaders are accountable. They share the credit and shoulder the blame. They give others the responsibility and opportunity for success. Good leaders inspire teams to have confidence in their leadership; great leaders inspire team members to have confidence in themselves.”
From the Section called “Our Culture”
“I have always believed that culture is the most important part of a company’s success. At Wells Fargo, we have been focused for more than 160 years on a culture of working together to help our customers. We define “culture” as understanding our vision and values so well that you instinctively know what you need to do when you come to work each day.”
To avoid taking things out of context, I strongly urge you to read the document in its entirety. I believe most readers would agree that it is an extremely well-articulated statement of values, vision and strategy designed to engender the trust and confidence of consumers. Giving credit where credit is due, Wells Fargo had the courage to publish a strong, clear, and unambiguous value statement knowing that they may, one day, be held to those words.
Ultimately, individuals and corporations are judged more by their actions than by their words. As the Senate Banking Committee holds hearings to investigate the allegedly fake accounts, I sincerely hope that Stumpf demonstrates accountability and sets a strong example of leadership for other CEO’s.
Most of all, I hope he can defeat the notion, prevalent among regulators and law makers, that corporations will not act in a socially responsible manner unless forced to do so.
To read the complete document, go to