Diana Starcher says tackling the task of combining Wells Fargo & Co.'s customer service channel with Wachovia's is a lot like learning to downhill ski. "You're trained when you first begin skiing not to look down to the bottom of the mountain."

Instead you're taught how to "get to the bottom of the mountain just taking it 10 feet at a time," says Starcher, group executive vice president, Wells Fargo Customer Connection. "[That's] pretty much how I've always looked at very, very complex projects. You can deal with it one day, one week, one month at a time."

Since Wells closed its deal for the stumbling Wachovia in December, Starcher has been focused on standardizing the technology and business practices across a combined 32 contact centers in the U.S., and one each in India and the Philippines. The centers support multiple business lines, including, consumer, premier and small-business banking, credit cards, home-equity lending, and investment services.

A 27-year Wells veteran and member of its management committee, until December, Starcher was responsible for Wells' operations group and oversaw roughly 11,000 employees, providing customer service and operational and infrastructure services, such as check processing, statement processing, and ATM operations.

She now oversees approximately 13,000 employees, divided roughly equally between legacy Wells staffers and former Wachovia employees. Her group deals with an estimated 500 million customer contacts a year, according to official Wells estimates.

She says Wells aims to complete the Wells/Wachovia technology integration by mid-year 2010. That's also when Wells expects to debut a single 800 number that will be the first point of contact for 90 percent of customers' banking needs. Robert Chlebowski, an executive vice president responsible for all of Wells' branch and ATM support functions, has worked alongside Starcher for 10 years.

He says she should be able to rise to the complex tasks ahead. She has "a deep technical understanding of the businesses that comes out of years of experience, combined with a real drive for clarity and achievement." Yet, she also is "very emotionally understanding of the organization and the needs of her partners," he adds.

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