Bonnie Wallace – ELP Spotlight

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?
I’m a Product Manager for Wells Fargo, currently focused on Auto financing including purchase, re-finance, and auto-equity. I joined the financial services industry on the recommendation of a Regional Banking President who thought that my experience in the areas of total quality management and organizational development was a good match for his needs. Twenty-one years later, I’ve enjoyed working for three of the nation’s largest banks in a variety of functions.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?
The greatest challenge is working across a highly matrixed, “shared services” organization to achieve my goals. I have accountability for the P&L but have little to no authority over the resources that market, sell, originate and service the product. In a large, complex organization, this requires that I have strong relationships with my internal partners, that I establish and constantly communicate a compelling strategy to keep us all focused on the same goals, and that I maintain perspective, recognizing and managing many competing priorities.

What is your proudest achievement?
When working for Wachovia, I led an effort to design and deliver seven new loan products in less than one year. The effort required significant support and collaboration from all functional areas, causing many people to make personal sacrifices to deliver the products on time and with high quality. The key to achieving what at times seemed impossible was aligning the team to a compelling and exciting vision. Everyone involved, from all levels and functions, were personally invested in the outcome. With great enthusiasm and commitment we accomplished something extraordinary. Unfortunately, we launched our products in mid-2008, just a few months before Wachovia was sold to Wells Fargo. While we were not able to experience the full benefit of our efforts, the journey itself was fulfilling. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to be part of the high performing team that accomplished a very difficult task and continue to leverage the learnings from the experience.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?
I have tremendous respect for John Stumpf, the CEO of Wells Fargo. Having worked for other large companies including Xerox, as well as other banks, I am impressed with and thankful for Wells Fargo’s culture which thrives under John’s leadership.  John embodies the Wells Fargo “Vision and Values”. It’s evident in every one of his interactions and actions. He is unwavering in his commitment to do what’s right for his customers, for his team, and for the communities he serves. John drives engagement and commitment in approximately 275,000 Wells Fargo team members by appealing to our hearts as well as our heads. He believes that people (employees, customers, shareholders) commit themselves to people, not to organizations. With this approach, he’s achieved extraordinary results in one of the most challenging economic times in history. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to say that I’m proud of the company that I work for and I attribute much of this pride to John’s leadership.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In 10 years I hope to retire from “corporate America” and leverage my skills and experience working for a non-profit in my community. I am particularly interested in efforts to increase childhood literacy as a means to build foundations for learning that will ultimately promote economic prosperity and improve the quality of life in our communities.

Did you have a mentor or do you mentor someone else? How has that experience changed you?
I have had many mentor relationships throughout my career, both as a mentor and mentee, and each one has impacted me uniquely. The common learning from all of these relationships is the value of seeing issues, opportunities, and situations through a different lens – the value of perspective. When I’m trying to get something done that requires support from others or when I experience conflict or resistance, I’ve learned to suspend judgment, avoid assumptions and seek to understand before I act.

How has your participation in the Executive Leadership Program impacted the way you approach your day-to-day role?
My greatest learning is that there is great value in understanding the world outside of Wells Fargo. This may seem obvious but for those of you who have worked for big companies, you may understand how easy it is to become insulated from the outside world. CUP’s ELP was a wake-up call on the value of pursuing personal and professional development outside of the financial services industry.