Fraud protection: Five things you can do

As the holiday shopping season ramps up, we remain ever vigilant to protect our customers’ accounts from fraud, and join the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners this week in its celebration of International Fraud Awareness Week (Nov. 16-22).

Fraud remains a widespread problem. In 2013, more than 13 million Americans were victims of identity fraud — that’s a new case of identity fraud every two seconds.

While there’s no way to completely protect yourself from fraudulent attempts to access your confidential information, these five fraud protection tips can help you safeguard your personal and financial information:

Use Online Banking to keep a close eye on all of your accounts.
magnifying glass icon
  • It’s important to review your statements, but you should also regularly monitor your accounts at wellsfargo.com and report any suspicious transactions to us immediately. The sooner we hear from you, the faster we can act to help prevent any fraud or loss.
Set up online and mobile alerts to stay on top of your account activity.
exclamation point in circle
  • Wells Fargo Online® customers can set up alerts to be sent to your email or wireless device. Alerts notify you of a variety of account activity, including when your balance is below an amount you specify or when a withdrawal, deposit or check posts to your account. Alerts can also serve as a warning of unusual or unauthorized activity. If you’re alerted of a suspicious transaction, contact Wells Fargo immediately.
Learn to recognize fraudulent email, phone calls and text messages.
smartphone icon with three dots on screen
  • “Phishing” is a type of email scam in which fraudsters attempt to get personal or account information by luring unsuspecting customers to a spoof website. There are also variations on phishing that use text messaging, phone calls, and even low-tech methods like regular mail.
  • To help avoid falling victim to these scams, use caution if you receive a communication expressing an urgent need for you to update your information, activate your online banking account or verify your identity. Never open attachments, click links, or respond to emails, texts or other communications from suspicious or unknown senders. If you receive a suspicious email that appears to be from Wells Fargo, report it and delete it. Learn more about common methods fraudsters use.
Safeguard your computer and mobile device.
laptop icon with padlocked symbol on screen
  • Ensure your computer’s operating system, software (including anti-virus), browser version and plug-ins are current. Before downloading an update to your computer program, visit the company’s website to confirm the update is legitimate. Avoid downloading programs from unknown sources.
  • To ensure the highest level of protection, keep your mobile operating system up to date and do not “jailbreak” your mobile device, which alters the operating system and can impact security protections. If you have concerns about an update to your device, visit the company’s website to confirm the update is legitimate.
  • Be cautious when using public hotspots for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections, even at a trusted retailer, as fraudsters can spoof the name of reputable hotspots.
Don’t overshare on social media.
megaphone icon
  • Social media is increasingly popular, but it’s wise to keep certain personal information private. Avoid sharing personal details that financial institutions may use to identify you, like your birth date, home address, mother’s maiden name, schools attended/mascots and pets’ names. Fraudsters may use this information to help gain access to accounts through online and mobile banking, since these identifiers are common answers to security questions. Remember: pause before you post.

See our financial education website for more tips on protecting yourself against identity theft and fraud.

About Lisa

Lisa H. Robinson leads risk, security, and governance for Wells Fargo’s virtual channels, including mobile banking, wellsfargo.com, contact centers, and associated digital properties. Her team also manages the Fraud Information Center and provides fraud prevention tips and tools for Wells Fargo customers.

Tagged , , , , , | Be the first to comment

5 ways Wells Fargo is helping military heroes become homeowners

DeVito (fourth from left) and members of the Mortgage Bankers Association and Military Warriors Support Foundation welcome Lance Corporal Nino Ray Capanang and family to their mortgage-free home in Las Vegas.

DeVito (fourth from left), Wells Fargo teammates, and members of the Mortgage Bankers Association and Military Warriors Support Foundation welcome Lance Corporal Nino Ray Capanang and family to their mortgage-free home in Las Vegas.

Returning home from military service is always a reason for celebration, but the challenges and choices facing these heroes are many.

A case in point: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans aged 18-24 in 2013 was 24.5 percent, vs. 15.8 percent for nonveterans in the same age group.

There are 22 million veterans in the U.S. today, although this number is expected to dip over the next decade. Nevertheless, ongoing conflicts around the globe mean helping military heroes become homeowners remains an important part of helping veterans re-adjust to civilian life. And our nation’s 1.3 million active-duty servicemen and servicewomen also need support in reaching their financial goals.

