Commencement speech

Wells Fargo CEO Shares Best Advice for Business Graduates

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


"Golden Gopher humility is not thinking less of yourself,
it’s thinking of yourself less."


On May 18, Wells Fargo & Company Chairman and CEO John Stumpf, '80 MBA, stood before hundreds of new graduates and offered his best advice for navigating the future. As the 2015 Carlson School commencement keynote speaker, he drew from a wealth of professional experience and selected a few lessons he wish he'd known as he began building his career.

Always be part of the change

"The world is changing at an increasing pace. What we've seen so far is only the first five minutes of a year of technological change. Be a change agent—embrace it, be a part of it, adopt it," says Stumpf.

Glean wisdom from your mistakes

"There's a difference between knowledge and wisdom. The way you get experience on the way to earning wisdom is to make mistakes. Fall in love with mistakes. Find them, share them, don't repeat them, and learn from others' mistakes—you're not going to live to be old enough to make all the mistakes yourself," he says.

Fall in love with learning

"People who are the happiest on this planet fall in love with learning, and they never stop," says Stumpf. 

Join a company with a complementary culture

"Work for a company that shares your values, your beliefs, your ethics. Life is too short to be something at home and be something else at work. If you’re an 'us, we, and ours' person, work for one of those kinds of companies," he says.

Remember humility

"The possibilities for you are limitless, whatever you do. In California, I'm one of three CEOs who graduated from the University of Minnesota. There are Golden Gophers holding down the fort all across this country and all across this world. At the University of Minnesota, you learn values, ethics, and a certain sense of humility that will carry you far. Golden Gopher humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. That's what makes all you will accomplish so special," says Stumpf.

See the commencement address in its entirety


About John Stumpf

John G. Stumpf

John G. Stumpf became Chairman for Wells Fargo & Company in January 2010. He was named Chief Executive Officer in June 2007, elected to Wells Fargo's Board of Directors in June 2006, and has been President since August 2005.

A 33-year veteran of the company, he joined the former Norwest Corporation (predecessor of Wells Fargo) in 1982 in the loan administration department and then became senior vice president and chief credit officer for Norwest Bank, N.A., Minneapolis. He held a number of management positions at Norwest Bank Minneapolis and Norwest Bank Minnesota before assuming responsibility for Norwest Bank Arizona in 1989. He was named regional president for Norwest Banks in Colorado/Arizona in 1991. From 1994 to 1998, he was regional president for Norwest Bank Texas. During his four years in that position, he led Norwest's acquisition of 30 Texas banks with total assets of more than $13 billion.

In 1998, with the merger of Norwest Corporation and Wells Fargo & Company, he became head of the Southwestern Banking Group (Arizona, New Mexico and Texas). Two years later he became head of the new Western Banking Group (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming). In 2000, he led the integration of Wells Fargo's acquisition of the $23 billion First Security Corporation, based in Salt Lake City. In May 2002, he was named Group EVP of Community Banking. In December 2008, he led one of the largest mergers in history with the purchase of Wachovia.

He serves on the Board of Directors for The Clearing House, the Financial Services Roundtable, Target Corporation, and Chevron Corporation. He also serves on the Federal Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Board as the appointed representative of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

A Minnesota native, he earned his bachelor's degree in finance from St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota and his MBA with an emphasis in finance from the University of Minnesota.