(Bloomberg News) In mid-January, sales managers in Wells Fargo & Co.'s mortgage unit, the largest in the U.S., gathered at a hotel south of San Francisco dressed as cowboys, six shooters strapped to their hips.
The invitation said "40% or BUST!!" The goal: A bigger share of the business than they already control -- about 34 percent of all U.S. home lending and 13 percent of mortgages for purchases in the first quarter. About a dozen managers urged the audience of 500 loan officers to lend more, according to two attendees who asked their names not be used because they aren't authorized to speak publicly. Onstage, the men had fake mustaches and wore red-flannel shirts and jeans, the women long dresses like those in a movie western, one of the people said.
Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf has said the bank doesn't have market-share goals, even as it held the San Francisco rally and encouraged salespeople in New York and Atlanta. Regulators such as Edward J. DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, have expressed concern about increasing concentration in lending, and analysts say the housing market has become too tied to the San Francisco-based lender since it successfully navigated the 2008 credit crisis.
"The part that amazes me is that back in the early days Wells Fargo said, 'we don't want as much market share,' " said David Lykken, a managing partner at Austin, Texas-based Mortgage Banking Solutions, who has more than 37 years of mortgage- industry experience. "Now, in many ways, they are the market."
Wells Fargo's first-quarter market share for all mortgages, including new homes and refinancings, equal to $130 billion, is the most on record and more than triple the closest competitor, JPMorgan Chase & Co., according to Inside Mortgage Finance, a trade journal. It's up from 30.1 percent in the preceding three months and 13.3 percent in 2006.
Mortgage originations and sales accounted for 24 percent of the lender's fee-based revenue in the quarter, with another 2 percent coming from servicing, according to an April 13 presentation. The lender reported $2.9 billion in income from mortgage banking as the Federal Reserve pushed down borrowing costs and government refinancing programs encouraged lending.
The bank wants more. The Jan. 19 sales rally at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront hotel in Burlingame, about 15 miles south of San Francisco, was billed as a "Purchase Stampede" in a memo e-mailed to employees, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. The invitation featured six horses pulling a stagecoach, the bank's traditional logo, and trailing a banner with the words: "40% or BUST!!"
One man wore chaps and showed off a lasso, while some women wore corsets, one of the people said.
The rally was aimed at motivating salespeople to lend more for new-home purchases, national sales manager Greg Gwizdz said in a June 8 telephone interview. Wells Fargo doesn't have a "stated market-share goal" and if its portion grows it's "a result of customers choosing us," he said.