As the nation’s leading home lender, Wells Fargo is committed to helping veterans and active-duty military members become homeowners. Here are five ways we’re helping them realize the dream of homeownership:

  • For more than 50 years, Wells Fargo’s Worldwide Military Banking program has provided a wide range of deposit and loan products and specialized benefits and discounts for military servicemembers.
  • The Military Mortgage Express® program at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage offers special military financing programs for servicemembers when buying or refinancing their home.
  • Wells Fargo’s Hands on Banking® site, our free financial-education program, is customized and tailored to the needs of veterans and active-duty service members and their families. The program is available in English and Spanish.
  • Our Military home donation program works with nonprofit partners like the Military Warriors Support Foundation and Operation Homefront to provide 100 percent mortgage-free homes to wounded veterans, along with financial education and counseling to ensure their long-term success. In the past three years, the program has donated more than 160 homes to veterans and their families.
  • Wells Fargo actively seeks to hire and retain military veterans, veterans with disabilities, and active military personnel. We have approximately 7,500 self-identified veteran team members as of July 2014. We have hired more than 520 veteran team members in the first half of 2014 and recently announced our commitment to increasing our veteran team member population to 20,000 by 2020.

These efforts to help our military heroes achieve their dreams of homeownership appear to be making an impact. Demand for housing among veterans is up across the industry, and veterans now account for nearly 7 percent of all mortgage applications. According to data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the number of Veterans Affairs mortgages for home purchase increased 66 percent from 2008 to 2013.

While progress is being made, there is certainly more work to do to help our military heroes move more quickly down the path to financial security and homeownership. We remain dedicated to helping those who protect the frontlines of freedom.

Please join me in thanking our veterans and active servicemen and servicewomen for their service and consider how you can find ways to serve and lead in your own community.

About Michael

DeVito is the head of mortgage servicing for Wells Fargo Home Lending.

Tagged , , , , | Be the first to comment

Wells Fargo salutes military veterans with pledge to hire more

Rich Baich of Wells Fargo speaks at the 2014 Close It Summit

Chief Information Security Officer Rich Baich talks about Wells Fargo’s efforts to help veterans transfer their skills to the workplace.

November is always a special time for me and for our country as we celebrate Veterans Day and honor military veterans and current service members for their sacrifices. Growing up in a military family and now married to a veteran, I’m thrilled to be part of a company proactively supporting our military communities.

We’ve already eclipsed the three-year $35 million commitment we made in 2012 for veteran housing, career transition, and financial education ― having donated more than $49 million.

Now we have other big news: We have committed to increase our veteran team member population to 20,000 by 2020!(We currently employ 7,500 team members who self-identify as veterans.) To achieve this, we’re enhancing our already robust veteran hiring efforts.

In my role as head of recruiting at Wells Fargo, I understand the value veterans bring to the workplace, including skills such as leadership, discipline, and service, and am asked often by other companies about what’s working.

7 ways we’re helping veterans find employment and build their careers

  1. We conduct targeted outreach efforts and post-career opportunities on military sites like HireVeterans, Hero2Hired, and RecruitMilitary. Since 2012, we have also participated in more than 500 military job fairs.
  2. We encourage managers to attend our “Enterprise Value of a Veteran” training program to learn best practices for recruiting and retaining veterans, and provide online resources for veteran candidates. For example:
  1. Each year, we also contact all self-identified veteran team members to share information about Wells Fargo’s career development process, tools, and resources.
  2. We support veteran scholarship programs like the Veterans Employment Initiative.
  3. For veteran team members, we provide salary-differential pay and other benefits when they’re mobilized for military service. We also provide complete re-employment rights for those who take extended leave to fulfill military-related service, and if their pre-leave position is no longer available, we work to find comparable positions.
  4. Our Veterans’ Team Member Network group allows veterans to share experiences, network for professional development, promote Wells Fargo in military-related community outreach events, and act as a sounding board so the company can better serve its military customers.
  5. Taking part in efforts like the Close It Summit allows us to tap veterans with specialized skill sets.

If you’re a veteran or know a military service member searching for employment, please share these helpful resources and learn about our careers for military veterans and support for service members and their families.

