Hy-Vee Overtakes Wells Fargo as Des Moines' Largest Employer


Des Moines, IOWA - Wells Fargo, which held the position of Des Moines metro's largest employer for over 15 years, has seen its workforce diminish over the years due to attrition and layoffs. The San Francisco-based bank recently announced a planned reduction of 35 jobs, bringing its metro employment to approximately 11,000, down from its peak of 14,500 in 2017.

Taking the lead as the metro's largest employer is Hy-Vee, a home-grown supermarket chain headquartered in West Des Moines. Tina Potthoff, Senior Vice President of Communications for Hy-Vee, revealed that the chain now employs about 12,000 workers in the metro and aims to expand its workforce further.

Back in 2017, the Greater Des Moines Partnership report indicated that Hy-Vee employed 6,500 workers in the metro. This means that the company has nearly doubled its metro presence since that time.

Although Hy-Vee's recent claim to the top employer spot is a new development, the company has long held the title of Iowa's largest private employer.

Wells Fargo's home mortgage division, based in the metro, has experienced a decline in employment even prior to the significant rise in interest rates that began in 2022. One major factor contributing to this decline is the mounting competition from nonbank lenders such as Rocket Mortgage and United Wholesale Mortgage.

Last week, Wells Fargo announced plans to cut 35 jobs with an effective date of December 3, as reported on the state's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) website. This impending layoff follows an earlier reduction of 80 workers in the summer.

Since April 2022, Wells Fargo has reported staff cuts totaling 643 employees on the WARN site. When factoring in staff reductions in 2018-19, the company has let go of a total of 1,274 employees within the past five years.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership lists Wells Fargo's employment at 13,000. However, according to Michael J. Slusark, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo, the company currently employs around 11,000 workers in central Iowa.

Regarding the recent rounds of layoffs, Slusark stated, "We regularly review and adjust staffing levels to align with market conditions and the needs of our businesses. We work very hard to identify opportunities for employees in other parts of the company so we can retain as many employees as possible. Where it’s not possible, we provide assistance, such as severance and career counseling."

Wells Fargo's presence in the Des Moines metro traces back to 1998, following its merger with Minneapolis-based Norwest Bank. Norwest, once the largest bank in Iowa, established its mortgage, consumer financial, and credit card servicing divisions in the metro.

Founded in 1852 during the California gold rush, Wells Fargo & Co. now boasts assets exceeding $1.9 trillion, as stated on the company's website.

Hy-Vee, an employee-owned company, originated in 1930 as a single general store in Beaconsfield, Iowa. Today, it operates 285 stores across eight states, employing 93,000 workers and generating $12 billion in annual sales, according to the company's website.