Thirty years ago, Derek Cantey started his career in banking. Working his way up from the “mail room in the basement” to senior supplier diversity manager for Wells Fargo has given him experience in sourcing, procurement, inventory control and customer service.
With 16 years of experience in supplier diversity, Cantey has seen many changes for Wells Fargo as well as other industries.
“It was easy to handle a supplier diversity strategy when I started because we would wait for companies to fax us a quote,” laughs Cantey. “I would type a letter to send to companies and rely on those faxed quotes to provide the information we needed to select a company.”
Technology has completely changed the way his department works today, says Cantey. “There is so much information available to us, today, that we perform our due diligence before we have a conversation with the supplier,” he says. “It also doesn’t take three days to get a fax from companies—now communication is near real-time as we provide and gather information.”
The advent of faster communications and the ability to research companies before making contact has made Wells Fargo a better consumer, says Cantey. “We are more strategic about the companies that we approach because we apply our research insights to the supplier base—deciding who has the experience and resources to succeed with us and to provide value to our organization.”
As a result of the more strategic approach to identification of diverse suppliers, Cantey has moved away from holding “mass auditions,” he says. “Because we pre-screen suppliers by determining their capabilities and overlaying those elements with our business’ needs, we can have candid conversations with suppliers to explain why we think that they would be a good fit for us, or what capabilities they are lacking.”
One example of the new way to recruit diverse suppliers was a conference for 12 hand-picked diverse money management firms at which key people from different areas of Wells Fargo’s investment group presented information on what they expected from suppliers and what requirements were necessary to work with the group. “This type of meeting provides better insight for both our investment group staff and the money managers, which leads to better engagement,” explains Cantey.
The strategic approach is working. “Over the past six years, Wells Fargo has spent $6 billion with diverse suppliers, with $1.27 billion of that spent in 2017,” says Cantey. “Wells Fargo has grown spend with diverse certified suppliers over $446 million since 2014.”
The future for diverse suppliers working with Wells Fargo reflects a growing trend in innovation and technology, says Cantey. “I advise emerging diverse suppliers to develop capabilities on the technology and transactions side of the business.” Diverse businesses must also focus on risk management and adhering to compliance with the regulations and cybersecurity impacting financial services companies. This will provide the greatest number of opportunities in coming years, he adds.
When asked if he envisioned himself to be working in the procurement arena 30 years after he started his career, Cantey laughs and says, “No. I didn’t even know that there was a procurement office in the bank when I started. But as I learned more, I became interested.”
Working with the supplier diversity strategy the past 16 years has been especially rewarding, says Cantey. Although he was first told to just collect business cards at trade shows, he quickly realized that he needed to share information as well. As he began to talk specifically about the bank’s needs and requirements, he helped diverse suppliers understand their capabilities while focusing on building their capacity.
“Wells Fargo still works with some of the same diverse suppliers that first came onboard when I started,” says Cantey. “It’s like watching a child grow—some have acquired other businesses and expanded, others are working for other companies in the industry as well as us, and others have changed their business strategies to prepare for more work.” He adds, “This is fun work when it is done right.”
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