San Francisco-based Wells Fargo ushered in a new era of banking
in 2008 when it merged with commercial banking giant Wachovia,
creating the fourth largest U.S. bank in terms of assets. Its main
business lines are retail, commercial, and corporate banking
services. Through subsidiary arms, Wells Fargo offers securities
brokerage and investment banking, wholesale banking, consumer
finance, mortgage banking, leasing, agricultural finance,
commercial finance, data processing, trust services, advisory,
mortgage-backed securities, and venture capital investment. It has
over 80 lines of business, some of the largest being community
banking, wholesale banking, home and consumer finance, and
investments and insurance.
The bank's history goes back to 1852 when Henry Wells and
William Fargo founded Wells, Fargo & Co. during the West's gold
rush. The firm offered banking services and secure express delivery
of gold, notes, and other valuable assets. In the 1860s, the firm
sealed its reputation for trustworthiness by opening its famous
stagecoach line, which made trips through the then-Wild West to
ensure delivery across the country. In 1918, Wells Fargo's network
was commandeered by the U.S. government as part of its World War I
efforts, leaving the bank with just one location in San Francisco.
Wells Fargo rebuilt during the 20th century, becoming a regional
bank in northern California and operating in San Francisco as a
banker's bank for the region. By the 1980s, Wells Fargo had a major
presence in California and was the seventh largest bank in the
nation. In the 1990s, it opened locations throughout the West,
Midwest, and several Eastern states.
Today, the firm serves nearly 50 million households and boasts
9,000 branches throughout the nation. It employs more than 266,000
people and is led by CEO John Stumpf.