About Carly
Sanchez is head of recruiting for Wells Fargo.

Tagged , , , , | Be the first to comment

Small Business Lending: Local investments, local results

Because of small businesses’ importance to the nation’s economic growth and our communities, we consider them to be one of the most important groups of customers that we serve. As a leader in Small Business Administration (SBA) lending, we want to further increase the number of loans that we make to small business owners, and build on a strong track record.

As the new head of SBA Lending for Wells Fargo, I’m thrilled to share that according to SBA 2014 data, Wells Fargo is the top SBA lender in dollar volume for the sixth consecutive year. In fact, from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014, we approved a record $1.6 billion in SBA 7(a) loans for small businesses. That’s 4,036 SBA 7(a) loans overall ― a 10 percent increase in dollars and a 16 increase in the number of loans from 2013.

Over the past six years, Wells Fargo has increased its SBA 7(a) lending 72 percent in the number of loans we’ve made and 96 percent in dollars. Each loan helps small businesses grow and add jobs, and when small businesses do well, so do local communities and the overall economy.

Take L’Escargot, a popular French restaurant in Carmel, California, that was founded in 1958. Current owner and executive chef Kerry Loutas got a great opportunity this year to buy the building he’d been leasing, which would allow him to quit making rent payments.

Kerry says that buying the building with a Wells Fargo SBA 7(a) loan has been a great move for L’Escargot and its staff — ensuring the stability of the business by providing regular monthly payments, building equity for the future, while allowing him to expand the restaurant and create two new jobs.

Another SBA success story is Larry Chavez and his Dreamstyle Remodeling business in Albuquerque, N.M. Since 2007, his home-improvement and remodeling company has grown so rapidly he’s added 200 employees. Larry knew the importance of finding the appropriate financing for his company to expand into new markets, and is using his SBA loan to do just that. In addition, the loan is enabling the company to introduce innovative ideas and products that can further strengthen its future.

By increasing our SBA lending, we want to give more businesses the opportunities L’Escargot and Dreamstyle Remodeling realized to thrive, add jobs, and have a lasting impact on economic development.

If you’re preparing to finance your first entrepreneurial venture, or thinking about growing your business, consider SBA lending. It could be the best option for your business. Talk to your banker about all the financing options available. To learn more about SBA lending, including applying for an SBA loan, visit the Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM website at wellsfargoworks.com.

How to navigate the SBA Loan Process infographic

All financing is subject to credit approval and SBA eligibility.

About Donna

A veteran of Wells Fargo and SBA lending, Serres is the head of Wells Fargo’s SBA Lending team. She is dedicated to building customer-focused teams and partnering with the Regional Banking team to serve and develop long-term relationships with small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Tagged , , , | Be the first to comment

Construction industry forecast: rising activity among findings

Back in February, I wrote about optimism in the construction industry, citing evidence from a Wells Fargo survey that suggested construction contractors and equipment distributors were rather bullish about 2014.

Recently, we surveyed them again to see what might have shifted as attention turns to 2015. Here’s what we discovered in the Second-Half 2014 Construction Executive Survey:

  1. Construction activity continues to rise. In fact, we saw a more rapid increase this year in the percentage of respondents reporting stronger construction activity than a year ago. More executives said they are seeing “somewhat higher” or “much higher” construction activity than at any time during our surveys over the past five years.
  2. Equipment rental is up. In a slow-but-steady economic recovery, contractors have demonstrated some hesitancy to invest in equipment for the long term and have become more frequent renters of what we in the industry call “yellow iron” — or those large pieces of equipment you see at large-scale construction sites.
  3. Contractors are noncommittal to purchase equipment they’ve been renting. Even as the U.S. economy shows signs of improving and industry executives acknowledge the ongoing increase in construction activity, contractors appear uncommitted about making long-term investments in the construction equipment they’re already renting.
  4. Equipment designed for new emissions standards is meeting performance expectations. Almost 80 percent of respondents said Tier IV equipment (which meets new construction equipment emissions standards) has been performing as well as or better than equipment from previous generations.
  5. The industry prefers “use-based” taxes. An important conversation in the construction industry right now is about U.S. Highway Trust Fund legislation, which determines how the federal government will collect funds that go to building roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. We asked what executives thought the best long-term solutions would be and most of them identified “use-based” revenue models. For example, use-based tax revenues would be generated from toll roads, an increased gas tax, or a mileage-driven tax. An example of a non-use tax would be a corporate tax or an income tax. Respondents overwhelmingly favor use-based funding to fill the coffers of the U.S. Highway Trust Fund, representing the idea that, although we all benefit from these public goods, those who actually drive on the roads and bridges should be the ones who pay for them.

