Wells Fargo gets top marks for COVID-19 safety

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Wells Fargo has been recognized as the most thorough of the major banks in safeguarding its branches against the spread of the coronavirus, according to a new study.

An estimated 96% of Wells Fargo locations that were visited by mystery shoppers deployed by the research firm Ipsos had signs posted requiring that customers wear masks to enter, well above the average of 87% of offices at the six banks Ipsos studied.

Wells Fargo employees were seen wiping down surfaces during nearly one-third of the visits, also topping the other banks. The visits were made in July, and the results were released this week.

A sign on the door of a Wells Fargo branch in Dallas explains what steps the company is taking to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“We continue to take steps in this very fluid situation to carry out our role as an essential services provider and keep our employees and customers safe,” a Wells Fargo spokeswoman said in an emailed statement in reaction to the study.

The bank has temporarily closed roughly 20% of its branch network across the U.S. and has installed protective barriers, enacted social distancing measures, required appointments for some services, and performed deep cleaning of the locations that have remained open.

“We are witnessing a century-old approach to customer experience make monumental changes in a matter of weeks and months; it’s really quite impressive,” Shohini Banerjee, senior vice president at Ipsos’s U.S. channel performance group, said of all retail businesses in a prepared statement accompanying the study.

“Many of the COVID-19 precautions and improvements are not small or inexpensive — they’re a complete shift in how employees behave and how products and services are distributed, a total disruption that retail has taken in stride,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Ipsos said the firm declined to release the names of the other five banks in the report and their results, citing the company’s practice of sharing the top performers across the industries surveyed, rather than low performers. The company did say the lowest performing bank had signs alerting customers that a mask is required at 81% of its branches visited and was seen cleaning surfaces on 12% of visits.

Wells Fargo did not commission the study, spokeswomen for the bank and Ipsos said in separate emails.

Despite the lack of details about how other banks did, the study is among the first to show how the banking industry stacks up against other retailers when warding off the spread of the disease. Grocery stores and big-box retailers generally had the best safety measures put in place ahead of financial services firms, according to Ipsos, while food and beverage businesses and convenience stores rounded out the rest of the five industries studied.

Ipsos saw some marked improvement overall in how precautions are being adopted to keep the U.S. economy open. State, local and federal governments have often been at odds over how far to go in requiring steps like mask requirements and social distancing measures. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks even warned in June about “the very real risk of increases in bank robberies” because of the use of face masks. The American Bankers Association came out in July in support of mask-wearing requirements in a relief to an industry dealing with a patchwork of often conflicting rules across their various branch networks.

But the Ipsos study revealed there is much work to do. For instance, only one in three retailers across all industries studied provided hand sanitizer to customers entering the store, and just one in four had restrooms with visible cleaning schedules. About 19% of stores visited still had no social distancing reminders present, according to Ipsos.

Banerjee said in a statement that “surprisingly, even among brands that are generally considered to be doing a ‘good job’ in their COVID-19 prevention efforts, there are still fairly lax safety protocols on the ground level, particularly when it came to sanitization, cleanliness and restrooms.”

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