Corporate Leader Speaks to the Pandemic: Juan Austin, Wells Fargo

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Episode Notes:

  • Juan has been with Wachovia + Wells Fargo for 33 years
  • Covering 4 states (NC, SC, VA, MD) and DC
  • Economic ramifications of the virus – financial services industry is working hard to restore the health of the economy. CEO thanks team and customers of Wells Fargo as we all face challenges. “The only way we get through this moment is together, with flexibility, resolve, and collaboration. We’ll do our best to adapt to the needs of our communities… expedite grantmaking to ensure that nonprofits receive their grants quickly
  • $175 million committed in response to COVID-19 by Wells Fargo: to address food, shelter, small business and public health needs (ex: $1M to Feeding America) – repurposed all of 2020 budgets = $27M+ to this region by providing “highly flexible funding”
    • Opened grant portal on rolling basis thru end of August – encouraged past nonprofit partners to apply before May 31
    • Especially want to serve diverse and under-served communities
    • Also supporting small businesses with lending, advisory services, financial health and counseling
    • Have some bandwidth to consider nonprofits who are pivoting to address COVID-19 community needs
  • “As a corporate funder, the best thing that we can do is be flexible and nimble to support our nonprofits when they sorely need it.”
    • Pausing all site visits
    • Suspending in-person volunteer activities thru end of April; hope to resume
    • Allow organizations to repurpose 2019 grants to use in the way the makes the most sense for them
  • Proactive in reaching out to grantees (partners who’ve received grants over the past 3 years) – encouraged to get grant proposals in quickly, using a new “short-form” grant application process
  • Past 3 giving priorities are still applicable to current needs – 2 examples:
    • NC Grantmakers Network: call with Gov. Cooper on 4/15 – funders need to continue focusing on their mission
    • WSJ article about PPP: work in past with disaster recovery prepared Wells Fargo to ramp up support in preparation, especially for small and minority-owned businesses, driving resources to those most in need at this time
  • His team meets weekly to talk about impact: “silver lining is that funders have become true collaborators”
  • “We’ve seen nonprofit organizations really step up to fill gaps.”
  • Value of financial education work of past is coming into play now
  • Communication with partners: grant funding cycles around 3 priorities have changed with the 2020 acceleration – “We want to give nonprofit partners a chance to breathe.” In Q4 will assess and have conversations with grantees in preparation for 2021
  • Grantees reach WF primarily by email now, which works best and WF can be most responsive
  • Generosity example: proactively reached out to grantees in March by email to notify them that WF stands with them and would be flexible with them throughout this year – one of the responses expressed great thanks and personal appreciation back to the WF team, in thanks for “strategically looking out for the nonprofit community.” Short notes of thanks are meaningful.
  • Juan expressed his thanks for “resolve, endurance and ability to have a can-do attitude”
  • Roy T. Bennett quote from “The Light and the Heart” – Attitude is a choice… kindness is a choice… giving is a choice… whatever you choose, it makes you, so choose wisely
  • Wells Fargo loan portal is open
    • Stimulus payments started today – WF pausing any collection of negative balances for 30 days from the date of those stimulus payments
    • Donating fees associated with PPP loans back to communities

*Following our conversation, Juan shared a brief on how Wells Fargo is responding to COVID-19 in support of their customers, team members and communities, which you can read here.

**Side-note: Allan Burrows and Juan Austin served together on board of the NC Center for Nonprofits.

Juan Austin:

In his role with Wells Fargo, Juan provides leadership to: all Corporate Philanthropy and Employee Involvement activities in North Carolina, (Exception: Greater Charlotte Region) South Carolina, District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. Austin’s primary focus is delivering strategic and brand/reputation building corporate philanthropy. Areas of emphasis include consulting, strategic analysis, training, budgeting, forecasting and proposal review & approvals. Since joining Wachovia in 1986, Austin has gained experience in several areas of the bank including Auto Dealer Finance, Retail, Business Banking, Community Lending & Investment, Commercial Banking and Wealth Management.

Juan is a native of Greensboro, NC, where he now lives with his wife; they have two adult children. He has been with the company since 1986, and holds a B.S. in Wealth & Trust Management from Campbell University, as well as Corporate Social Responsibility Certification from Boston College.

He is a current Board Member of the following: NC Community Foundation; Campbell University Business School Advisory Council; Mount Zion Baptist Church, Chair Finance Committee; and a past Board Member of: NC A&T State University Board of Visitors; NC Business Committee for Education; NC Center for Nonprofits; NC Public School Forum; Liberty Street Community Development Corporation; Youth Focus, Inc., Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Greensboro, Reading Connections, Inc.; N.C. Community Development Inc. – Initiative Capital

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