Wells Fargo launches effort to increase services to the unbanked

Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest U.S. bank, is rolling out an initiative to bring more people into the banking system.

The firm said it will increase access to affordable products, expand financial-education offerings and launch a National Unbanked Advisory Task Force. Wells Fargo also will set a 10-year goal for reducing the number of people who are unbanked, according to a statement Monday.

“We recognize the high number of unbanked households is a complex and long-standing issue that will require gathering the best minds, ideas, products and educational resources from across our communities to bring about change,” Chief Executive Charlie Scharf said in the statement. “Through our initiative, we will organize our resources under one umbrella and work with a broad and diverse group of stakeholders on a sustained multiyear effort to accelerate financial inclusion in the U.S.”

One in four U.S. adults is considered unbanked or underbanked in the U.S., according to the nonprofit Financial Health Network, which says those consumers pay almost $200 billion a year in fees and interest on financial products. The problem intensifies the nation’s wealth gap, which disproportionately affects minority groups.

Over the past year, corporate America has increasingly responded to systemic racism in the U.S. after the killings of George Floyd and other African Americans by police officers. Critics have singled out the financial industry for creating and prolonging economic disparities.

Wells Fargo’s initiative will in particular help “remove barriers to financial inclusion for Black and African American, Hispanic, and Native American/Alaska Native families, which account for more than half of America’s 7 million unbanked households,” according to the statement.

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