Wells Fargo has been recognized as the most thorough of the major banks protecting their branches from the spread of the coronavirus, according to a new study.
An estimated 96% of Wells Fargo locations visited by test shoppers from research firm Ipsos had signs requiring customers to wear masks to enter, well above the 87% average of the offices of the six banks Ipsos studied.
Nearly a third of the visits saw Wells Fargo employees wiping surfaces that surpassed the other banks. The visits took place in July and the results were published this week.
A sign on the door of a Wells Fargo Dallas office explains what steps the company is taking to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
"We are continuing to take steps in this very fluid situation to fulfill our role as an essential service provider and to protect our employees and customers," said a Wells Fargo spokeswoman in an e-mailed statement in response to the study.
The bank has temporarily closed around 20% of its branch network in the US and installed protective barriers, taken social distancing measures, requested appointments for some services and thoroughly cleaned the locations that were still open.
“We're seeing a centuries-old approach to customer experience create monumental changes in weeks and months. It's really impressive, "said Shohini Banerjee, senior vice president at Ipsos' US Channel Performance Group, in a prepared statement on the retail company survey.
"Many of the precautionary measures and improvements for COVID-19 are not small or inexpensive. They fundamentally change the behavior of employees and the distribution of products and services. This is a complete disruption for retailers," he said.
A spokeswoman for Ipsos said the company refused to publish the names of the other five banks in the report and their results, citing the company's practice of dividing top performers in the industries it studied rather than lowering top performers. The company said the lowest performing bank had signs advising customers that 81% of stores visited required a mask and 12% of visits had surfaces cleaned.
Wells Fargo did not commission the study, spokeswoman for the bank and Ipsos said in separate emails.
Despite the lack of details on how other banks have behaved, the study is one of the first to show how the banking industry is holding up in fighting the spread of the disease against other retailers. Grocery stores and big box retailers generally had the best security measures ahead of financial services companies, according to Ipsos, while food and beverage companies and convenience stores rounded out the rest of the five industries examined.
Overall, Ipsos saw a significant improvement in its arrangements to keep the US economy open. State, local, and federal governments often disagreed on how far to go in demanding steps such as mask requirements and social distancing measures. Acting currency auditor Brian Brooks even warned in June of the "very real risk of an increase in bank robberies" from the use of face masks. The American Bankers Association stepped up in July in support of mask-wearing requirements to relieve an industry grappling with a patchwork of often conflicting rules across its various branch networks.
However, the Ipsos study found that much remains to be done. For example, only one in three retailers in all of the industries surveyed provided hand sanitizer to customers entering the store, and only one in four had toilets with visible cleaning schedules. About 19% of the stores visited had no socially distant memories, according to Ipsos.
Banerjee said in a statement, "Surprisingly, even among brands that are widely believed to be doing a good job in their COVID-19 prevention efforts, there are still fairly lax security protocols on the ground, particularly with regard to disinfection, cleanliness and security Toilets. "