The Financial Journey is a unique series focused on financial education and opportunities. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership between Wells Fargo and Word In Black.

WIB: Can you describe your role at Wells Fargo? 

Williams: My job is to position Wells Fargo to meet the financial needs of individuals and companies in a digital first world. 

I am head of Strategy, Digital, Innovation and Enterprise Payments. I lead a team of talented professionals who work across Wells Fargo’s businesses, capabilities, and functions to build strategic plans, drive digital transformation, and deliver a roadmap to serve customers in an innovative way.  

I oversee our Global Treasury Management (GTM) business, which provides a comprehensive suite of payment and cash management services that allows our clients to manage their funds and process payments worldwide. GTM serves companies across Commercial Banking and Corporate & Investment Banking, creating daily touchpoints with our clients while supporting and enabling their business and operational objectives.  

My team is responsible for helping shape the future for both the company as well as our customers and clients. 

WIB: What would you say is the best part of the work you get to do? 

Williams: We are in one of the most exciting times in our history, with rapid advancement and technology leading our progress in so many areas that touch our customers’ lives daily.  

The fundamental idea of what a bank even is, what it does, and what customers expect from a bank is changing completely. How do we make incredible experiences for our clients and customers to help them with their financial lives? How do we empower them? How do we enable companies? How do we provide better opportunity for financial inclusion? 

WIB: What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?  

Williams: In our business, to stay competitive and continue to ideate and innovate, it is imperative to avoid the typical groupthink. Diversity of thought comes from diverse teams. Our competition is no longer just banks, it is tech companies who are bringing together people from vastly diverse backgrounds and skillsets who approach problem-solving in different ways. It is imperative that we do the same.  

WIB: What is one piece of career advice you can give to our readers? 

Williams: Intellectual curiosity is key; it unlocks creative and innovative thinking – you have to be curious about the future and have the ability to learn and grow. Maintain a diverse range of sources of information whether it be news sources, friends, colleagues, and commit to broadening them routinely. 

 Expand your perspective, ask questions that lead to new ideas, and make learning a skill versus learning skills.  

 Finally, be open to having your mind changed.  It’s a strength to maintain an open mind and allow new data to lead to more informed positions.  

WIB: Having a role in banking can seem daunting at times, what do you enjoy most outside of work? 

Williams: When I am not ideating on the future of Wells Fargo and the banking industry overall, you can find me reading and researching, scuba diving, working out, traveling, or cooking. I would love to open a dive shop -in a small resort somewhere in the Caribbean where I could be the dive master. That would be my utopia, my dream retirement plan. 

WIB: Describe your proudest moment to date.  

Williams: All three of my children have chosen their own path to success. They are extremely well-rounded, driven and are independent thinkers. Something of which I am very proud.  

WIB: What would you say is the most important lesson about finances?  

Williams: When it comes to personal financial advice, I think it’s important to determine what you need versus what you want so that you spend wisely on what you need and plan thoughtfully on attaining your goals.  

Know what’s important to you, understand what your target state is.  If you author out a clear vision for what you want your life to be, then it becomes easier to reverse engineer what path you will need to follow.   

Focus on yourself and your own path.  You never know what someone else’s situation is. If you focus on educating yourself, increasing your financial literacy, understanding your goals, and what you need to reach them, your chances of success – however you define – that increase dramatically. 

Know what’s important to you, understand what your target state is.  If you author out a clear vision for what you want your life to be, then it becomes easier to reverse engineer what path you will need to follow.   

ather williams, head of Strategy, Digital, Innovation and Enterprise Payments

WIB: Can you describe a pivotal moment in your career? 

Williams: Early in my career, I went to work for a dot com company in San Francisco during the heyday of the early 2000s. I was the CFO and shortly after I started, I uncovered that the company didn’t have the margins to support the risk profile and vision. I had to announce that we were shutting the company down. I will never forget that day. As we sat in our board meeting, I had to tell everyone that this is no longer working. The business model does not work, and it did not make sense to continue burning through our remaining capital as we had over a million dollars in loans to pay off. It was brutal. The next thing I know, I am that guy sitting on the floor signing everyone’s last checks. Mind you, this was right as the economy was heading for a downturn, and right before 9/11, so it was not like people could just run out and find a new job. It was gut-wrenching to watch because it felt like we, as the leaders, should have executed the business model in a different manner instead of letting this happen. 

That entire experience is something that has remained with me to this day. It is not just about the shareholders; it is about your employees and your clients at the end of the day. You must do the right thing, and in this case, I had to make the right call for everyone involved, as difficult as it was. I think about this experience quite a bit, especially now in my role at Wells Fargo driving corporate strategy and the digital future of the bank. We have millions of customers and hundreds of thousands of employees. That is a big responsibility to carry. I am determined to get it right and make sure that the decisions we make today help steer the company in the right direction. 

WIB: What does having an “authentic voice” mean for you?

Williams: I am a lifelong learner; it is something I am passionate about – I love sharing and incorporating what I learn into what I do at Wells Fargo and surrounding myself around people that do the same. I am a big proponent of bringing diverse voices and ideas to the table, no groupthink. I tell my team to always have a point of view and express it. It is about being passionately curious and constructively impatient, challenging the status quo; never stop reimagining what is next.  

I am not the type of leader that is going to dictate my vision and have people execute on it. I want to build things together – make my team think about things differently to unlock diversity of thought, all with a common framework that ties back to what we are trying to achieve. Everyone can look at something and think a different thought, and that is the true beauty of it.