Wells Fargo Expands Downtown


    GRAND RAPIDS — Wells Fargo rode into town a little over a year ago and staked out some territory on the 12th floor of McKay Tower for a commercial banking office.

    Regional Vice President Donald VanDine and Assistant Vice President Kyle Baldwin launched the office here out of 1,500 square feet of space in the building. The staff, which has grown to nine, just moved into new digs on the 10th floor of McKayTower and settled into a more roomy 5,400 square feet of space.

    And with future growth in mind, the company is retaining an option to lease up to a total of 18,000 square feet on two floors of the building.

    “It’s going to be an ongoing growth story,” VanDine said. “I think that if you look at us a year from now, you’re going to see an operation dramatically different from what it is today.”

    Wells Fargo targets middle-market companies with annual revenues of $10 million to $750 million. Before the end of its first year in business here, the office had added commercial mortgage, investor real estate, brokerage and private banking divisions.

    Wells Fargo established home mortgage offices in Grand Rapids, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, as well as insurance and equipment finance divisions, and a consumer finance office in Grand Rapids that offers all banking services except deposits.

    William McGee, local vice president of commercial mortgage finance, said the company hasn’t determined whether any of those divisions might join the commercial banking division downtown.

    VanDine said cash management, equipment finance, retirement services and a business credit division are some of the “logical” candidates that could eventually come on board.

    Wells Fargo invested more than $450,000 to renovate and outfit the new offices, according to VanDine.

    “It’s great to have our office downtown. We couldn’t think of a better place to be,” he said. “The transformation of our office is really testimony to the way the corporation is willing to put its resources on the ground.”

    Wells Fargo has some 800 employees in Michigan. VanDine estimates 75 of them work in West Michigan.

    In the year it has been here, Wells Fargo’s commercial bank division has built a commercial loan portfolio of $150 million, VanDine said. When the other Wells Fargo divisions in this market are added in, the portfolio is double that.

    “Where I think we distinguish ourselves is in our ability to leverage the entire Wells Fargo franchise — the assets of the company and different groups within the company, whether they’re operating locally or not,” McGee remarked. “I think what the local market is seeing from us is that we’re a very competitive short-term solution, as well as a long-term partner.”

    Rich Kerbiz, regional vice president in Chicago, said the move here has been a “great venture” and that the Well’s Fargo “relationship-oriented” approach is paying “great dividends.”

    “It has allowed us to procure some very well-known names in the marketplace already,” he remarked. “The deal itself isn’t as important to us as the long-term relationship with a client. We expect to always be No. 1 or No. 2 in every marketplace we enter. That’s our intention in Grand Rapids.”

    Executive Vice President Perry Pelos, of Wells Fargo’s Minneapolis office, said the Wells Fargo organizational philosophy is shared by all Wells Fargo businesses. He said the focus is pro-growth and on getting the right people on board before going after the clients.

    “Wells Fargo is kind of unique in that it takes a longer-term approach to its business in the markets it serves. We’re the big bank that operates like a community bank.”   BJ

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