- Wells Fargo reported $2.99 billion in net income in the fourth quarter Friday, a 4.1% increase from $2.87 billion in last year's same quarter.
- After several straight quarters of setting aside provisions for credit losses, the bank reported an $823 million decrease there — driven mostly by $757 million it released from its reserves over the sale of its student-loan portfolio.
- The bank took $781 million in restructuring charges and reported $321 million in customer remediation accruals, yet noninterest expenses still decreased 5% from last year's fourth quarter because the bank, at that point, booked a $1.5 billion charge for legal costs related to its 2016 fake-accounts scandal.
Despite the bump in Wells Fargo's bottom line, the bank saw double-digit percentage-point declines, or close, in some more granular categories. Net interest income saw a 17% drop from a year ago, which the bank attributed to a domino effect from lower interest rates. The bank reported revenue of $17.9 billion, a 9.7% decrease from $19.9 billion in 2020's fourth quarter.
Some double-digit decreases could be seen as a net positive. Net charge-offs fell 24% to $584 million, from $769 million a year ago.
"Our agenda is clear and we are making progress," CEO Charlie Scharf said Friday in a statement accompanying the earnings report.
Scharf said last January, during his first earnings call while in the bank's top role, that the bank may take "much of this year" to review its budget and broader business. He also made clear he was prioritizing the resolution of regulatory issues that have plagued the bank since the 2016 scandal. The bank began last year under 12 enforcement actions, according to American Banker. That number is now 10.
"The recently terminated [Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering] consent order is ... an important step forward," Scharf said Friday. "The disciplines we use to manage the company are completely different than one year ago."
He also noted the establishment of a new management team to oversee consumer practices, as well as the bank's ongoing effort to exit "certain nonstrategic businesses." Student loans would be one, but the bank is also close to a deal to sell its asset-management unit, according to a Reuters report Friday.
Scharf said last July he was looking to slash $10 billion from the bank's annual expenses. Some of that has come in payroll, as Wells Fargo the following month resumed job cuts that could number in the tens of thousands.
"We have identified and are implementing a series of actions to improve our financial performance," Scharf said Friday. "With a more consistent broad-based recovery and as we continue to press forward with our agenda, we expect you will see that this franchise is capable of much more."
Wells Fargo's board approved the repurchase of 500 million shares after the Federal Reserve last month said banks could resume stock buybacks. Wells Fargo stocks dropped 44% last year, according to The Wall Street Journal. But they have risen 15% so far in 2021, the publication reported.