The bottom line is that the construction industry continues to expand and we expect to see added investment in projects and equipment in 2015. Changes in equipment emissions standards and some uncertainty about the sustainability of economic growth and federal infrastructure spending are tempering enthusiasm for some in the industry. However, we remain very optimistic about the opportunities for growth in the year ahead.

About John

Crum has worked in the construction equipment finance industry for the past 20 years, holding a variety of positions in sales and credit management. He joined Wells Fargo Equipment Finance in May 2006 and currently serves as national sales manager of its Construction Group.

About Wells Fargo Equipment Finance

Wells Fargo Equipment Finance provides a wide range of capital equipment financing and leasing services for core U.S. industries such as construction, commercial vehicles, healthcare, and manufacturing. We’re the second-largest-bank-affiliated equipment leasing and finance business in the U.S. by asset portfolio and annual origination.

What do you think?

How are you feeling about the construction industry this year? What insights do you have about the topics from the survey? Share your comments below.

Tagged , , | Be the first to comment

Saving with a 401k: 4 tips for success

Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement Study Leaving Money on the Table image showing retirement savings gap no caption required description Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement survey graphic showing savings gapWe’re in the middle of National Save for Retirement Week as well as the open enrollment season when millions of employees enroll for benefits at their companies.

That includes the 401k. Saving with a 401k plan remains one of the best ways you can build your retirement nest egg.

I work with thousands of companies across the U.S. who invest a great deal of time and resources each year to design retirement plans that their employees will want to take advantage of. It’s no secret why.

Just as we know from our own research, they know that people with access to a 401k-type plan save a median of 10 times more than those without access to a similar plan!

Why? I believe it’s the ease of systematic, payroll-deduction investing and savings, plus the potential of a company match that may come along with a 401k.

In addition, the latest findings from our Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement Study tell us that an overwhelming majority of people with access to 401ks wouldn’t have saved as much for retirement without the plans, and that they make it easy to save for retirement.

When selecting benefits, it’s completely understandable that people think in terms of “must have” and “nice to have” or “mandatory” and “elective.” But participating in a 401k shouldn’t be considered optional or something put off until later.

Seventy-two percent of the middle-class consumers we surveyed about retirement say they should have started saving for retirement earlier, and 55 percent say they plan to save “later” for retirement in order to “make up for not saving now.”

4 keys to 401k plan success

  1. Make sure you’re in the plan. It can be tempting to sacrifice for the short term when there are so many competing expenses, but starting sooner rather than later helps.
  2. Save at least enough to take full advantage of a company match, if one is offered. If you can’t get there right away, create a plan to increase savings rates on a regular basis until you’re there. Even gradual changes help.
  3. Look at your asset allocation. That’s where your money is invested within the plan. If you aren’t inclined to make your own selections, consider a type of managed account in your 401k, or a target date fund.
  4. Examine your budget. People in our survey tell us they are saving about $125 a month on average, and about half said they would cut spending tomorrow in certain areas to save for retirement. Taking inventory of your income and how you’re spending money can help identify opportunities to redirect dollars toward retirement. See how even small steps can add up to big savings with this retirement-savings calculator.

Finally, if you have questions, ask your retirement plan provider.

Enroll in your company’s 401k and start saving today.

Infographic showing results of the 2014 Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement Study No caption required description 2014 Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement study infographic

About Joe
Ready is the director of Institutional Retirement and Trust for Wells Fargo, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He oversees employer-sponsored retirement plans as well as institutional trust and custody services provided by Wells Fargo, with a mission to help America’s diverse workforce prepare for a better retirement.

Tagged , , | Be the first to comment

Our anti-bullying commitment goes beyond Spirit Day

I am concerned about the many forms of bullying that impact today’s youth: Intimidation on the playground, isolation in middle school, cyberbullying in high school. Adults also face bullying — workplace harassment and domestic violence are a reality for far too many people.

