Wells Fargo economist forecaster retiring

Wells Fargo economist forecaster retiring

Save Story

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Kelly K. Matthews is the ultimate "suit," moving easily through the corporate crowd and mixing with politicians, lobbyists and financiers.

Say his name and most Utahns know him for his economic forecasts on behalf of Wells Fargo. He projects what's coming, explains what just happened, shows how job losses and gas prices and inflation and housing starts all influence the economic well-being of a community.

This Thanksgiving, the "suit" is going to hang it up, retiring after a 36-year run. He figures he's given at least 7,600 talks on the economy to civic, education and business groups. And that doesn't count monthly press briefings about the Wasatch Front consumer price index or the hours he's spent traveling to Washington, D.C., or New York for business. He's served on councils, taught classes, won awards.

He laughs when asked if he minds being described as a "suit." He says he'll claim the title gladly, as long as it's also noted that he's a cowboy, in the literal sense, and equally proud of it as comfortable on a horse as in his ergonomic swivel chair. He collects cowboy hats and baseball caps, belt buckles and all things related to BYU sports or the Utah Jazz. His Mormon library is extensive. He has a large gun collection, though he has no urge to "hunt and eat." Aggressive exercise is among his daily activities, although he says he doesn't ski or golf.

His favorite place to shop is Deseret Industries, and when he's not on the lunchtime banquet circuit, Matthews would just as soon have a hot dog from the corner trolley outside his downtown office. He loves a good ice cream cone.

You can trace those interests and tastes back to his childhood in Bear Lake, Idaho, he says, where he grew up on a sheep and dairy ranch and where life was about athletics, academics and animals. He loved them all then and he loves them still. The youngest of five kids, his "idyllic" childhood included playing football and baseball. When he graduated (his high school class had 25 students), he headed off to BYU for both his bachelor's and master's degrees, with a two-year interruption to serve an LDS mission in the northern portion of Ireland.

It was mid-education, just back from the mission in 1965, that he married. He and Mary Lynn have three grown children Maria, Bradford and Teresa and 10 grandkids on whom he dotes.

His first real employment was two years as an economist for Eastman-Kodak in New York, "a great job" except he didn't want to live in New York forever and he figured if he wanted to rise through the ranks to "chief" economist somewhere, he'd need a doctorate. So they moved west again, to Boulder, Colo., for graduate work at the University of Colorado. The early '70s, he notes, were not a great time for new Ph.D.s and he got a "raft of rejection letters" before finding "the most incredible fit" in Utah, where he has remained, starting with First Security Bank and staying on when it was sold to Wells Fargo.

By the time of the sale, First Security operated in seven states and his job had long included providing detailed individual economic forecasts for each of those states, at various venues, sometimes two a day, not always in the same state. He and then-CEO Spencer Eccles might fly into Albuquerque in the early hours for an economic summit, then head to Las Cruces for another discussion of New Mexico's economy. Less than a day later, he'd be in St. George or Boise doing the same thing with the Utah or Idaho economy, then on to California or Oregon. The whirlwind trips lasted days at a stretch.

It was a point of pride that he never read his talk -- something he learned when he served that Irish mission, under Stephen R. Covey, "one of the absolutely most popular presenters in the world." Each economic talk had a question-and-answer session, so he always had to be on his toes.

For First Security, he also dealt with mergers alongside the corporate attorney. And he has handled government relations and lobbying, providing Wells Fargo's public face with local legislators and congressmen. Even as his retirement party looms, he's doing three or four speeches a week.

What comes next is hard to predict, he says with a smile. Time with the family. Probably an Alaska cruise. Whatever he's doing, he says he won't turn off the TV set that's always tuned to a CNBC or Fox finance program or stop reading multiple newspapers each day. And you can bet that the stock market ticker will creep across the bottom of a screen somewhere within his view.

"It's not just a job," but a real interest, he says. "No one may care, but I'll know what's going on in the market every day."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics



Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the KSL.com Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast