A man walks into a bank and says “I’d like to withdraw three billion dollars please.” The teller looks at him at responds “sure!”
This isn’t an every day interaction but it just happened rather recently in Seattle.
Wells Fargo, the countries third largest bank by assets, just had Seattle remove three billion dollars from their bank. That sounds like a lot of money, ad no doubt it is, but in the eyes of a bank like Wells Fargo it might as well be $5.
But it’s important to note why Seattle did this, what led them to this point and where they’ll be putting their money next.
It all starts with an oil pipeline, you know the one you’ve been seeing so much on social media? Well you were. But you probably forgot about it with all of the marches going on. But I digress. Wells Fargo helped fund the company who is contracting the Army Corp of Engineers to hire workers who will eventually build the pipeline known as DAPL. Huge I know.
Well Seattle being Seattle, decided that they wanted to be a little more forward thinking. That’s all well and good, it is Seattle after all. And so their city council voted, 9-0 might I add, to pull all of the cities funds out of the bank.
But Seattle has got a couple of issues.
Issue number one: the pipeline just got clearance to be completed and should be done within the next couple of weeks.
Issue number two: CITI Bank, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase also helped with the pipeline. Where are you going to put your money?
Issue number three: How much does three billion hurt the 1.9 trillion dollar bank? Probably not much.
So what appears from the outside to be a PR issue for Wells Fargo, actually is kind of jumping out now at the city of Seattle. They voted on pulling money out of a bank based on an issue no one seems too invested in anymore. They wanted to be progressive but instead of fighting a more current issue, they chose a smaller one that no longer gets the biggest press coverage.
And then what happens when you go to move all of that money? Where do you put it? Because if they put it into CITI Bank, BofA or JP Morgan Chase, now you’ve got a PR nightmare.
I get it, Seattle is all about statements. I understand. And I don’t care. But they made a statement that isn’t really moving the political needle anymore. If I’m Wells Fargo, the burden of losing the cities business doesn’t change the grand scheme of things for me. I’m no WSECU, I’m Wells Fargo. I’m not Columbia Credit Union, I’m Wells Fargo. I’m the stagecoach, I’m history, and my bottom line is about making money, not fixing every issue a city council wants to try and bring up.
So I hope Seattle keeps marching, pulling money out of everywhere and making their statements. But I just hope next time it’s actually a statement that matters.