Whatever its source, there are common feelings that unite all of us who have ever been bullied or watched our children be bullied: A sense of hopelessness, overwhelming defeat, and even fear of the future.

CEO John Stumpf poses with Wells Fargo team members in San Francisco on Spirit Day.

This problem is a serious one, and LGBT youth are especially vulnerable. According to the latest National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), more than 80 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed last year because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The effects of bullying have resounding consequences. LGBT students who face bullying and violence are more likely to skip school, receive lower grades, and drop out of school. They are also less likely to attend college. According to studies by the Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis-intervention services, LGBT youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than young people in general.

Wells Fargo’s dedication to addressing this issue will be displayed on Spirit Day, Oct. 16, when team members join millions of supporters in the U.S. wearing purple to show their solidarity with LGBT youth.

I’m proud to work at an institution that stands steadfastly for hope and opportunity. These are core values for Wells Fargo across all communities it serves. And where there is hope and opportunity, there is no tolerance for a bully.

Significantly, our commitment extends far beyond this one day. Wells Fargo is one of the largest corporate supporters of organizations such as GLSEN, the Trevor Project, and GLAAD (formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

Last year, for example, we partnered with GLSEN to get Safe Space Kits into every middle and high school in the U.S., so that each school is equipped with a curriculum and the tools for creating visible allies and safe havens for students when they feel threatened. That means more hope and more opportunity when kids need it most.

Commitment must extend beyond one day, one month, and even one year. So remember that this important work must continue as long as bullying is a threat to anyone.

About Pat

A 36-veteran of Wells Fargo, Callahan leads the company’s Chief Administrative Office, which includes management of Corporate Communications, Enterprise Marketing, and Government and Community Relations.

Tagged , , , | Be the first to comment

Terry Kalb: A wish brings hope for my Make-A-Wish princess

Terry Kalb with her daughter Alyssa

Alyssa and I prepare for our princess primp session at the Princess Academy in Folsom.

Editor’s note: Make-A-Wish, Wells Fargo, Disney, and many others helped grant 7-year-old Alyssa’s wish to go on a Disney Cruise Line® cruise, and more. Her Make-A-Wish princess weekend began in Folsom, California, during the Folsom Pro Rodeo. Covering the story, I met Alyssa’s mom, Terry, and invited her to share her story here on the Wells Fargo Blog. For more on Alyssa’s story, visit the Wells Fargo Stories website.

By Terry Kalb

Alyssa: “Mommy, do you think my wish is going to come true?”

Me: “I don’t know. You have to believe.”

This was a conversation I had in April with my daughter, Alyssa, after we visited The Wishing Place at Make-A-Wish Northeastern California and Northern Nevada in Sacramento.

Alyssa had four wishes: to be a princess; to go on a Disney cruise; to meet her favorite country music star; and to have a pair of “cowgirl boots.”

Alyssa Kalb practicing her princess wave in Folsom

Alyssa leads the way as we practice our princess waves in downtown Folsom.

Once she wrote her wishes down, Alyssa got a key to unlock the door to the magical wish room. Music played about making a wish. She put her key in the keyhole of the wishing well, and made her wishes.

The lead-up to the big surprise (Make-A-Wish granting one of those wishes) began July 2 when she rode down Sutter Street in the Folsom Pro Rodeo’s annual parade and cattle drive as the 2014 “Folsom Pro Rodeo Princess.”

Our family and another Make-A-Wish recipient rode in the Wells Fargo stagecoach. The kids were pumped and overwhelmed by all the attention. Alyssa waved to the fans and truly felt like a princess. She thought that was her fulfilled wish!

However, her dad, Rick, and I knew the big moment was set to come the next evening at the rodeo, but even we didn’t know exactly what would happen. We started that day with breakfast, followed by a trip to the Folsom Zoo — where we’ve ridden the train every year since Alyssa’s big sister, Alexis, was a baby — and then a waterpark before I got a call. Would the girls and I like a princess makeover, too?

Alyssa Kalb and family in the hospital

How far we’ve come: Celebrating Alyssa’s fifth birthday together as a family in the hospital in 2012.

