Editor’s Note: Wells Fargo recently opened a new LEED Gold office space in Chicago that consolidates several other office spaces from across the area. We asked Lisa Johnson, Commercial Banking Relationship Management, for her thoughts on this new space and what it means for customers and the community.
I’m not a native Chicagoan, but I’ve put deep roots down here. We moved to Chicago in 1997 when my husband’s architecture firm was opening a Chicago office. That’s when I joined Wells Fargo for the second time, and I’ve been ‘on the stagecoach’ ever since. Our children are in school here, we’re involved in our local community through organizations such as the Chicago Zoological Society (Brookfield Zoo) and the Adler Planetarium, and it’s where we call home.
Chicago is also a home to Wells Fargo, even though many people don’t know it. We don’t have retail banking stores in the city, and we’ve not had much of a visible presence here – until now. With our new space we have one place for the many parts of Wells Fargo that are helping businesses and customers across the region. We’ve got a global platform with local people, local decision makers, and a local team, and our new regional headquarters is a symbol of Wells Fargo’s capabilities in Chicago and our commitment to the city.
I’ve often said that even though Wells Fargo is headquartered in San Francisco, it has Midwestern values. We value the ingenuity, resourcefulness, and tenacity that are common characteristics of our Chicago customer base. Those are some of Wells Fargo’s own guiding values.
What’s going on in this region is also important for the rest of the country. Chicago is rich with companies that are engines of growth for the Midwest and beyond. These are companies that are core drivers of the economy, companies that build and manufacture products and parts that we use in our daily lives. We all feel personal and professional satisfaction when we’re able to help these companies become more successful, whether we’re providing capital for expansion, helping them through a rough patch, or providing them tools to manage risk and run more efficiently.
Wells Fargo believes that we’re at our best when we live and work in communities side-by-side with our customers. We expect to work with the city of Chicago to help improve the quality of life here, from transportation to education to housing, because we live here too. The success of our business depends on the vitality and growth of Chicago, and we expect to contribute to the city’s well-being.
In fact, Wells Fargo contributed $1.7 million to Chicago charities and nonprofit organizations last year, including The Field Museum, Garfield Park Conservatory, Clean Trust Group, and Resurrection Housing. The United Way of Metropolitan Chicago recognized Wells Fargo with its leadership award in recognition of the significant participation by our team members.
When I’m out talking with current and prospective customers in Chicago, I talk with them about sustainability. By sustainability, I mean of their business and ours. Our customers are concerned about their legacy and leaving their business for the next generation, and we take that into account when working with them.
What’s important is that we work with customers to help them achieve their financial goals – regardless if they’re an individual consumer, a small mom-n-pop shop, or a very large business. No matter the size, we have to ask, “is this an appropriate level of risk for this business?” We don’t want to put ourselves or our clients in jeopardy. That’s what I mean by sustainability. It’s about being here for the long-term and having an eye on the bigger picture.
That approach means we work with our customers to build successful, sustainable businesses that can withstand economic ups-and-downs. Our Chicago-based customers appreciated and benefited from this approach during the last recession that hit the manufacturing sector with particular force. Wells Fargo had the capital to continue to lend during times when our industry was rocked back on its heels, and Chicago benefited because of it.
Bringing together many parts of Wells Fargo under one roof is a manifestation of that philosophy. We were purposefully thoughtful about the design – from an environmental perspective – but also in the way the space is laid out. With more collaboration spaces and an internet café and break room shared by 700 team members across 14 lines of businesses, we’re also thinking about the next generation of workers. That’s another thing I mean when I say sustainability. Using fewer natural resources and thinking about what our customers and team members need not just next year, but 10 or 50 years from now, is important to help us all succeed.
Lisa N. Johnson is an executive vice president and division manager for the Wells Fargo Commercial Banking Midwest region. Based in Chicago, she oversees a group of offices that serve middle-market companies with annual sales of $20 million and greater in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Lisa provides leadership for Wells Fargo’s broader business in Chicago, chairing its Leadership Council. Active in the community, Lisa is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the Chicago Network, the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and is a governing member of the Chicago Zoological Society. She is also a volunteer with the Girl Scouts of America and served as president of the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the Turnaround Management Association.
Lisa graduated cum laude with a B.B.A. in finance and economics from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
Lisa lives in Oak Park, Ill., with her husband and three children.