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This bank has committed $125 billion — yes, billion — to mortgages for Hispanics

Jane Wooldridge, Miami Herald on

Published in Home and Consumer News

A: We fundamentally believe that we can't be successful as a company unless the communities that we do business in are successful. How can we assure that? We can just go about doing our business. We are the largest lender in the country, the largest mortgage lender, the largest agricultural lender and the largest small-business lender. We take our responsibility providing credit very seriously.

To be sure that we're providing credit not to just folks who don't need it, we need to focus on how we can provide credit to all sectors of the economy, particularly those that need it the most. Two years ago, we said we need to reinforce that we've got to create more home ownership in the right way and focus on diverse sectors. We created a $125 billion commitment for Hispanic home ownership over a 10-year period. Each year, we publish our goals and we are exceeding our goals. We've done the same thing in the African-American community; it's a bit smaller there so the commitment is about $60 billion. We have to make sure our focus is continuing to lend for affordable housing; we're the largest affordable housing lender. We're going to increase our commitment to small businesses and women-owned businesses; that's also equity investing.

And it's also how we think about our philanthropy. We've historically been one of the most generous companies of investing in communities through money and our team-members' time. We've raised the bar on ourselves. Last year, we gave about $286 million; this year, we'll increase that to $400 million. Longer term, we've targeted 2 percent of our profits after-tax income. Last year, we made about $22.2 billion after tax. Our expectation is that as we continue to be successful, we'll continue to invest in communities.

Q: What impact will the tax bill have on the economy this year?

A: The more that we can put income into the hands of consumers and businesses, the better off we are. It's economics 101. To the extent now that tax rates are down, that companies are investing more in the U.S., that companies are paying their employees more, I think it's going to be very positive.

We just updated our Wells Fargo Gallup small business survey, small businesses are more optimistic than they've been in years. When I talk to our customers, they're much more optimistic in terms of bringing jobs back here and investing in the economy. I look at our equipment finance business, the backlog now is the highest it's been in years.

Post the tax reform, we were one of the first companies that came out with the changes we would make. We are increasing our minimum wage, (which) is going up to $15 per hour; with add-ons, that will impact a little over 70,000 team members. We also announced in November that we would be granting restricted stock rights for 50 shares for full-time employees, 30 for part-time employees.

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Q: What keeps you up at night?

A: I worry about the risks that are beyond our control. I worry about cybersecurity; we spend billions of dollars each year defending Wells Fargo, as do others. That's one of the biggest risks we face as a country today. I worry about some of the geopolitical risks; there's a fellow in North Korea that may or may not have the ability to shoot a nuclear missile over America. The Black Swan events -- that's what worries me.

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