We soon found ourselves heading to The Princess Academy in downtown Folsom, which was funny because we had walked by it on the way to breakfast and taken the kids’ pictures in front of the sign.

The girls and I spent a few hours there and it turned out to be Alyssa’s favorite part of the weekend.

Alyssa and Alexis picked out their princess dresses and had their hair and nails done and their faces painted while sipping tea, snacking on mini cupcakes, and listening to Disney movie soundtracks.

The owner told the girls that they already were princesses and beautiful for who they were. She was just bringing out the inner-beauty they already possessed. What a wonderful message to hear because I’ve told that to my children so many times myself. Alyssa has had to deal with some children who have not been very nice to her, and some former friends who fell by the wayside this past year.

Photo of Kalb family arriving at the rodeo

We rode into the Dan Russell Rodeo Arena in a white carriage.

At The Princess Academy, even Mommy played dress-up because the girls wanted me to, and why not, I thought to myself? You need to make the best of all these moments because they can be gone in the blink of an eye.

The owner and her daughter took us out on Sutter Street to practice walking and waving like a princess. Alyssa had so much fun, and truly enjoyed the moment. We learned how to blow a kiss to the cars. Our princess lessons finished, we headed back to reality to get ready for our ball: the Folsom Pro Rodeo.

Just before sunset, we climbed into a white princess carriage and entered the Dan Russell Rodeo Arena. We waved to the crowd as the carriage stopped in the center. A former rodeo queen took Alyssa’s hand and escorted her off as we followed. Princes, princesses, fairy godmothers, and fairies began to file down the stairs toward us from the crowd, carrying gifts in pink bags.

The fairy godmother talked about how fairies had been with Alyssa through this journey (I took her large chemotherapy pills, broke them up into a dust, and put it in her apple juice, which I said was pixie dust medicine from fairies to make her feel better, and also left little gifts and notes of encouragement.).

Alyssa hugs Terry as she learns about the Disney Cruise

As soon as she heard she was going on a Disney Cruise Line cruise, Alyssa bolted into my arms for a big hug, and we enjoyed the moment.

They sprinkled “pixie dust” over Alyssa and asked her to close her eyes. Then the fairy godmother (Wells Fargo’s Karen Woodruff) told Alyssa about the wish granted by Make-A-Wish: She was going on a Disney cruise.

In two seconds, Alyssa turned around and ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug. She was so excited and had tears in her eyes. We stayed afterwards to watch the rodeo and fireworks. That was the latest the kids had ever stayed up.

When we arrived back at our hotel, Alyssa, Alexis, and their brother Ricky eagerly unwrapped the gifts. Alyssa paused and told me, so sweet and innocently, “Mommy, the prince kissed my hand!”

As parents, Rick and I are delighted and overwhelmed by how these events unfolded, from meeting with Make-A-Wish, to pick out Alyssa’s rodeo outfit weeks earlier, to riding in the Wells Fargo stagecoach, seeing the Wells Fargo team members dressed as princesses, and leaving the rodeo arena in the carriage while rodeo hands held up letters that spelled PRINCESS ALYSSA.

Alyssa Kalb swims with a dolphin

While on our cruise Sept. 20-26, Alyssa enjoyed swimming with a dolphin.

I soon learned that two of the Wells Fargo team members at the rodeo had childhood cancer themselves (Business Banker Josh Hart who was a prince, and his wife, Carly, who dressed as a fairy). And Carly had even been a Make-A-Wish recipient!

Both volunteer for the charity and wanted to be part of Alyssa’s special night because of their own experiences. Which brings me to the point of this post: “So what is the power of a wish granted?”

This mom’s answer after having been blessed personally by this wonderful charity: The hope that better days lie ahead and that there’s sun behind the clouds.

As a family, we’ve all been under an indescribable amount of stress, and cancer affects everyone. This past summer marked the first time in two years, for example, that we could enjoy simple things like going swimming together as a family.

Even as a 7-year-old, Alyssa understands the reason she has this Make-A-Wish opportunity is because of her brain tumor. Looking forward to her wish kept her hope alive that wishes do come true — an idea I’ve reinforced often over the last several months. We need to have hope and faith, and believe. I can’t imagine what our cancer journey would be without it.

