Theresa S. Wilson

Theresa S. Wilson
EVP and Chief Technology Operating Officer
Wells Fargo & Company

Last Updated: 07/31/2018

Executive Summary

Theresa Wilson is Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Operating Officer at Wells Fargo & Company, the San Francisco-based bank that ranks as the nation's third-largest, with $1.9 trillion in assets. She joined the bank in December 2008 through its purchase of troubled Wachovia Corporation, the big Charlotte, North Carolina-based retail bank that was hit hard during the global economic meltdown earlier in the year. During the course of her four-decade-long career with Wachovia and Wells Fargo, Wilson has steadily climbed the corporate ladder while surviving countless layoffs (or "efficiencies," as she calls them), mergers, and acquisitions. She began her career with Wachovia as a Programmer in 1976 and was promoted to Senior Programmer, Senior Analyst, Project Manager, and Division Manager. In 2002, she was named Chief Information Officer, Operations. After the acquisition by Wells Fargo, Wilson joined the acquiring bank as Division Information Officer, Treasury Services and Global Cash Management. She was later promoted to Leader, IT Branch Network and IT Merger Coordination; CIO, Commercial, Capital Management and Wealth Management; CIO, General Banking Group; and, ultimately, her present position. Wilson is based in Charlotte, NC.

Personal Attributes and Interests

  • Wilson is married and has children.
  • She was named CIO of the Year - Lifetime Achievement by the Charlotte Business Journal in August 2016.
  • According to an October 2010 Glasshammer article, when asked about the advice for women in the technology field, she said, “In the beginning, I felt I would do well. I thought all I had to do was my job, and if everybody saw that I would be successful...Stand out, build your network, and be more assertive.”
  • Wilson continued, “Perception-wise, it’s still a man’s world. Sometimes it discourages women, but it’s getting much better than when I came along. But still, the perception is there.”
  • When she is managing young people, Wilson said she often has to remind her employees to focus on the building basic skills. She said, “Especially in technology, if you’re very ambitious, you want to move at a very fast pace. You need to help slow them down just a tad so they can get the basics. You’ve got to be able to perform. You need to your job and do it well.” She continued, “But you don’t want to break that ambition – it’s a balancing act.”
  • She advised women at the mid-level of their careers to concentrate on networking. Wilson also emphasized the importance of mentors. She said, “I’ve always had more than one, so I could learn which traits I liked and didn’t like. It helps to be the right hand person to a leader – you have the opportunity to learn by observance.”
  • “It’s helpful to go other key executive meetings, to observe style differences,” she added.
  • According to an August 2009 CIO article, Wilson attributes her longevity to her love for change, her tenacity and her ability to execute. Still, her career path inside Wachovia wasn't always smooth. An African-American woman in IT, Wilson has battled perceptions that she wasn't smart or capable enough by disproving her naysayers and by taking her career into her own hands, she says. For example, early in her career at Wachovia, a manager had promised Wilson that she could lead a project after a year. When 12 months had passed and Wilson's manager backtracked on his promise, she set out to prove that she was ready for a new position despite what he thought. "I decided then that I had to take my career in my own hands and do things that would prove what I could do to others. I made sure I was visible to all the appropriate folks, to make sure they knew what I was doing and to let them know the things I liked to do."
  • The one time Wilson ever doubted her job security with Wachovia was between 2001 and 2004, she says, during Wachovia's merger with First Union, when she had to apply for a position for the first time in years. She had been used to getting tapped for assignments, whether it was to install the first ATM or a new deposit system. Wilson needn't have worried: She got the job as the division information officer for the commercial/treasury services area.
  • Her advice to someone interviewing with a CIO? “Be attentive, professional, take your time, make sure you understand the questions, and ask or repeat the question if you do not. During job interviews, I offer the candidate an opportunity to ask questions of the panel or of me. I strongly believe in that because sometimes you get more out of the questions the candidate asks than their answers to the structured questions.”
  • She was an active civic member of Goodwill's Handicap Technology Training, and Women In Technology and also NCTA WISE.
  • Wilson is based in Charlotte, NC.

Current Focus

  • Company Snapshot: Wells Fargo & Company is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.9 trillion in assets. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 8,600 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet, and mobile banking, and has offices in 36 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 268,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States and was ranked No. 27 on Fortune’s 2016 rankings of America’s largest corporations.
  • Strategic Focus: In July 2018, Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan updated analysts on the bank's initiatives.  "We're...focused on new ways to create a better customer experience," he said.  "This includes a number of changes that help our customers manage their accounts by leveraging data and technology. In June, we launched a customer pilot of Control Tower, a digital experience aimed at providing our customers visibility and control of their connections to their payment accounts. Last year, we introduced automatic zero balance alerts to online banking customers, and we now send an average of more than 30 million zero balance and customer-specified balance alerts a month."  During the Q&A portion of the call, CFO John Shrewsberry discussed IT headcount.  "Headcount there is both employees as well as people who work on a contract basis. We've talked about it in terms of dollars. I think our aggregated IT expenses is in the $8 billion range these days," he explained.  "Now a portion of that is risk related and lots of it isn't. It's transforming. It's modernization. It's move to cloud. It's our data environment. It's a number of things. But a meaningful portion of it is in reduction of technology and information security risk at the margin."  According to Shrewsberry, the bank is increasing its use of self-serve technology to enable customer service and sales.  "So for example, we've described 12% of our new deposit account opens happening digitally and 43% of our credit card new accounts happening digitally," he said.  "Previously, those sales would have happened through people, and now those sales are happening through technology. So the -- it's a little apples and oranges over the past few years with the passage of time. I'd say sales, service and operations, though, just in -- to your question in particular, sales, service and operations probably account for between 70% and 75% of our headcount. And staff and technology and, call it, whatever other means are between 25% and 30% of headcount. And that hasn't changed very much."  Close to the end of the call, Sloan mentioned biometrics.  "It's...important to provide the breadth of products and services and to invest in technology because you're generally dealing with sophisticated businesses," Sloan said.  "And for example, that's why we introduced the biometric iPrint, right, so that treasurers and money managers can move things more quickly and have more safety and security. I mean, historically, we've always ranked at the top in the treasury management business in terms of our capabilities. And so I think there, the focus should be much less about price and much more about continuing to invest in technology and services."
  • Deal with Fitbit: In January 2018, Wells Fargo announced a partnership with Fitbit to launch Fitbit Pay, a program that allows customers to make payments and purchases using Fitbit’s new Fitbit Ionic smartwatch, according to a company press release. “Wells Fargo is partnering with Fitbit, the leading global wearables brand, to launch Fitbit Pay to its customers, giving them the ability to conveniently and securely make purchases at merchants whose payment terminals are set up to accept near-field communication (NFC) payments. Fitbit Pay is available on Fitbit’s first smartwatch – Fitbit Ionic™. ‘Increasingly, our customers are choosing mobile to manage their finances and make payments,’ said Jim Smith, head of Virtual Channels at Wells Fargo. ‘In fact, in May 2017, Wells Fargo had more active mobile customers than online ones for the first time ever. As customer behavior and preferences continue to shift, we’re pleased to provide more options to conveniently make payments from mobile devices and wearables like Fitbit Ionic.’ Mobile banking is the fastest growing channel in Wells Fargo’s history, with more than 20 million active customers. ‘Offering convenient mobile payment capabilities like Fitbit Pay allows us to use the latest technologies to help deliver an outstanding customer experience, build trust and give more information to customers to help them make good decisions that lead to financial success,’ said Danny Peltz, head of Treasury, Merchant and Payment Solutions at Wells Fargo. ‘We’re thrilled to add Fitbit Pay to our growing list of innovative payment solutions for our customers.’ Fitbit Ionic is a health and fitness smartwatch from Fitbit, offering personal, actionable guidance to motivate users to reach their goals. Fitbit Ionic offers broad compatibility across Android, iOS and Windows smartphones. When a customer makes a payment with Fitbit Pay using their Wells Fargo cards, all transactions are monitored with Wells Fargo risk and fraud detection systems. Wells Fargo card purchases also are protected by Zero Liability1, which means customers will be reimbursed for any unauthorized card transactions when reported promptly."
  • Top Tech Priority in 2018: In December 2017, American Banker spoke with Wells Fargo to learn what technology efforts will take priority in 2018. Innovation Group Head Steve Ellis said, “AI is a powerful tool for banks thanks to its ability to harness vast quantities of data to learn more about customer patterns and behaviors. As a society, we’re creating more data than ever — it’s a gold mine, provided we continue to find efficient ways to sift through it. We’re already using AI tools such as predictive banking and chatbots to provide basic information and recommendations that can help customers make better ‘in the moment’ decisions. As AI continues to mature, we expect to expand the insightful, personalized experiences and solutions we can offer customers and team members. We believe AI will touch nearly every piece of our business in some way.”
