Wells Fargo adds 200 metro jobs, plans more hiring

Wells Fargo & Co., which acquired Wachovia Corp. little more than a year ago, has added 300 jobs statewide in recent months  -- 200 of them in metro Atlanta -- as part of strategy to grow and improve service.

The San Francisco-based bank, which plans to continue hiring, has focused on beefing up its teller ranks, but it also is increasing the number of branch managers and specialists such as loan officers, Jerome Byers II, Wells Fargo's Atlanta regional president, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The hiring comes as Wells Fargo prepares to replace the Wachovia nameplate with its red and gold logo by late October.

The jobs being filled range from $20-an-hour positions to salaried posts paying six figures. Most of the hiring is local, the company said.

Wells Fargo wants to build on Wachovia's legacy of good customer service, Byers said, explaining the hiring spurt at metro branches.

Maintaining or boosting service levels as the Wells Fargo name appears on Wachovia branches is important for the banking giant. The merger gave it 199 branches in metro Atlanta, the most of any bank.

"We're adopting the service model for Wachovia," Byers said.

Wachovia enjoyed such a good reputation for customer service that in 2001, when the-then First Union  Corp. announced its $13.17 billion acquisition of Wachovia, it was the First Union name that went away.

Wachovia branch operations centered around employees who were generalists able to perform all tasks. But Byers, who had been a retail banking executive with Wachovia, said Wells Fargo's approach is to have employees specialize. The additional branch employees fits with that strategy, the bank says.

Wachovia had some kind of banking relationship with one of every three homes in metro Atlanta and Wells Fargo has moved slowly with its changes to avoid alienating customers.

In addition to its it signage switch, Wells this summer is rolling out the new layout of its branches, painting the interiors with its brand colors and the going to a more open floor plan.

"Our mission is not how many customers we have, its that we want to provide provide financial solutions to the customer," Byers said.

The Atlanta market is Wells Fargo's second-biggest in locations and third-biggest by deposits.

"People value service more than they have in the past," Byers said. "And people value soundness."

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