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Wells Fargo hires Santander’s US chief as new COO

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Via Financial Times

Wells Fargo’s recently appointed chief executive Charlie Scharf has taken another step towards reshaping the bank’s senior management team, hiring Scott Powell to be the bank’s chief operating officer.

Mr Powell, who had been serving as the chief executive of Santander’s US operations, will start next week.

Mr Powell will have responsibility for regulatory affairs at the bank, among other areas. Mr Scharf said in a statement that “regulatory remediation” was Wells’ “most important priority”, and that Mr Powell’s long experience in the industry made him the ideal person to lead those efforts.

“I have known Scott for many years, and his tremendous experience, proven record and unquestioned integrity will make him a great addition,” Mr Scharf said.

A contemporary of Mr Scharf’s at JPMorgan, Powell joined Santander in 2015 with a mandate to overhaul internal processes at a bank that would fail US regulators’ stress tests for a record third time in a row in 2016. Santander passed the tests for the first time in 2017.

With Mr Powell’s appointment, the centre of power at Wells will continue to shift to the east: like Mr Scharf, he will be based in New York rather than at Wells’ San Francisco headquarters.

Mr Powell is Mr Scharf’s second major hire aimed at putting Wells Fargo on better terms with its external critics. Last month, the bank hired Bill Daley, former chief of staff to President Obama, as vice-chairman of public affairs to handle relations with politicians and the public.

Since the bank’s fake accounts scandal came to light in 2016, it has faced withering criticism from Congress, most prominently Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren and Democratic representative Maxine Waters of California, as well as from regulators. Mr Scharf’s predecessor, Tim Sloan, left the bank in March after a contentious hearing before the US House of Representatives and rare public criticism from bank regulators.

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Wells’ general counsel Allen Parker, who served as interim CEO after Mr Sloan’s departure, announced last month that he would leave the bank in early 2020.

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