  • Launching Robo-Advisors: Wells Fargo in November 2017 launched a new robo-adviser to give first-time investors a low-cost option to invest, joining other financial firms in the hunt for tech-savvy customers looking to enter the markets, according to a Reuters news report. Wells Fargo executives said the target market is Wells Fargo customers who already have another type of online account with the bank but do not yet have an investment account. Wells Fargo first said it was preparing to launch the robo-adviser, called Intuitive Investor, in February.  Of the bank’s 72 million retail customers, 22 million are millennials or members of generation X, typically defined as born between 1965 and 1995, according to Jon Weiss, a longtime Wells Fargo executive who took over as head of that business some five months ago. A very small percentage of them, however, currently invest with the bank’s Wealth and Investment Management unit, he said. A push by Wells Fargo to get existing customers to buy more of the bank’s products, known as “cross-selling,” was at the heart of a fake accounts scandal that has dogged the bank for more than a year. “Cross-selling is a word we’re not using a lot these days,” said Weiss, “but what’s not a dirty word is trying to solve your clients’ needs.” The robo-adviser, developed with technology firm SigFig, works with Wells Fargo’s online banking services and also gives users access to the Wall Street bank’s market research and financial advisers. The Intuitive Investor allows users to start with a minimum $10,000 investment, at half a percent annual advisory fee. Existing customers will be offered a discount. Wells’ scandal began after regulators found that employees opened as many as 2.1 million deposit and credit card accounts without customers’ permission. Wells Fargo later revised that number to as high as 3.5 million and has since found problems in other areas, including auto insurance and mortgages. Multiple investigations and lawsuits are still pending.
  • Unveils Digital Tool Aimed at Millennials: Wells Fargo in November 2017 unveiled a new digital bank account app intended to help people who may be new to banking keep track of their finances more easily, according to Reuters. The new Greenhouse account is set to launch in the first half of 2018, said Avid Modjtabai, Wells' Senior Executive Vice President and head of payments, virtual solutions, and innovation, during a presentation at an industry conference in Boston. Greenhouse can be opened without walking into a branch, used within minutes, and does not allow for overdrafts. While many of the features are already available to Wells Fargo customers, its cash management offerings, such as keeping track of spending, are a marked improvement, according to Steve Ellis, head of innovation at Wells Fargo. "We've been working on this pretty aggressively for the past nine months," said Ellis, who said it is one of a handful of his pet projects. JPMorgan Chase & Co launched a similar digital banking product called Finn last month, as banks face pressure to court millennials and cut back on branch-related costs.
  • Honors for CTO: Wells Fargo in October 2017 announced its Chief Technology Officer in the Community Bank has been named by the National Diversity Council to its 2018 Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology list.  Kristina Draper, who was recently recognized at an awards dinner in California, has been with Wells Fargo since 1992 and oversees branch and ATM technology. She is based in Phoenix. Draper was selected because of her outstanding contributions to technology at Wells Fargo and her empowering leadership. “Within our organization, Kristina is a role model who inspires other women in the field and she is an active mentor to the next generation of talent at the company,” said Jim Spicer, head of Wells Fargo’s Enterprise Business Technology. “She is a positive and passionate leader who holds herself and her teams to the highest standards.” Draper’s parents emigrated from Columbia, South America prior to her birth. She proudly serves on the Board of La Fundacion El Hato, an organization that promotes reinvesting in the community, free education and job/skill creation in rural areas outside of Bogota, Columbia.  She is also a member of Women in Technology and Latin Connection. She resides in Cave Creek, AZ with her husband and three daughters. The National Diversity Council is a non-profit organization that gives organizations an outlet to share best practices and learn from top corporate leaders in the areas of diversity and inclusion.
  • 'Rebuilding Trust': CEO Tim Sloan told analysts in October 2017, "As part of our priority of rebuilding trust, we provided expanded disclosure in our second quarter 10-Q filing, detailing our efforts to identify and address other areas and instances where customers may have experienced financial harm. Let me update you on a few recent actions and milestones. At the end of August, we announced the completion of an expanded third party review of retail banking accounts covering 165 million accounts over a nearly eight year period. As we committed to a year ago we reviewed more accounts over a longer period of time and identified additional customers who may have been impacted. All customers identified as having potentially unauthorized accounts are being notified directly as to how they can participate in a $142 million class action settlement and we are refunding customers for any of these accounts that experienced fees and charges. Last week we completed another round of broad customer outreach via email in 43 million statement notifications to encourage anyone with questions about their accounts regardless of when they were opened to let us know so we could address their questions. We also announced in August a plan to remediate auto loan customers who may have been financially harmed due to issues related to collateral protection insurance policies which we purchased on their behalf when customers' insurance policies lapsed. We discontinued our CPI program last year and we began issuing checks to affected auto loan customers this month. Last week, we announced plans to reach out to all home lending customers who paid fees for mortgage rate lock extensions requested from September 16th of 2013 through February 28th of 2017 and to refund customers who believe they shouldn't have paid those fees. In March of this year, we changed how we managed the mortgage rate lock extension process by establishing a centralized review team that reviews all rate lock extension request for a consistent application of our policies. We are working diligently to make things right for our customers. We will continue to be transparent and we will be reporting more progress in months ahead."