Alyssa Kalb gazes out at the ocean from her Disney ship

Alyssa looks out at the ocean from our ship. It was one of our best vacations ever and a stress-free week.

While it is a slow-growing cancer, Alyssa still has her tumor and has had the first of several MRI scans in the years ahead as her doctors keep watch on the growth. We set sail on our Disney cruise in September — enjoying every moment, making more memories, and continuing to pray our little girl will have a stable tumor and a long life ahead of her. It pains me to think otherwise, and to think I even have that option!

The cruise trip answered all the questions Alyssa asked me right after she’d learned the wish had been granted at the rodeo, whether it was “How many states do we fly over to get to Florida?” Or “How long is the plane ride?” Or “Can we eat dinner with Minnie Mouse?” plus new ones such as, “What’s it like to swim with dolphins?”

Make-A-Wish and Wells Fargo not only made a little girl’s wish come true but lifted the spirits of her entire family.

To everyone who helped make the magic happen for us and for illustrating again the difference people can make by working together, thank you. And a special thanks for our wonderful cruise to Disney, which has helped Make-A-Wish grant more than 88,000 wishes globally since the first official wish to go to the Disneyland® Resort 33 years ago.

Please consider sharing the hope that comes from a wish granted by supporting the Make-A-Wish chapter in your community.

Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Point Foundation – one student’s story

As president of the Wells Fargo Foundation, I get a lot of letters. That’s not surprising, because we support nearly 20,000 organizations each year (even more if you include gifts by our team members), and people regularly let us know what they think about those decisions. Some of the letters that inspire me the most come from LGBT students who have received scholarships from Point Foundation.

Since 2001, Point Foundation has been helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students reach their academic and leadership potential.

Point Foundation provides much more than scholarships, though. It also offers vital support resources like mentorships, leadership development, and community service training for young LGBT people at risk for family conflict, depression, suicide, and other problems. Wells Fargo is the foundation’s largest funder, including a four-year, $1.5 million commitment we made in 2012 for scholarships, which builds on our long commitment to diversity and inclusion as a company.

Numbers are one thing, but there are stories behind those numbers. One foundation scholar’s letter that I read recently wasn’t just the story of a life changed, but a life saved.

Point scholar Cary Crall.

Point scholar Cary Crall.

Meet Cary Crall, a Point scholar and student at Harvard Medical School. A few months before he wrote me, he’d spoken with a young man wresting with suicidal thoughts in the psychiatric emergency room. During what was obviously an intense and emotionally charged conversation, the suicidal young man came out as gay.

I’ll quote from Cary’s letter, since he tells the story much better than I can. After his patient came out, he wrote, “…I told him that regardless of what he experienced at home or school, there were people in the world who would love him unconditionally, and who desperately wanted him to fulfill his potential.”

If the story ended there, that would be wonderful enough. But there’s more. Cary not only pulled that young man back from despair and hopelessness, but convinced him to apply for a Point scholarship.

And then Cary did something else.

“My experience with this young man inspired me to start a therapy group within my medical system focused on serving young men from immigrant families dealing with issues of coming out,” he wrote. “This project has been a joy every step of the way.”

This isn’t just a story about why Wells Fargo supports the LGBT community through the valuable work of organizations like Point Foundation. It’s also about how vital it is to support our young people and help them reach their potential no matter who they are.

Good engenders good. And when people get back hope, they tend to spread that hope and goodwill with others. That’s one of the most important lessons —and gifts— that we can ever give.

Point scholars on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Point scholars on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

About Tim

A 34-year Wells Fargo veteran, Hanlon leads the company’s Strategic Philanthropy and Partnerships team and its national and international charitable giving programs, which distribute grants to nearly 20,000 nonprofits each year.

Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Soldiers to Summits vet: New life dawns atop Mount Whitney

Editor’s note: Wells Fargo sponsored Soldiers to Summits, a mountain-climbing program of No Barriers USA, which aims to empower wounded veterans to overcome obstacles. Veteran Jody Brower – husband of a Wells Fargo bank branch manager – previously blogged about preparing for the event, and here he reflects on the experience.

Jody Brower and Soldiers to Summits team atop Mt. Whitney

Brower (kneeling, in green, to the right of the flag) and the Mission: Mt. Whitney team on the summit. Photo by Didrik Johnck

The idea of sitting on top of the world and watching the sun rise seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime.

