Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry appeared May 1 at the Milken Institute’s annual conference “Navigating a World in Transition.” He was a panelist on the topic “Big Data and Creating Customer Growth in the Age of A.I.”

Banking in the age of data and AI

Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry shares his thoughts on the emerging use of artificial intelligence and data in financial services.

May 1, 2018
John Shrewsberry

Editor’s Note: Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry appeared May 1 at the Milken Institute’s annual conference — “Navigating a World in Transition.” A panelist on the topic of “Big Data and Creating Customer Growth in the Age of A.I.,” Shrewsberry posted the following commentary on his LinkedIn site.

Banks are often thought of as behind the curve — or not thought of at all — when it comes to using artificial intelligence (AI) in innovative ways, but AI is already influencing how you bank today. As the AI boom continues, banks will have the opportunity to further revolutionize the way you manage your money.

Today, seemingly unlimited amounts of data and ever-increasing computing power give us the capability to deliver contextual, hyper-personalized experiences to each and every customer, in the moment, wherever they are.

This is probably why artificial intelligence (AI) — a term that has been around for about 60 years — has become as ubiquitous as our mobile phones. Whether it’s powering voice search engines on our phones and tablets, or helping us select movies on our video streaming services, AI has gained traction in the mainstream, and there is likely no turning back.

Rapid growth in AI is coalescing around three areas — all of which offer exciting possibilities for helping people manage their finance in ways more intuitive, customized, and real-time:

Natural Language Processing — People increasingly prefer using their voices to interact with their digital devices instead of typing on their keyboards. In this way, AI is serving as the bridge between our vocal chords and systems and technologies. In banking, voice authentication — here today in some applications — is simpler, more secure, and more seamless than pins and passwords. It can also provide people with more choice and convenience in paying bills, transferring funds, or making other transactions.

Machine Learning — Computers have a tremendous capacity to understand patterns across vast quantities of data, and AI allows systems to learn about those patterns and make predictions about the future. We rolled out an AI-based predictive banking feature within our mobile app to all consumer customers in February. It analyzes our customers’ banking activity and sends them alerts or suggestions so they can take action to realize positive outcomes, like saving more, and avoid negative outcomes, such as overdrafts. We expect to roll out this feature to small business customers later this year.

Automation — AI can learn how to gather, organize, and interpret data that appears in the same locations and formats over time, reducing the need for people to spend time on repetitive tasks. People often think of that in terms of machines replacing humans at some jobs, and that is one outcome. But it can also free up humans to add value in other ways. In our innovation labs, we’re exploring how AI can enrich live interactions with bankers. One example is using AI to help in situations when a customer passes away. Historically, a banker would need to spend a lot of time accessing dozens of documents and systems. By deploying an AI solution, our bankers can focus on the customer and their needs, while AI systems surface all the right questions to ask and content to review.

Although AI is not new, there is still a lot of work to be done to fully realize its potential. Data and analytics will soon become a key competitive advantage in financial services, so it’s critical to organize around it now.

Importantly, as we further explore the rewards AI has to offer, we must also remember that all of our efforts are for the customer. The data we use is the customer’s data, not ours. We are simply the stewards of this personal information.

As new and better intersections of data and AI capabilities come online, we will be able to transform the customer experience from start to finish — so long as we continue to organize, invest, and innovate with the customer squarely at the center.