Above: A Wells Fargo coach on show in the window of the new premises.
If you grew up in a house that had black and white television, you probably watched the many ‘cowboys and Indians’ films on ‘the box’. They often portrayed a Wells Fargo coach – either shown under attack by the Indians or shown being robbed by the ‘bad guys’. Let’s not even mention the Lone Ranger and his faithful friend Tonto.
If you think all this reminiscing has nothing to do with the City of London then you would be wrong. Wells Fargo & Company is an American multinational financial services company with headquarters in San Francisco, California. There are also central offices throughout the United States. It is the world’s second-largest bank by market capitalisation and the fourth largest bank in the United States by total assets. Wells Fargo remains the second-largest bank in home mortgage servicing and debit cards in the USA.
In 1852, Henry Wells and William Fargo founded ‘Wells, Fargo & Co’ to serve the West. The new company offered the service of banking (buying gold and selling paper bank drafts as good as gold) and express services (rapid delivery of gold and anything else valuable). You have probably seen more movie footage of Wells Fargo stagecoaches than you have ever seen of English stagecoaches.
Wells Fargo has recently spent £300 million on a new European headquarters, situated in the City of London just north of London Bridge, at 33 King William Street. Although the name Wells Fargo is not a bank that people living in London would be familiar with, Americans visiting England certainly use its services. At present (January 2019) the new building is not up and running. Wells Fargo Capital Finance (UK) Limited has its head office and registered office on the 4th floor at 90 Long Acre, in Westminster. In addition, Wells Fargo Bank, National Association (WFBNA) has its principal place of business in the UK at One Plantation Place, 30 Fenchurch Street, in the City of London.
Wells Fargo still owns and display 10 of their original stagecoaches in their history museums across the US. In addition, there are 13 reproduction stagecoaches in the bank’s offices, with a fleet of 17 that are used almost every weekend in parades and events across the nation. Within the new premises in the City of London is one of their well-known stagecoaches, which is already on display. Presumably, it is also one their replicas. Nevertheless, it is an unusual feature in a City office block.
Above: The new offices that are yet to be fully opened, viewed across the busy King William Street.
The new premises are situated in a new office building, designed by John Robertson Architects for the real estate developer H B Reavis. The site in King William Street was acquired in late 2013. Construction began in mid-2014 and was completed by late-2018. The building is the first real estate purchase outside the US for Wells Fargo. The 11 storey building is at 33 King William Street, on the same side of the street as the Fishmongers’ Hall. The design includes a double-height entrance hall. On top of the building is a roof garden accessible for the staff only. Landscaped by Townshend Landscape Architects and covering one-third of an acre, it is designed to mimic an English country garden. The offices provide 225,000 square feet of floor-space and carry the name ’33 Central’.
The move into the new building at 33 King William Street will enable Wells Fargo to bring its 850 London staff into one location. They are at the moment scattered in four sites across the City and Central London. From London, the bank handles American corporate clients doing business in the UK as well as local companies that want to transact in the US.
It would seem to be a bold move for Wells Fargo to decide on London for its European headquarters amid all the turmoil of Brexit – at a time when several international financial organisations are making plans to relocate their headquarters from London to a city in the EU, like Strasbourg, in France.