So, after five days of climbing, our team of 13 wounded veterans – climbing California’s Mount Whitney as a part of Soldiers to Summits – decided we would take the final steps of our journey by moonlight.

The days preceding that decision had been an adventure. Though we felt as prepared as possible thanks to two previous training climbs, nothing can fully prepare you for the rigors of climbing 14,505 feet. We’d willed ourselves through fatigue, fear, a day of heavy rain, dropping temperatures, and the increasingly thinning air that made it harder and harder to breathe.

Our journey was a tough one. But then again, we’re familiar with tough journeys.

The 12 summit team members and I served our country in the U.S. Air Force, Army, Army National Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. And those journeys included post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, back and spine injuries, loss of limbs, and other wounds. We were all trying to find our way. And we were all willing to go to the top of a mountain to do so.

Just before beginning our climb, we volunteered at New Directions for Veterans, a nonprofit that provides services and transitional housing for homeless veterans. We spent time getting to know the veterans there, and after a game of softball between our team and theirs (we lost), we had even more inspiration.

Jody Brower leads a group of climbers up the mountain

Brower leads a group of climbers up the mountain. Photo by Didrik Johnck

As we began our climb on Saturday, Sept. 6, I felt more excited than nervous. Our summit team was eager to tackle this mountain, and to see the view from the top. We climbed during the day and camped each night. Initially, the weather was beautiful, but as we reached higher elevations, the cold was hard to ignore. We had incredible sleeping bags that kept us quite warm at night, but those bags added to the weight of the gear we were carrying. Adjusting to breathing at that altitude, while carrying heavy gear, was actually my biggest challenge during the climb.

When things got tough, I was motivated by watching the veterans alongside me. More than anything else, I could feel the same energy from everyone: “We can do this.” My teammate David, an Army veteran who has a prosthesis after being injured by an IED in Afghanistan, was navigating that mountain like a champion. It was incredible to watch and it pushed me even more.

Our expedition leaders and guides planned for us to begin our final ascent at the first light of day on Sept. 11. But the night before – as we camped at 11,500 feet – we sat together and talked about the possibility of summiting in time for sunrise. There were risks. Climbing without the benefit of sunlight would make it even more of a challenge. But we also talked about all of those times we make a decision not to do something, and then look back on that decision with regret.

This entire experience was about challenging ourselves. So after a lot of discussion, we made a unanimous decision to climb overnight and summit before sunrise.

When we began the final leg of the climb, we were lucky enough to be guided by the light of a bright, full moon. I’d expected the moment of summit to be exciting, and loud, and joyous. But those initial moments after all 13 of us reached the top, were calm, somber, and thoughtful and, more than anything else, they brought an amazing sense of peace.

This view of the sunrise atop Mount Whitney greets the climbers. Photo by Didrik Johnck

Sunrise view atop Mount Whitney. Photo by Didrik Johnck

As we watched the sun rise, it was so incredibly serene that we seemed to be on another planet. We were so far away from every problem, from every obstacle, from every self-doubt. We all took a moment to reflect on our paths, on our present, and on what we wanted for our futures. That sunrise was the perfect symbol of a new day dawning in our lives.

Before leaving the mountaintop, we took pictures, hugged, and high-fived. There was an unspoken understanding of closing one chapter of our lives and starting a new one. One where we know our own strength, and we believe in ourselves just a little bit more.

Some of us are talking about getting back together to climb Mount Rainier, in Washington state, next. All of us are talking about how this experience has helped us to find a new purpose in our lives. For me, it’s about wanting to help other veterans find their way.

No Barriers USA taught us that in spite of our challenges, we can still achieve greatness. I think of how different our world would be if everyone knew that of themselves. I hope that as you read this, it inspires you to think about the purpose of your own life, and what brings you joy. What brings you peace? What are you passionate about? How can you use your talents and passion to help others? You can achieve greatness. So go after it!

My wife says she feels like Soldiers to Summits “lit a fire” inside of me. I think it’s lit a fire inside all 13 of us. We just needed to climb to the top of a mountain to find the match.


See the Wells Fargo Stories website for more Soldiers to Summits coverage, including a video recap of the climb.


Tagged , , , | 2 Comments