Wells Fargo Website: www.wellsfargo.com
Supplier Diversity Website: www.wellsfargo.com/about/diversity/supplier-diversity/index
Kathleen Castore, Disability:IN Supplier Mentoring & Development Consultant, spoke with Priscilla Wallace, SVP, Head of Supplier Diversity at Wells Fargo. Priscilla and her team have supported Disability:IN for many years, including, the DOBE (Disability-Owned Business Enterprises) Mentoring Program. This year the company sponsored the Special Educational Sessions for the 2021-2022 Mentoring Program Initiative. Let’s hear more about their commitment and the significance of mentoring to Wells Fargo!
KC: Priscilla, I would like to thank Wells Fargo for all you have done for the Mentoring Program this past year. Sponsoring the special Educational Sessions was so didactic to our DOBE mentees who learned more about social media and your business, cyber security, and the economic outlook for the coming year, among other topics. These learnings proved to be advantageous to them all and your support has been invaluable.
KC: Welcome and thank you Priscilla for joining me. First, can you tell the readers about Wells Fargo?
PW: Thank you, Kathleen for inviting me; it is my pleasure to be here. Wells Fargo is the leading financial services company – we provide a diversified set of banking and investment products and services to help our customers reach their goals. We proudly serve 1 in 3 households in the U.S. and more than 10% of U.S. small businesses. Wells Fargo focuses its social impact on building a sustainable and inclusive future for all in the communities we serve. We achieve this by supporting small business growth, housing affordability, financial health, and a low-carbon economy in the communities we serve.
KC: We would love to hear about your professional journey and the passion you bring, that has taken you into the world of Supplier Diversity.
PW: I bring over 22 years of supply chain and diversity, equity, and inclusion experience. I joined Wells Fargo after working for a global food & beverage corporation in which I was responsible for accelerating diverse supplier growth across the company. Previously, I was vice president of corporate development and executive director at Charlotte Minority Economic Development Initiative. My other experience includes 13 years in supply chain and diversity leadership roles at the American Red Cross.
I love what I do – creating opportunities for others inspires me to keep pushing the envelope and find new ways of doing business with diverse business owners. This great work is making a difference in the lives of so many entrepreneurs seeking to turn their dreams into a reality. I am most proud of our suppliers’ innovation, creativity, and their willingness to better their communities. Last year, Wells Fargo’s supplier diversity team impacted more than 800 diverse suppliers through our ten capacity building programs during the economic downturn. The program provided mentorship, education, and growth development for suppliers to grow, to pivot/retool and innovate their businesses. We also spent $1.3 billion with diverse suppliers. This marked the eight consecutive year of spending more than $1 billion with diverse suppliers.
KC: I know you have a big supplier diversity team, how is that structured?
PW: Each of my team members are top professionals that are very passionate about diversity. They focus on three key areas: driving diverse business inclusion across the enterprise, outreach, and supporting our capacity building programs which focuses on mentoring and educating diverse suppliers for growth and inclusion.
KC: Why do you and Wells Fargo feel participating in DOBE mentoring is critical to the company’s success.
PW: It is important to Wells Fargo that we offer opportunities to all. The DOBE mentoring allows us to collaborate and share knowledge from our great team of subject matter experts. It also important that we look for every opportunity to support our diverse suppliers which would include DOBEs.
KC: As a Corporate member of Disability:IN, how come it is so significant to Wells Fargo to be involved and sponsor events for the DOBE community?
PW: Wells Fargo values its partnership with Disability:IN. We have been a proud sponsor since 2010. Wells Fargo values and promotes diversity and inclusion at every level of the organization. Supplier diversity is integrated into our competitive sourcing and procurement processes to advance economic development and job creation in the diverse communities we serve. We want our supplier base to reflect these communities and diverse segments that represents all groups. When suppliers, such as DOBEs, have different experiences, backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives, we benefit from the most innovative and cost-effective products and services. Which is why we will continue to promote and sponsor the DOBE community.