  • Transformation Efforts: "We are working hard to transform Wells Fargo into a better bank for our customers, our team members, shareholders and our communities," CEO Tim Sloan told analysts in October 2017. "I'm proud of the progress our team members have made to strengthen our culture, improve our business practices and risk management. We made fundamental changes to our business model, organizational structure and compensation and performance management programs. One reason I am confident that we are on the right path is it in the third quarter total team member attrition at Wells Fargo reached its lowest level in over six years. Within Community Banking, attrition is also at its lowest level in over six years and it has improved every quarter over the past year. Our customers are also responding positively to the changes we've made. While branch customer loyalty and satisfaction with most recent visit scores decline slightly in September after our announcement of the completion of the expanded third party account review, both metrics had reached individual post sales practices settlements high earlier in the quarter. And we saw improvement in loyalty scores near the end of the September."
  • Innovation: "We also continue to invest in innovation to better serve our customers," CEO Tim Sloan told analysts in 2017. "Since launching the Zelle person-to-person experience in June, we've seen significant growth in both the number of transactions and the dollar sent. In the third quarter, P-to-P payment sent by our customers increased 46% from a year ago. We've recently launched a pilot of our online mortgage application. It combines the power of Wells Fargo data with the digital interface to create a know-me customer experience. We expect a complete rollout in the first quarter of next year. Later this month, we'll rollout Intuitive Investor, a new digital advisory offering providing low cost allocation, portfolio selection and rebalancing. We launched CEO Mobile Token which allows our treasury management customers a secured, convenient way to provide secondary authentication anytime they need to complete a transaction. Since the first quarter when we became the first large bank in the US to offer card free access to all of our ATMs through a one time access code, our customers have used card free ATM access codes 3 million times. And just this last we week announced than more than 40% of our ATMs are now NFC- enabled which allows our debit card customers to use their mobile wallet at the ATM providing another option for card free access. Citing our card free ATMs along with a number of new capabilities, Wells Fargo was also recognized as the industry leader in Business Insider's mobile banking study that was released this week."
  • Digital Mortgage Tool on the Horizon: Wells Fargo, the country's largest mortgage lender, is the latest big bank to say it's setting its eyes on a digital mortgage experience, the Charlotte Business Journal reported in 2017. CEO and President Tim Sloan said the company is expecting to launch a digital mortgage application tool by the end of 2018. Sloan shared details about the bank's need to digitalize some of the mortgage application process during the bank's second-quarter earnings. Banks hope to streamline the often arduous mortgage application process by making parts of the loan application available online or through mobile apps. Sloan said Wells Fargo does not currently have as many online loan products as it would like to have. Sloan said Wells Fargo employees are testing the online mortgage tool. He said feedback has been positive. The San Francisco-based bank plans to test the digital mortgage tool with customers later this year. Sloan said the company will roll it out by the end of 2018. "We think that'll be a step above other competitors in the market," Sloan said. Sloan said the company will continue to invest in technology. Wells Fargo currently has about 28 million digital users. "Our goal for the next couple years is to make sure on the consumer side that all of our products and services are available online and as many as possible on mobile," Sloan said. He added the mortgage capability will most likely appear online before customers can apply for mortgages solely through the bank's app. Wells Fargo declined to offer more details on its digital mortgage plans. Wells Fargo also recently joined peer banks on the Zelle network, which offers a person-to-person payment tool that makes it easier for customers to send and receive money."

Biographical Highlights

  • Wilson earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Math and a minor in Computer Science from Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • She earned an MBA from Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • In 1976, she joined Wachovia National Bank, remaining with the organization through its 2001 merger with First Union Corporation in 2001 and subsequent name change to Wachovia Corporation, where she held the following positions:
    • Programmer
    • Senior Programmer
    • Senior Analyst
    • Project Manager
    • Division Manager
    • Chief Information Officer, Operations (2002 - 2008)
  • In December 2008, Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo & Company, with Wilson remaining with the acquiring firm in the following positions:
    • Division Information Officer, Treasury Services and Global Cash Management
    • Leader, IT Branch Network and IT Merger Coordination
    • CIO, Commercial, Capital Management and Wealth Management
    • CIO, General Banking Group
    • EVP, Technical Services and CIO, Operations
    • EVP and Group CIO, Consumer Lending Technology
    • EVP and Chief Technology Operating Officer (Present)

Other Boards and Organizations

  • Member, ConnectivIT Series 2017 Host Committee (2017)

Contact Information

One Wells Fargo Center, 301 S. College St.
Charlotte, NC, 28202
United States

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