Wachovia's conversion to Wells Fargo winds up Saturday
TAMPA - Wachovia branches will be sporting new colors starting Saturday as logos, signs and floor plans change to the name of new owner Wells Fargo. The conversion will cover all 96 Wachovia branches in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, down through Bradenton. No Wachovia locations will be closed. South Florida's conversion will happen next month. Other regions of the country are being converted in stages. Wachovia grew its business through adjustable-rate home mortgages, and the company was hit hard by the housing crisis. A merger with Citigroup was announced in 2008 but on Jan. 1, 2009, Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia.The two institutions combined infrastructures – ATMs have been interchangeable, for example – and deals honored by Wachovia also have been honored by Wells Fargo. Any Wachovia customers who had free checking still will, though the name will change to "essential checking," said Kathy Harrison, Florida spokeswoman for Wells Fargo. Customers can continue to use Wachovia checks and debit cards and account numbers will not change. Wells Fargo has historic beginnings in the Old West. In 1852, Henry Wells and William Fargo opened their first bank in San Francisco. The company is now valued at $138 billion and first quarter net income this year set a record at $3.8 billion.Along with Citigroup, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo is considered one of the nation's "big four" banks. To mark the changeover in Tampa Bay, murals unique to each neighborhood have been installed at 32 branches. A team from Wells Fargo worked on the projects with local historical societies, along with museums, libraries and the state archives. At the Wells Fargo regional headquarters, 100 S. Ashley St. in downtown Tampa, a new mural features photos of Tampa's Cuban heritage, views of the early 1900s skyline, and Wells Fargo memorabilia. In addition, a celebration is planned Tuesday in Tampa featuring the iconic Wells Fargo stagecoach complete with a full team of horses. The stage is scheduled to pick up Mayor Bob Buckhorn and drive him to the regional headquarters, a brown glass skyscraper more than 20 stories high. Wells Fargo will donate $80,000 to charities during the event. Editor's note: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong day for the downtown Tampa celebration.