Wells Fargo (WFC) is among the top five banks in the United States, ranking in the third sport as of mid-2020, after JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. According to the company, it has more than $1.97 trillion in assets. The bank serves more than 70 million customers across the country and has more than 266,000 employees. The bank had a market capitalization of $97.4 billion as of Aug. 21, 2020. Wells Fargo reported net income of $19.55 billion earnings for the 2019 fiscal year. 

Banking is the ultimate intangible industry, moving assets from lower-valued to higher-valued uses in the most impalpable of ways. But that still leaves plenty that distinguishes Wells Fargo from its major U.S. competitors starting with its size and its reach. So how does the bank make money? One way is by lending out money at a higher rate than it borrows. But there's more to it than just earning money in interest. This article looks at how Wells Fargo earned its spot among the other big banks in the country.

Big, Regional Acquisitions

Wells Fargo was created by the merger of large super-regional banks. Founders Wells and Fargo created their namesake in 1852 to cater to the growing population of gold miners and related hangers-on in California, which back then was in the early stages of its transition from distant backwater to most populous and economically powerful state in the union.

After close to a century and a half of steady growth, Wells Fargo merged with Norwest Corp. in 1998. A decade later, Wells Fargo bought out East Coast giant Wachovia. Add them all together, and Wells Fargo can now claim over 70 million customers from coast to coast. 

Today, Wells Fargo officially divides its operations into three categories for management reporting purposes.

Wealth and Investment Management

This segment services business clients and high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) by offering them wealth management services, as well as investment and retirement products. Some of these services include financial planning, credit, and private banking.

Wholesale Banking

Wells Fargo's wholesale banking division tends to the financial needs of U.S.-based and global businesses. There are 13 different business lines that fall under this category including business banking, corporate banking, commercial real estate, insurance, and credit risk.

Community Banking

This part of the bank's operations services retail and small business clients with their everyday banking needs. Some of the services include checking and savings accounts, loans, mortgages. The bank serves these clients in its branches and by way of its automated teller machines (ATMs).