Finding the Right Focus
Robert Schapira, Eller Business Management ’05
Southwest Small Business and Wells Fargo At Work Segment Leader, Wells Fargo & Company
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Robert Schapira finished his high school career as an International Baccalaureate student with an acceptance letter to Brandeis. But early in July, as he began planning the move to Boston, he made a sudden course correction.
“I had a lot of friends going to the UA, and I realized I just didn’t want to be that far away from home,” Schapira said. He enrolled in the UA and declared a political science major.
“I hated just about every class I took, but I figured that was just what college was like.” Then he took some business classes. “I loved every one of them,” he said. “I remember calling my dad almost in tears to tell him that I wanted to change majors.” His dad, an entrepreneur and owner of Action Scaffolding in Phoenix and Tucson, was thrilled.
“I was so sure I’d be an attorney,” Schapira said with a laugh. “I’m an actor at heart.” Over the years, he has been active in community theatre, though his current travel schedule gets in the way. “I find that I’m more effective the busier I am,” he said. “For me, a lot of it was just finding the right focus.”
At the UA, that meant involvement in his fraternity Beta Theta Pi, ASUA, his classes, and Wells Fargo. Schapira started with the bank as a part-time teller at the age of 17. “I eventually became a personal banker and financial advisor, but while I was in school, I couldn’t work enough hours to keep moving up.”
As he prepared to graduate, Schapira had two paths he could consider within Wells Fargo, production or management. He followed his passion for working with and helping people. He began as a store manager in Tucson, eventually moving up to manage the main Wells Fargo branch downtown. From there, he became a sales development consultant in Tucson and Phoenix.
Fellow Eller Wildcat Lisa Riley became a mentor. “A job opened up in Oregon that I was really interested in,” Schapira said. “I asked her what she thought, and she told me that the same job was opening up in Albuquerque.” As small business and affluent segment leader for Wells Fargo’s New Mexico region, Schapira worked directly with businesses and clients with complex financial needs.
In his current role, he leads small businesses and oversees Wells Fargo At Work across the entire southwest region. “One of the best things about working for Wells Fargo is that there are more than 80 different lines of business,” he said. “I have had the chance to manage lots of team members, even some with degrees in law and criminal justice, and there’s a division for all of them.”
Schapira said he also uses lessons learned in his undergraduate experience every day. “I still think about some of the ethical scenarios that Suzanne Cummins presented in her capstone business law course,” he said. “Ethics and integrity are incredibly important in our business.”
Diza Sauers, director of the Business Communication Program, was also a formative influence. Schapira was a TA for her class. “I’ve looked at hundreds of resumes, which always reminds me about the importance of using concise and effective language,” he said. “The difference between an aspiring leader and an actual leader is the ability to frame a concept and communicate it effectively.”
Top photo of Albuquerque, New Mexico – October 9 by Gary Yim / Shutterstock.com.