May 4, 2023

How Wells Fargo is becoming quantum-ready

Wells Fargo researchers are preparing today for tomorrow’s quantum computers through strategic partnerships and industry-leading technology.

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a Wells Fargo Stories series focused on quantum computing. Read the first part, "5 Big Questions on Quantum Computing Answered,” here.

“Wells Fargo is an amazing industry partner in the IBM Quantum Network. Their quantum researchers collaborate with us to be able to explore use cases and applications like sampling and optimization and machine learning using quantum. It’s a wonderful collaboration that we get to do.” — Dario Gil, IBM SVP and Director of Research

You may be surprised to learn where the ideas for practical applications that tap into breakthrough quantum computing technology are being explored. This work is happening at a bank.

Developers at Wells Fargo have published 10 research papers — and counting — outlining algorithms and other software solutions to be used on quantum computers in the future. But these aren’t just ideas. They’re viable applications tested on real quantum computers, and it’s how Wells Fargo is preparing for when quantum technology advances far enough that it begins revolutionizing industry after industry, banking included.

“These papers reflect theoretical solutions, but we have implementation plans, too,” said Constantin Gonciulea, a technology fellow at Wells Fargo working on emerging technologies like quantum computing and blockchain. “When we release a paper, it’s implemented. It’s a solution that works at the small scale.”

A team of technology experts at Wells Fargo have been getting ready for quantum computing’s impact on the future of financial services for years. That has meant finding research and development partners, such as:

  • The IBM Quantum Network, a collaboration that allows Wells Fargo developers to access IBM’s fleet of quantum computers via the cloud
  • MIT, Stanford University, and small universities that partner with Wells Fargo advanced technology researchers
  • Quantum-focused companies like QCWare, which offers quantum coding tools, and Oxford Quantum Circuits, which has a small-scale quantum computer for testing

“Wells Fargo is an amazing industry partner in the IBM Quantum Network,” said Dario Gil, IBM’s senior vice president and director of Research. “Their quantum researchers collaborate with us to be able to explore use cases and applications like sampling and optimization and machine learning using quantum — all in an effort to start seeing valuable results from quantum computing. It’s a wonderful collaboration that we get to do.”

What could quantum computing do for banking?

Think of quantum computing as specialized high-performance computing, Gonciulea said. While not every problem requires the super-fast speeds and pattern recognition that come with quantum computing, it may soon revolutionize the right task with a fraction of the time and hardware compared with regular “classical” computers.

“Quantum computing is like a helicopter. Classical computing is like a car. A helicopter can do a lot of things a car can’t do, but if you want to go get groceries, you’re not going to use a helicopter,” Gonciulea said. “They complement each other.”

Being quantum-ready may mean that Wells Fargo will have the right technology when the next scam comes so it’s detected and thwarted much more quickly, protecting your money. Or it could mean higher-earning investment portfolios due to faster machine learning models.

Researchers are finding the problems that quantum could solve. For example, Vanio Markov, a distinguished engineer at Wells Fargo, has worked with IBM Research to test and implement new machine learning generative models, using quantum to potentially improve our artificial intelligence technology.

“There is a lot of hype around quantum computing. Our job is to monitor what is going on — is it hype? What is it promising? What can it solve? It would be a mistake not to be involved at all,” Gonciulea said. “We want to be quantum-ready.”

Innovation from the inside out

Many quantum breakthroughs will happen behind the scenes for customers.

For example, in March, Gonciulea and two engineers on his team — Saveliy Yusufov and Charlee Stefanski — published a paper on Spinoza, a new quantum simulator they developed at Wells Fargo. They named it after 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza who theorized that each interaction changes a person, which is similar to what happens inside a quantum computer.

Spinoza is one of the fastest quantum simulator of its kind in the industry. Simulators like Spinoza, which uses classical computing to simulate a quantum computer’s processing power and scale, are extremely in-demand because they allow researchers to test tomorrow’s quantum software on today’s computers. While it won’t revolutionize the banking experience right now, innovations like Spinoza bring a quantum future into clearer focus.

“Having one of the fastest simulators is also a badge of honor,” Gonciulea said. “It shows we are an industry leader.”

Gonciulea is careful to avoid the considerable hype and headlines around quantum computing. Wells Fargo’s considered investments into this novel technology are meant to find and solve real problems for customers.

“This isn’t some shiny thing,” he said. “We are expanding our horizon.”