KC: How has the use of DOBE suppliers helped Wells Fargo’s bottom line? Or basically why do you use them…what are the special attributes they bring to the table…
PW: The DOBE suppliers means a lot to our Supply Chain. In 2021, we began to sponsor the Disability: IN Supplier Mentoring Program, which was designed as an essential component to the development of certified DOBEs. This self-paced program is 12 months in length in which suppliers are matched with corporate mentors based on an initial assessment of mentee needs and mentor skills. Due to the intentionality of this program, our goal is to build more viable suppliers to be better positioned for growth, sustainability, and inclusion in corporate and government supply chains. One of the special attributes we tend to love about DOBEs, is how eager the suppliers are to participate, to learn, and to collaborate with our Wells Fargo Mentors.
KC: Training and development of suppliers is critical to future successes; do you have any internal program offerings that DOBEs can take advantage of?
PW: Yes! One of our key focus areas within Diverse Segments, Representation and Inclusion Team is to develop diverse suppliers through our capacity building programs and services. Wells Fargo currently hosts a 3 hour in-person capacity building program during Disability:IN national conference. This event features subject matter experts to speak with an audience of high-potential disability-owned business enterprises seeing to meaningfully grow their companies.
KC: Does Wells Fargo have any programs dedicated to small and diverse businesses for access to capital or loans? If so, how can they participate?
PW: Yes, our mentoring program has a focus area that includes access to capital. However, if not enrolled in this program, we offer several other programs dedicated specifically to small and diverse business.
Wells Fargo collaborated with Community Reinvestment Fund, USA to launch the Small Business Resource Navigator, an online portal helping connect small business owners to potential financing options and technical assistance through Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) across the country. Since the launch, the Small Business Resource Center has connected millions of small business owners to CDFIs, most of whom have self-identified as diverse and women-owned. CDFIs are an important part of our financial ecosystem embedded in communities across America providing small businesses in need with capital and other assistance they may not otherwise qualify for through traditional financing. The portal was launched in collaboration with the non-profit Community Reinvestment Fund, USA, and was made possible by the Wells Fargo Open for Business Fund. By visiting www.bizresourcenavigator.com and completing a short questionnaire, small businesses may be connected to CDFIs or business advisory resources in their area.
Additionally, in 2021, Wells Fargo established an initiative to support the development and growth of women-owned businesses, called Connect to More℠. Connect to More is one example of how we are supporting the success and sustainability of women-owned businesses through access to expertise and specialized resources, including a quarterly speaker series launched in 2022. As part of the program, Wells Fargo works with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center (NEC) where women entrepreneurs can gain complimentary support through its signature Milestone Circles. Participants get hands-on help setting and reaching business goals from a network of peer mentors and industry experts. Those interested in applying must complete an application via NEC’s website, and upon acceptance, will be placed in a Circle.
Since the program launched, over 500 women have participated in the Milestone Circles or graduated – working through challenges, celebrating milestones, attending workshops, and connecting with small business experts and mentors. In 2022, we intend to expand our relationship with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center with the goal of doubling our support for women through 1,000 mentorship opportunities, ongoing programing, and celebration of achievements.
KC: Some suppliers are apprehensive and nervous about signing up for the mentoring program, what advice would you give to potential first time mentees?
PW: The goal of our DOBE Mentoring Program is to continue the development of certified disability-owned business enterprises. The program is aimed to have suppliers better positioned for growth, sustainability, and inclusion in corporate and government supply chains. I would say to a potential mentee……take advantage of the opportunity to learn, network, and build relationships.
KC: Would you share with potential first-time mentors why they should consider volunteering to become one?
PW: It is rewarding to have the opportunity to help others and to serve as a mentor. As a mentor, it provides you with the opportunity to assist DOBE suppliers in learning how to grow their business. It is important make to an economic impact in the communities Wells Fargo serves by sharing our time, allocating resources, and financial industry expertise to promote, grow, and educate suppliers to be more compatible and competitive to meet corporate needs.
I also want to congratulate Disability:IN on such a wonderful and impactful conference this year.   Wells Fargo was proud to be a sponsor for this year’s conference. Our DOBE accelerator program featured subject matter experts selected by Wells Fargo. The presenters met with DOBEs seeking to meaningfully grow their companies. We facilitated a session on access to capital and other relevant financial literacy topics. Not only that, but Wells Fargo Supplier Diversity team will began several meaningful relationships with DOBE suppliers during the conference.  We are excited about our continued partnership with Disability:IN.
KC: Thank you from the Supplier Diversity Team for participating in the Disability:IN Spotlight on Mentoring and your continued support.