Brenda Ross-Dulan is enjoying a 20-year plus career in banking. In April 2009, the mathematics sage moved her family east, trading in the sunny beaches and outdoor cafés of the Los Angeles-San Gabriel Valley Region for the brutal winters and sorority-sisters reunions of New Jersey. Here, the wife and mother of two discusses her role at the fourth largest institution in the financial services industry in the U.S. and No. 1 small-business lender, Wells Fargo & Company. –yvette caslin
Title: Executive Vice President and Regional President
What are your duties?
I head the southern New Jersey region for Wells Fargo, which includes half of the state of New Jersey. My responsibilities are in retail banking where I am responsible for about 150 retail banking stores, branches and $12 billion in deposits. I manage all aspects, from sales, managing profitability, operations and risk management, to talent management and interfacing with the community.
What about your role as national spokesperson for Wells Fargo’s African American Business Services program?
Back in 1998, the company pledged to lend a billion dollars to African American businesses across the nation. Along with that came a commitment to outreach and education, making sure that African American businesses had access to all of the information and resources that were necessary to help them run their businesses and to ensure the viability and stability of the African American smal- business community. That commitment was increased to $3 billion a few years ago. In my role, I go around to different groups to talk about that commitment and form partnerships with organizations [Chambers of Commerce, National Black MBA] to ensure that we are reaching the business community.
What is your vision for the region?
To promote and increase the visibility of Wells Fargo for everyone in the New Jersey market to understand who Wells Fargo is — a vision- and values-based company. It’s a company primarily focused on making sure that we satisfy 100 percent of our customers’ financial services needs. [Wells Fargo] has been around for over 150 years, and it has done so throughout all of the various financial upheavals because it has a customer-centric approach to how it does business. Our primary focus is if we do what is right for the customer and community, the company will benefit. My role is, quite frankly, to make sure that comes alive here in the southern New Jersey market.
What is your personal leadership philosophy?
I am a person who fundamentally believes that I have a personal mission to truly make a difference in the lives of people who are around me. [It] means that when I am in contact with people, either at work or in the community, that their lives, in some way, should be enriched and better off because I was there. I take that mission and that philosophy seriously so that my leadership style within the company is a blend [of leading] by touching a person’s head and also their heart, making sure that they can increase their ability to be successful in their roles and to truly make a difference and be financially successful and speak to the things that are fundamentally important to them.
What is the best advice that you have ever received?
It came from my mother and that is to live with a spirit of gratitude. I think that, when you are grateful, you understand and live by the philosophy that “to whom much is given, much is required.” My mom says, “Be grateful.”
I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and I pledged Alpha Chapter (Howard University). I have become active in the Trenton Chapter. I am on the board of the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce and Coopers Ferry Community Development Association, charged with the revitalization of the Camden community.
BA in Business Administration from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and an MBA from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA
How have you adjusted to the move from southern California to southern New Jersey?
I am always excited about new opportunities and always grateful with new opportunities, connecting with a lot of my friends who went to Howard, best friends from college. It has been great.
Last good book read:
The leadership book that I constantly read is The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. John Maxwell talks about what separates a mediocre leader from a great leader. I recently pulled out a book called The First 90 Days for a new hire. It is an amazing book to help leaders understand, in a systematic way, their new roles and the dynamics of a new environment.
What type of music do you enjoy?
I am a big Anita Baker fan and have been listening to John Legend’s “Green Light.”
Childhood and current heroes:
My parents have always been my heroes. My dad taught me the value of hard work. Also, Oprah Winfrey, her personal philosophy resonates with me because I do believe that everyone has to be the best that they can be and be the best of who they are. When I bring the best of who I am, who I really am, when I am authentic, I think that’s when people around me can benefit.