Corporate Feature-I

Wells Fargo Looks to Holistic Solutions to Advance Supplier Diversity

One of the main challenges any financial institution faces is finding diverse suppliers able to meet due diligence requirements in a highly regulated industry, while also delivering innovation. The new Chief Procurement Officer and the Head of Strategic Sourcing at Wells Fargo are both ready to meet the challenge head-on. -By Betty Armstrong

The financial services industry has many of the same supply chain challenges as other industries, most notably supply chain disruptions. Wells Fargo recently appointed Barbara Kubicki-Hicks as Chief Procurement Officer because she could bring a broad perspective from decades of leadership experience in financial services. Working closely with Michal Sroka, SVP Head of Strategic Sourcing, Kubicki-Hicks has committed to helping Wells Fargo provide the best products and services to customers by leveraging third parties efficiently and effectively, while managing associated risks. This is a major challenge in today’s business environment, further complicated by the need for strict due diligence to ensure suppliers can meet regulatory and business policy compliance requirements. Without question, diverse suppliers are needed for long-term business success, and these diverse suppliers have community ties that Wells Fargo can leverage to deepen business ties within communities. They also offer much-needed innovation and flexibility.

Bringing Value and Savings

Kubicki-Hicks has been Chief Procurement Officer for Wells Fargo for approximately six months, but she brings thirty years of experience from numerous roles in supply chain organizations. One of Kubicki-Hicks’ priority’s is addressing speed to market. As she explains, “Being a regulated company, there is a lot of due diligence we are required to do, and it is important to us to help enable the business to provide the best products and services. We need to leverage third parties to do that in a way that is efficient and effective while we manage associated risks. We have a lot of important information that we must keep safe while balancing risk and value all at the same time.”

Supplier diversity and sustainability are quickly moving up the list of priorities because Wells Fargo is dedicated to bringing value and savings to all organizations it works with, and diverse suppliers are an important source of thought, innovation, flexibility, and nimbleness. “Looking at the COVID-19 pandemic in general and how diverse suppliers rose to the occasion has stayed with me,” says Kubicki-Hicks, adding, “Sustainability has grown extremely important to supplier diversity efforts because we must do what is right for the world. We want Wells Fargo and the supply chain organization to make an impact in areas like human rights and climate change.”

Silver Linings Found in Challenges

Despite the challenges, Kubicki-Hicks has found silver linings as a result of the pandemic, a sign of her positive leadership. When the financial services company ran into shortages, especially in personal protective equipment, some of the suppliers that helped to fulfill needs were diverse suppliers. This led to a closer look at the many product and service offerings of suppliers and utilizing them. This may not have happened nearly as quickly under normal circumstances because of the significant barriers to entry that existed in the past.

During the pandemic, sourcing and procurement were able to navigate a little differently, and they were thus able to give more opportunities to small and diverse suppliers. Now, Kubicki-Hicks wants to leverage those practices in the post-pandemic era, making it easier for these suppliers to do business with Wells Fargo. It is important for the Supplier Diversity program to ensure that small and diverse suppliers are set up for success and can do business with a company the size of Wells Fargo. There are many expectations, such as insurance requirements and security requirements, and it can be daunting for a small and diverse supplier. Educating them on what it takes to do business with a large firm is critical, because this prepares them for the conversation they will have with procurement and sourcing team members.

Part of the focus on development is the need to invest in education and training, to help the diverse business leaders understand what it takes to run successful businesses. Another priority is building a strong pipeline of qualified, diverse suppliers that procurement can do business with long term. Finding Holistic Solutions Kubicki-Hicks is working with Sroka to find holistic solutions to growing diverse supplier capabilities. It includes Wells Fargo providing mentorship, training, and education to suppliers to navigate the complex financial services organization.

Sroka manages category managers, helping them access the products and services they need. His team supports category management, savings initiatives, and supports on programs supporting environmental, social, and governance, climate control, and expanding relationships with suppliers. As Sroka explains, “Supplier diversity is one of the most fundamental strategies we have in sourcing. We need to expand our relationships with diverse suppliers because they are a good representation of our customer base. Our customer base has expectations and is paying attention to what we are doing. Building relationships with diverse suppliers helps us build and develop long-lasting relationships within our communities. It helps us innovate.”

Naturally, technology is enabling progress, because it allows procurement and strategic sourcing to focus on efforts that add more value. It is also driving a re-evaluation of the due diligence process in search of a better way. There is a need to balance risk with the time it takes to complete the process.

Encouraging Innovation

How do Kubicki-Hicks and Sroka encourage innovation? The first step is helping diverse suppliers understand what Wells Fargo does as an organization, and then helping them understand the business strategies in place. Suppliers also need to understand the challenges and bring thought leadership with diverse perspectives. “We give each supplier an opportunity to show us what they do well,” says Kubicki-Hicks. “When they successfully present themselves, that gives them leverage to move forward.” The opportunities are there; all that is needed is for diverse suppliers to embrace them.