In February, Laura Howe was promoted to regional banking director for Wells Fargo’s Midwest Central region, succeeding Marta Codina, whom Howe has worked with for the past 14 years. Codina was promoted to SVP of growth and branch administration at Wells Fargo Bank. In Howe’s new position, she oversees 99 bank branches across five states, including Iowa, western Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Collectively, those branches manage $11.7 billion in deposits, with approximately 750 employees.

 

Before her promotion, Howe was district manager for Wells Fargo’s Des Moines Metro South District. She has worked for Wells Fargo for 18 years, joining the company in 2004 as a phone banker for Wells Fargo Financial while she was a student at Simpson College in Indianola. In her career at Wells Fargo, she worked her way up to credit manager, senior credit manager and assistant manager. She moved to branch banking as a personal banker and assistant manager in 2008 and became a branch manager for multiple Iowa locations beginning in 2010.


In the community, Howe currently serves as a board member for United Way of Central Iowa and Women of Norwalk. Raised on a farm in eastern Iowa, she and her family enjoy visiting her parents on the family farm.


American Banker recently recognized Howe as one of 15 female bank executives nationally on its annual Most Powerful Women in Banking list.


How do you feel about succeeding Marta Codina in this role? 

I am just so honored and blessed to get to be the person stepping in and doing that. I wouldn’t be here without her, and I tell her that all the time. She taught me to believe in myself, to go for more, strive for more, to really have work-life harmony and to help me get to where I am. She’s now working in our diversity, equity and inclusion division and doing great things for the whole company. But it’s pretty awesome because I still meet with her weekly. It’s been awesome to get to have her as a mentor and role model.  


What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in branch banking? 

The integration of digital has been the biggest transformation. Back when I was getting started, I still had a flip-phone. So I didn’t have a smartphone in the palm of my hand. When I first started we’d have lines out the door, and our drive-throughs would be backed up all the way. So now, we’re really trying to make it as convenient as possible for our customers to do banking, and we’re helping to show them ways they can do it from their phone and make it more convenient for them. When I think about our branches, I think of them previously being more transactional. Now, we’re moving to more of a service and advice. We want to be those people that are there for everyone in the community to come and get that great advice and guidance and to be able to succeed financially. That transformation is a lot of fun because that’s what I love to do. I love to help our customers figure out how they can buy a house, how they can retire maybe earlier than they thought. 


Now that you’re in this role, what is your approach to being a good leader? 

I’ve been blessed with incredible leaders in my career that have guided me, and so I’ve taken a lot of what they’ve done and tried to employ that myself. I think of myself as a servant leader, someone who is there for my team. If I’m there for them, if I’m helping to develop them and really taking great care of them, they’re going to do the same for our customers. That’s how I see myself as a leader. I want to be that supportive person who is really there for our team and customers. 


Are there community leadership positions you’re taking on that come with this new role? 

I recently joined the board for United Way. I had been part of one of their engagement cabinets for volunteerism. I have a huge passion around volunteerism — I run the volunteer network for Wells Fargo in Central Iowa for our 14,000 team members. So I have so much passion around that and giving back and being part of the community. I work with Women of Norwalk, which is a local nonprofit where I live, and so I spend a lot of time with that. [With Wells Fargo] we just had an event where we called it our “Return to Volunteerism” because we just did our return to work, and we had 300-plus employees out there volunteering, and I got a chance to help with the Habitat Build downtown. We did it in the middle of the street in the rain, but it was a lot of fun. … Marta is staying on a lot of the community [positions] as I’m getting my feet wet, but I think I will be working to take on even more. 


What are your favorite things to do outside of work? 

I’ve got three kids — twin 12-year-olds and a 5-year old little girl — so they keep me very busy. They’re very active in sports and things and so we spend a lot of time chauffeuring them around and getting to watch them grow and learn, so it’s a lot of fun. I also love to travel — I love getting out there and seeing new things. I speak Spanish and so we love going to foreign countries. We just took our kids for the first time to a foreign country … they’re not as excited about it yet, but they’re going to get there, I think. The other thing I love to do is run and work out; that’s kind of my fuel and so I do that pretty frequently.


What spurred your interest in international affairs and Latin America in college? 

Simpson is a really great college and they’re all about experiences and developing people with a real world view. A professor suggested taking international management with a degree in Spanish because you can use that in so many different ways. Part of the program was that you got the opportunity to study abroad. … I was 19 years old and had never been on a plane before, so when I boarded a plane for Nicaragua, that changed my life. I had an opportunity to serve at an orphanage as well as going to school there. I learned Spanish [while] staying with a family who I still consider family. I got a chance to really find that love of serving people. It made me part of who I am today.