Wachovia Won't See Many Changes During Merger

The Record ( — Friday, February 13, 2009


It will be awhile before Wachovia morphs completely into Wells Fargo here.

Michelle Lee, Wells Fargo's newly appointed regional president, said Thursday it will be 18 months to two years before operating systems are merged and Wachovia signs are replaced on more than 300 branches statewide.

Until then customers will see few visible changes and no changes in services. "It's going to look and feel like it's still Wachovia," she said.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo's $12.7 billion acquisition of Wachovia Corp., completed Dec. 31, scuttled a takeover of Wachovia's banking business by Citigroup, arranged by the federal government. Charlotte-based Wachovia, New Jersey's second largest deposit holder behind Bank of America, is among the large U.S. banks most battered by exposure to bad mortgage debt.

Wells Fargo in January put Lee in charge of its new community banking operations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Her last position with Wachovia was head of retail and small business banking in East Coast metropolitan markets.

Another Wachovia executive, Jim Fitzgerald, now heads Wells Fargo's newly formed Northeast commercial banking division. His former position at Wachovia was North Atlantic regional president.

Lee said Thursday in a telephone interview from her Summit office she expects no branch closings and few merger-related layoffs in New Jersey, because Wells Fargo has no branches here that would overlap.

"In community banking in particular, in customer-facing jobs, I don't think we'll see any job loss there," she said.

She said Wells Fargo has agreed to honor Wachovia's five-year, $8 billion community reinvestment pact with New Jersey Citizen Action and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. The bank is in the third year of the five-year agreement to make affordable mortgages and small business loans throughout the state.

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