(March 10, 2010) – In advance of its merger with Wachovia, Wells Fargo is re-affirming its commitment to African Americans by kicking off its National African American Media Tour in Washington, D.C., during Black Press Week, March 17-19.

“The goal of the event is really to start to talk about Wells Fargo and the work we’re doing to help African Americans succeed financially,” said Michelle Thornhill, senior vice president and African-American segment manager at Wells Fargo. “We believe by having a conversation with journalists creates an opportunity for us to continue to build our relationship with the African-American community and talk about Wells Fargo as we transition into the Wachovia brand.”

That transition will be critical to Wells Fargo nationally. Wachovia has 408 branches in the Mid-Atlantic region alone, the company is excited about the possibilities the merger brings.

“The opportunity we have is to leverage Wachovia’s brand equities and positive attributes it brings to the table,” Thornhill said. “Carry that with what Wells Fargo is already doing, even though our African-American footprint is much smaller.”

Current “CSI-New York” star Hill Harper will be the guest speaker during the event’s March 15 media luncheon. Harper has written three motivational books and participates in the United Negro College Fund’s “Empower Me” tour sponsored by Wells Fargo. The firm could have chosen many financial experts to be the guest speaker for the event, but believes Harper fits the role perfectly, since financial empowerment among African Americans is among many of his platforms.

“He understands the importance of financial empowerment for African Americans and really the theme for the tour is how Wells Fargo is committed to helping African Americans succeed financially,” said Thornhill. At the March 15 event, he and Harper will be joined by Pete Jones, regional president for Wells Fargo Mid-Atlantic; Georgette Dixon , senior vice president and director of Wells Fargo’s national partnerships and Brenda Ross-Dulan, regional president for the Southern New Jersey market and national spokeswoman for Wells Fargo’s African American Business Services program.

With the company trying to maintain a solid presence in the region, Wells Fargo said choosing the District as a starting point was natural to the company.

“Our goal is to serve all of our customers regardless of their income,” said Thornhill. “We certainly recognize that when you look at the D.C. area, there are a significant number of affluent African Americans and we are positioned to be able to meet their financial needs as well.”

Wells Fargo said it understands the need to get information about its company out to as many people as possible. With a focus on minority segments of business, the firm believes holding the event during Black Press Week will help inform consumers about Wells Fargo’s products and services.

One of the programs Wells Fargo looks forward to advertising is the African-American Business Services Program. With President Obama focusing on strengthening small businesses, Wells Fargo is hoping this program sets it apart from other financial firms.

“It’s really focused on helping African-American businesses in terms of providing tools and resources,” said Thornhill. “More importantly, it’s really to access the capital. Ten years ago we had a $1 billion lending goal put into place and we met that goal two years ahead of plan. We‘ve set a goal to lend another $1 billion by 2018.”


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO