Steve Kiker poses for a photo in front of the Wells Fargo Corporate and Investment Bank trading floor
Steve Kiker on the Wells Fargo Corporate and Investment Bank trading floor.

Operating with a base built on a drive for learning and advancement

As the Chief Operating Officer for Wells Fargo’s Corporate and Investment Bank, Steve Kiker relies on his foundation in finance and accounting to lead in an ever-changing environment.

Growing up as the son of two teachers, Steve Kiker (BSAc ’95) understood the value of education from an early age. For Kiker, learning wasn’t just about taking in information from textbooks, it was a process based on a drive for improvement and advancement.

“Coming from a family of educators, they instilled a level of work ethic that is at the core of who I am today,” he said. “My dad grew up on a farm before attending UF and he really taught me to take pride in everything that you do.”

Kiker brought that determination with him to the University of Florida, and he would need it after deciding to major in accounting, notoriously among the most challenging of degree programs. His time in the Fisher School of Accounting and initial roles out of college would set the educational foundation that Kiker has relied on for his subsequent decades in the banking industry.

“When I talk to young people today, I always share with them the importance of having a core educational foundation and a skillset that they can build upon,” he said. “For me, that was finance and accounting – a knowledge and skill base that has helped me build a great career.”

Kiker’s career began at the Harris Corporation before he moved to a four-year auditing role at Arthur Andersen in Washington, D.C. It was in this time that Kiker developed many of the finance and accounting skills he still employs today as well as earned his CPA license.

After a short, but informative stint as the controller at an internet start-up company around the time of the dot-com boom, Kiker took a job at the company he’s been with for the past 20-plus years – Wells Fargo. While Kiker initially started in more traditional finance and accounting roles at Wells Fargo, his drive to learn more brought him closer to the business and his current role of almost 7 years as Chief Operating Officer of the company’s Corporate and Investment Bank.

In his current role, Kiker leads about 2,000 individuals who support the core trading and banking activities for the company’s Corporate and Investment Bank, a nearly $14 billion business driver for the bank. Kiker describes his team as the backbone that supports the activities that drive the delivery of capabilities the bank’s corporate and institutional clients need – anything from strategy planning to building new product capabilities and managing the daily operational support for the bank’s securities business.

Kiker is proud of his work and the fact that he still gets to work alongside Gators.

“We hire a lot of people from UF – at least 5 to 10 first-year analysts per year,” he said. “Wells Fargo has recruited at UF for years, but now you see more companies catching on to the talent available at Florida.”

Being in a C-suite role, Kiker notes how critical it is to build a strong and diverse team in order to drive success. Building and maintaining strong teams is something he has always been keenly focused on.

“I have zero success without my team,” he said. “You have to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and who will challenge you. Beyond that, it’s critical to have a diverse team, which means everything from gender to race to thought and skills, because it takes diversity of thought and experience to ensure you understand different clients, challenge the way you operate, and in order to generate new ideas and opportunities.”

Having such a diverse and strong team enables Kiker to lead in what he describes as a constantly dynamic environment while not falling victim to the idea behind a quote that he has posted in his office, “The most dangerous phrase in the English language is ‘We’ve always done it this way.’”

The quote from Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper also forms the foundation of advice the Florida alumnus and industry leader has for students and young alumni alike – be willing to be adaptable because where you’re at today doesn’t define where you’ll be later in life.

“When you’re at a large company, you have to be able to adapt,” he said. “Life will throw curveballs at you, so it’s important to have a north star directing you – build a life and career based on clear goals linked to what you want to achieve.”

To achieve your professional goals, you should focus on the role you have today rather than searching for the next best thing, Kiker notes.

“Focus on becoming an expert in what you are doing and build and maintain relationships around that,” he said. “What will come next for you is in what you’re doing today.”

The most valuable piece of advice Kiker has to offer, and one he jokes he’s still learning himself, is to listen more.

“At a young age, you have to find your voice and learn when to be curious and ask, ‘why are we doing what we’re doing,’ so that you can be engaged, understand and learn,” he said. “But as you get into leadership roles, you have to learn to listen as much as you talk. You learn so much more from your team and their ideas and approaches.”

Despite the demanding work of a C-suite role, Kiker manages to find balance in his life through the support of his family.

Kiker and his wife, who he met at UF while on a blind date, recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Of the couple’s two daughters, one recently graduated from the University of Georgia and the other is a rising sophomore at UF. Kiker is excited about being able to visit Gainesville from his home base in Charlotte more now that his daughter is a student, and as a season ticket holder for the last 30 years, to take in more football games in the Swamp.  

“I work in a competitive and hard-charging industry, but I’ve tried to stay focused on being present by grounding myself in my family, which is what has allowed me to successfully achieve the goals I have set for my work and life,” he said.