The 25 MPWIB

#5 Carrie Tolstedt

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It's not easy to distract Carrie Tolstedt.

The senior executive vice president of community banking at Wells Fargo & Co. not only faced the same economic storm that hit all bankers this past year, but she also had to manage the massive integration of Wachovia.

"One thing I've learned is that you really have to remain focused on your customers and your team," she says. "You can't really control the macro-economic factors."

Wells Fargo chief executive John Stumpf says Tolstedt has done an "exceptionally good job" of sharing the company's culture and making sure Wachovia employees feel welcome. This year she has traveled regularly to Wachovia branches up and down the East coast, to personally meet with front-line staff.

"It's one thing to send out a letter or an e-mail about culture and expectations, but it's a very different thing to go out and actually share those things in person," Stumpf says.

So far, Tolstedt's team is putting up some impressive numbers: As of June 30, consumer checking accounts were up a net 5.5 percent from the year-earlier period while business checking increased a net 3.9 percent.

Customer loyalty at Wells branches, measured by interviewing customers who conducted transactions with tellers, also improved.

And Tolstedt is capitalizing on Wachovia's reputation for exceptional customer service by adopting one of its practices in select branches: front-line employees who believe they provided less-than-stellar service during a customer interaction are encouraged to inform their branch managers, who in turn call those customers to learn how Wells can improve future interactions.

Tolstedt says cross-sell ratios are perhaps the greatest indicator that her team is continuing to perform well in the midst of a banking crisis: through June 30, the average ratio of retail products cross-sold in Wells branches was 5.84 products, 20 basis points higher than a year earlier. More than two-thirds of retail households use six products, and a quarter use eight products.

"Our team members are talking to our customers and coming up with solutions to meet their needs," Tolstedt says. "When you do that really well, your customers honor you with more business."

Overall, the number of products sold within Tolstedt's group at Wells branches during the second quarter rose 14 percent from a year earlier, to 6.49 million. No data was available for Wachovia branches.

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