Women in Leadership Profiles
Brenda Ross-Dulan

Brenda Ross-Dulan – Wells Fargo: Drawing on Her Success

Brenda Ross-Dulan oversees 150 banking stores and $12 billion in deposits, and yet she never thought she’d end up in banking. In fact, starting around eighth grade, she was certain she wanted to be an actuary. “Who in eighth grade decides to be an actuary?” she laughs. She pursued the idea right through her undergraduate years at Howard University, and indeed took a job as an actuary intern in Connecticut during college and worked in the insurance industry in New York after graduation. “I was very good in math,” she explains. “and at that stage in my life I was bit of an introvert.”

As she matured, she realized that she had other skills that she wasn’t fully utilizing. “My love of making a difference in people’s lives caused me to come into my own. I’m not going to be the clown dancing on the table, but I’m a combination of a very analytical person and a very people-oriented person.” Today, as Regional President for Southern New Jersey with Wells Fargo, she has ample opportunity to draw on all of her strengths and personal qualities.

Brenda chose to get her MBA after she and her husband moved back to his home state of California. She looked around and decided on the program at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. “UCLA was in the top ten. I thought, what a great way to distinguish my credentials. It was the only school I applied to. UCLA had a national network of people and I thought that would provide me with some mobility.”

Business school revealed new horizons beyond the insurance industry. “You go in with one idea, but you really have to open yourself up. I never thought I would be in banking. It happened because I was around other people at UCLA who encouraged me to seek out opportunities that had never occurred to me.”

This is a recurring theme in conversation with Brenda: receptivity to new ideas and directions. Brenda’s career path reads like a carefully planned venture, and yet she describes it otherwise: “I would say with the exception of that eighth grade experience, it was a little shoot by the hip. I did what felt okay to me. Even the progression within Wells Fargo has been more about people tapping me on the shoulder and saying, what about doing this? It’s hard to want to do something you haven’t been exposed to. So you have to see what’s out there you can’t plan it all out ahead of time.”

That said, her approach to executing her daily responsibilities is highly strategic. “At the beginning of the year, I figure out what’s important in my job and I structure my entire year in terms of the kinds of meetings and activities I need to be involved in: coaching my team about areas of opportunity for them; talking about what my financials might look like in a particular market; researching competition; making sure that we’re out in the community. I start with a basic structure for the entire year so that every single day each action that I take is deliberate.”

Brenda is a committed champion of diversity at Wells Fargo and beyond. She says the culture of Wells Fargo is one that suits her well. “We have a very entrepreneurial and community-minded approach to doing business. All of the decisions aren’t made from a central location. We constantly ask ourselves, how do you empower other people to go out and own that little community where they are? You want to make sure everybody feels empowered and engaged and find ways of being more open, less hierarchical, more inclusive. It’s about being respectful of people.”

She has been actively involved in several boards, including the Los Angeles Urban League, the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce, and the Corporate Advisory Boards of FAME Renaissance and the Latin Business Association. She recently joined the board of the Cooper’s Ferry CDC and formed her Community Advisory Board to stay connected to and better respond to the needs of our customers and communities. In addition, she finds time for her own family, including her husband and two children. Brenda admits, “It’s tough to find the time for all of this. There are times that you go to the extreme and you’re not any good to yourself or other people. Being a good mom is very important to me. There is always this balancing act with your time and also with your emotions.”

Brenda says that, inspired by her mother, gratitude is the reigning value in her life. “My mom was one who always taught me that for everything that you have, you always say thank you. No one has to do anything for you in life.” She also lives by the mantra that much is required of those to whom much is given. “That’s at the foundation of how I approach life. I have an obligation to try to make a difference in other people’s lives. Being a regional president is an indication of what I’ve accomplished but the title means nothing if you can’t really leverage it to make a difference for people who need you.”

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