Wells Fargo’s Architect of Credit-Card, Auto Expansion to Retire

Jul 16, 2014 2:49 pm ET

July 16 (Bloomberg) -- Tom Wolfe, who oversees two of Wells Fargo & Co.’s fastest-growing consumer businesses in credit cards and auto lending, will leave the bank later this year.

Wolfe, 54, will retire from the San Francisco-based lender at the end of October, according to a memo sent yesterday by Avid Modjtabai, Wells Fargo’s head of consumer lending, and confirmed by Catherine Pulley, a spokeswoman. Wolfe’s duties will be shared by Dawn Martin Harp, who’ll expand her responsibilities within auto dealer services, and another executive yet to be named, according to the memo.

“Tom has been instrumental in building our market leadership position in the auto lending business and has used his 31 years of industry experience to successfully integrate our consumer-credit businesses,” Modjtabai said in the memo.

Wolfe’s departure is the latest shakeup in Wells Fargo’s leadership team, following the April announcement that John Shrewsberry would succeed Tim Sloan as chief financial officer. Wolfe was one of only two consumer-lending executives aside from Modjtabai chosen to speak at the company’s investor day earlier this year. Mike Heid, who runs the mortgage business that ranks No. 1 in the U.S., was the other.

Wolfe joined in 2008 when Wells Fargo purchased Wachovia Corp. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based firm had bought Westcorp, where Wolfe was president, and WFS Financial Inc., its auto-lending subsidiary, in 2006, according to a statement. The combination made Wachovia the ninth-largest auto lender at the time.

Auto Lending

Wolfe led Wells Fargo’s effort to overtake Ally Financial Inc. as the largest U.S. auto lender, according to the bank, which cited Experian Group Ltd.’s AutoCount unit. Wolfe helped develop relationships with General Motors Co., the biggest U.S. automaker, and Tesla Motors Inc., the electric carmaker run by billionaire Elon Musk, according to the memo.

Wells Fargo made $7.8 billion in auto loans in the second quarter, a 9 percent increase from a year earlier, according to a July 11 statement. The bank held $54.1 billion of such loans at the end of June.

Wolfe also led the bank’s charge into credit-card lending, where the firm has sought to convince customers to choose their card above others when making purchases. So-called credit-card penetration climbed to 39 percent from 34.9 percent a year earlier. Outstanding balances rose 9.7 percent to $27.2 billion at June 30, according to the bank.

“I don’t know that we can get to 100 percent but we are marching smartly up the line,” Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf said July 11.

The bank expects to name a replacement to run the consumer- credit part of Wolfe’s business before his departure, Modjtabai said in the memo.