Theresa S. Wilson

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

Last Updated: 12/07/2017

Executive Summary

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 founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco. Wells Fargo as of June 30, 2017 has $1.9 trillion in assets, making it the third-largest bank in the United States. Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance, with more than 8,500 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet ( and mobile banking. The bank has offices in 42 countries and territories and employs approximately 271,000 team members.
  • 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 on an October 2017 earnings call told analysts, "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 on an October 2017 earnings call. "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 said on an October 2017 earnings call. "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 July 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."
  • Test Facebook Chatbot: Wells Fargo in April 2017 announced plans to test a "chatbot", an automated program that can communicate with the company’s customers on Facebook's messaging platform to give them information on their accounts and help them reset their passwords, reported Reuters. The chatbot will use artificial intelligence to respond to natural language messages from users, such as how much money they have in their accounts, and where the nearest bank ATM is. Wells Fargo's chatbot comes as the company ramps up its development of artificial intelligence-based technology. In February it created a dedicated AI team to create technology, such as the new chatbot, that can help the bank provide more personalized customer service through its bankers and online. "AI technology allows us to take an experience that would have required our customers to navigate through several pages on our website, and turn it into a simple conversation in a chat environment," said Steve Ellis, Head of Innovation Group. The company said that it is piloting the virtual assistant with several hundred employees, and plans to extend testing to a few thousand customers later in spring 2017.
  • Transform Data-Sharing Process: Wells Fargo in February 2017 entered into an agreement with Intuit, which allows Wells Fargo customers who use financial management tools such as QuickBooks Online, Mint, and TurboTax Online to use an innovative application-programming interface, or API, when importing their bank account information. “We’re excited to work with Intuit on transforming the data-sharing process,” said Brett Pitts, head of digital for Wells Fargo Virtual Channels. “This agreement creates a much better experience for our shared customers, gives them greater control over their financial data, and enhances the efficiency of the data-sharing process.” The API at the center of this new data-sharing method is designed to be modular and flexible. This allows the API to deliver everything from data sharing and retrieval to specialized use cases and microservices. “The APIs that we have created for the purposes of sharing data with firms such as Intuit are truly unique to the industry,” Pitts said. “These new tools are designed to be flexible and adaptable while meeting the needs of the customer, the bank, and the providers of financial management tools.” The API used in the Wells Fargo-Intuit agreement has been designed to utilize a secure, tokenized “handshake” between the companies’ servers. The API eliminates the need for Intuit customers who use QuickBooks Online, Mint and TurboTax Online to share their Wells Fargo usernames and passwords, and the need for Intuit to store them in order to retrieve Wells Fargo account data. “The customer has more choice and control with this new model,” said Pitts. “Customers choose what account information they want to share with Intuit, and, through the API, the customer’s credentials are not used to initiate the data sharing.” Intuit will access Wells Fargo’s data exchange API on Wells Fargo’s Gateway Channel developer portal, and work to integrate it into the Intuit user experience for Wells Fargo customers by the second half of 2017.
  • Sets Up Artificial Intelligence Team: Wells Fargo has created a team to develop artificial intelligence-based technology and appointed a lead for its newly combined payments businesses, as part of an ongoing push to strengthen its digital offerings, Reuters reported in February 2017. Wells Fargo’s AI team will work on creating technology that can help the bank provide more personalized customer service through its bankers and online, the bank said. It will be led by Steve Ellis, head of Wells Fargo’s innovation group. Wells Fargo’s AI focus comes as banks and other large financial institutions increase their investment in the emerging technology which seeks to train computers to perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence. Projects range from systems that can spot payments fraud or misconduct by employees, to technology that can make more personal recommendations on financial products to clients. The bank also announced that it had appointed Danny Peltz, head of treasury, merchant and payment solutions, to head business development and strategy for its combined payments businesses. Peltz’s group, which comprises of the bank’s consumer, small business, commercial and corporate banking payments businesses, will also be tasked with establishing relationships with other companies in the payments landscape. It will also be in charge of the bank’s new API (application program interface) services, or technology that allows customers to integrate Wells Fargo products and services into their own applications. Both teams will report to Avid Modjtabai, head of payments, virtual solutions and innovation. Modjtabai’s division was set up in October as part of efforts to enhance the bank’s digital products and services by combining its innovation teams with some of the businesses most affected by changes in technology such as payments.

Key Challenges

  • Cutting Jobs at Charlotte HQ: In September 2017 it was reported that Wells Fargo, which continues to reel from a series of scandals, is laying off some positions in Charlotte, North Carolina -- home to one of its corporate headquarters. The company declined to say how many people would be affected. Spokesperson Josh Dunn told CNNMoney that Wells Fargo employs about 24,500 people in the Charlotte area. Dunn said in a statement that cutting jobs is part of the company's ongoing efforts to "become more efficient and effective" and "reduce expenses." 

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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