Reuters reported on Tuesday that Scharf had exasperated some Black employees in a Zoom meeting this summer when he reiterated that the bank had trouble reaching diversity goals because there were not enough qualified minority candidates.
He also made the assertion in a company-wide memo on June 18 that announced diversity initiatives as nationwide protests broke out following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, in police custody.
“There are many talented diverse individuals working at Wells Fargo and throughout the financial services industry and I never meant to imply otherwise,” Scharf said in the statement on Wednesday.
“I’ve worked in the financial services industry for many years, and it’s clear to me that, across the industry, we have not done enough to improve diversity, especially at senior leadership levels.”
Scharf’s previous remarks were widely criticized after the Reuters report was published on Tuesday.
“Perhaps it’s the CEO of Wells Fargo who lacks the talent to recruit Black workers,” U.S. Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet.
Scharf listed a handful of appointments the bank has made recently as evidence of its commitment to diversity and went on to lay out details of the steps it was taking to recruit more from minorities.
As the head of the largest U.S. bank by number of employees, he has pledged to double the number of Black leaders over five years and tied executive compensation to reaching diversity goals.
He also tasked hiring managers to consider diverse candidates for high-paying roles that are vacant and to ensure diversity on interview teams.
Since Scharf joined the bank (WFC) a little less than a year ago, it has added two Black executives to its operating committee – Lester Owens, head of operations, and Ather Williams, head of strategy, digital and innovation.
“There is no question Wells Fargo has to make meaningful progress to increase diverse representation. As I said in June, I have committed that this time must be different,” Scharf said.
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