WELLS FARGO CELEBRATES 150 YEARS IN BUSINESS
SAN FRANCISCO, March 18, 2002 - Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) today celebrates 150 years in business - one of only about a dozen Fortune 500 companies founded in or before 1852 still in their original business and using their original name. Wells Fargo was founded as a banking and express company on March 18, 1852 on Wall Street in New York City. Its first office opened on the waterfront of Gold Rush San Francisco on July 13, 1852, the site of the company’s current headquarters.
Henry Wells and William Fargo founded the company to meet customers’ express and banking business needs as gold fever created commerce in California. William Fargo was also one of the original investors in the North Western National Bank of Minneapolis, the predecessor of Norwest, in 1872. Norwest and Wells Fargo merged in 1998. Today, their diversified financial services company with 120,000 team members has $308 billion in assets and ranks fifth in assets and third in market capitalization among its peers as of Dec. 31, 2001.
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“Given the number of long-time companies and once-popular brands that are struggling or no longer in existence today, Wells Fargo has shown a remarkable ability to reinvent itself to respond to customers’ changing needs,” said Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO Dick Kovacevich. “From stagecoaches that went five miles an hour to Internet banking that’s done at 30,000 miles per second, Wells Fargo has continually adapted new technology and a better way of doing business to save customers time and money.”
Without its ability to respond to customer and business needs, Wells Fargo could have disappeared during several points in the company’s history. “With the start of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, Wells Fargo let go of its beloved stagecoach in favor of moving its business and its customers’ business to the new technology of the railroad,” added Dr. Andy Anderson, Wells Fargo chief historian. “It dawned on Wells Fargo that it wasn’t a stagecoach company any more, it was, and still is today, a connecting company.” Wells Fargo soon became renowned as a safe, secure and cost-effective way of connecting people, goods, information, mail and money. This trust became a hallmark of the company and was reflected in several movies and television series in the mid 20th century.
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“Tales of Wells Fargo,” a top 10 television series, featured Agent Jim Hardy, played by actor Dale Robertson, protecting Wells Fargo treasure shipments and people from Western desperadoes. The Broadway hit, “The Music Man,” featured a song with words that many Americans, 40 years later, can instantly recall, “The Wells Fargo wagon is a comin’ down the street. I hope it’s bringin’ something good for me.” In addition, Wells Fargo stagecoaches and messengers were featured in the Hollywood westerns, “Gunsmoke,” “Wagon Train,” “Have Gun, Will Travel” and “Maverick.”
By the early 1900s, Wells Fargo had 10,000 offices across the country and its slogan was “Ocean to Ocean.” During World War I, the U.S. government consolidated all the company’s offices and Wells Fargo was reduced to one bank in San Francisco with 80 employees. Wells Fargo returned to its roots of connecting one market to another and its customers to the “Next Stage” of their financial success. Through acquisitions and diversification beyond traditional banking, Wells Fargo today is the result of more than 2,000 mergers and acquisitions across the U.S., Canada and Latin America - most recently (1998) the merger of equals between Minneapolis-based Norwest Corporation and San Francisco-based Wells Fargo. Norwest changed its name to Wells Fargo and moved its corporate headquarters to San Francisco.
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From community banks to mortgage and consumer finance companies, from investment and securities companies to insurance and trust companies and more, the Wells Fargo story is one of growth and financial interconnections of small-town America.
“The key to the company’s success is its commitment to people,” said Kovacevich. “From a stagecoach to modern technology, we’ve had the same ‘equipment’ as our competitors. “We have grown and prospered for 150 years because we have been blessed with very talented people who have always focused on customers and have become leaders in their communities. We look forward to the next 150 years with great anticipation. It’s going to be a great ride.”
Wells Fargo & Company is a diversified financial services company with $308 billion in assets, providing banking, insurance, investments, mortgage and consumer finance from more than 5,400 stores and the Internet (wellsfargo.com) across North America and elsewhere internationally
In greater Los Angeles, Wells Fargo is the equivalent of a Fortune 400 company and is headquarters for nine national Wells Fargo businesses. The company contributed $10 million in 2000 to non-profit organizations in Los Angeles and Orange County.