Marketing Leaders: Wells Fargo’s Scandal is a Warning for Us All on Poor KPI Selection

Marketing Leaders: Wells Fargo’s Scandal is a Warning for Us All on Poor KPI Selection

You remember that little scandal Wells Fargo had back in September 26, 2016? You know, the one that’s still unraveling with the revelation of three more scandals? Well, in case you forgot – from 2011-2016, employees opened more than 1.5 million unauthorized deposit accounts, more than 500,000 unauthorized credit card applications to the tune of $2.6 million in fees for the company.Oh yeah, and 5,300 employees (approximately 2% of the 2015 workforce) lost their jobs along the way.

This is a very public example of what all marketing organizations privately face misaligned KPIs.


Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) tell our teams where to focus and what is expected of them. Essentially, they’re the measurement portion of the old adage “you manage what you measure.” And as marketing leaders, we have a responsibility to mindfully select KPIs that maximize the performance of our teams without driving them into the murky waters of “performance at all costs.”

There are many ways that poor KPI selection can negatively impact customers, performance, and morale. Wells Fargo leaders failed their employees and their customers in two specific areas: self-interested KPIs and unachievable goals.

They chose KPIs that were company-centric instead of customer-centric, focusing on driving additional product uptake whether this made sense for customers or not. There’s evidence that then CEO John Stumpf’s mantra was “eight is great” wherein reps were encouraged to get each customer into eight of Wells Fargo products. As part of damage control, Stumpf states that in 2017, Wells Fargo would eliminate product sales goals.

Leaders at Wells Fargo also established unachievable goals and unrealistic expectations for these KPIs and then engendered a culture of fear to drive performance. And as every marketing leader knows, the most ineffective way to maximize performance and unlock innovation is to fill our teams with anxiety while putting them in a constant state of defensiveness.

The Wells Fargo employees that participated in these fraudulent behaviors are also accountable. Even so, as marketing leaders we set the tone for our organizations. We may be viewed as founders of the culture. Selecting KPIs responsibly is a critical leadership decision one that has far reaching impacts on our organizations and our teams. Choose well.


About Justin Yopp
Justin Yopp is a Marketing Strategist at The Pedowitz Group. He has spent the last ten years crafting business and marketing strategies for local and global businesses, with an emphasis on demand generation. Justin helps organizations accelerate beyond best practices to quicker positive ROI, increase internal buy-in and adoption, and capture more market mindshare.

Related Resources

  • Posted by Justin Yopp
  • On 02/22/2017

Leave Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *