Editor’s note: A version of this story also appears in the 2017 Wells Fargo Annual Report.
In what will be a first for U.S. banking, Wells Fargo plans to launch a new banking experience that helps customers securely manage their digital financial connections and take charge of their financial lives from one location, CEO Tim Sloan announced at a national high-tech conference.
The new feature will give customers the ability to control their online finances via the company’s mobile banking app or online, he said. Users will be able, for example, to see virtually all the places their Wells Fargo cards and accounts are connected — from personal finance apps and websites, to digital wallets, retail merchant sites, and third parties.
“As our customers have discovered the convenience of online and mobile financial services, their digital lives have become increasingly complex,” Sloan said in an interview prior to his July 19 appearance at Fortune’s Brainstorm TECH conference in Aspen, Colorado. “This new digital experience puts the customer in control and simplifies their often fragmented digital lives.”
He said the experience — tentatively known as “Control Tower” — will allow Wells Fargo customers to view, organize, and manage mobile wallets, recurring payments, devices, and other third party services that are electronically connected to their Wells Fargo cards and accounts.
“This will be the first digital experience of its kind for the financial services industry,” Sloan said. “Currently, there isn’t a central location within a mobile banking app that allows customers to control their cards and view and manage the places where their account information is connected.”
Some of this experience is already available to customers, including the ability to digitally turn on and off a debit card, and data-sharing capabilities for Xero-linked Wells Fargo accounts. Intuit– and Finicity-linked accounts will have this capability in the future. The full experience and central hub view will be available in a pilot for Wells Fargo team members later this year, and will launch for customers in 2018.
‘Reimagining the future of personal finance’
If customers lose or misplace their debit cards, they find themselves visiting multiple websites — such as online shopping, streaming video, and personal finance sites — to update their payment method. The vision for Control Tower is to enable customers to do this all from one place. In the near term, customers will see a list of their recurring payments, similar to what they receive today via email when their card is lost, stolen, or expired. Company leaders expect customers to embrace that type of practical benefit.
“Our customers’ digital lives have become increasingly fragmented and complex, and that complexity will only continue,” said Brett Pitts, head of Digital for Wells Fargo Virtual Channels. “By integrating a comprehensive view of customers’ Wells Fargo personal finance information and access points into one experience, this new experience streamlines customers’ digital footprint and enables them to manage their personal finances with ease from one single and secure place.”
Dan Latimore, a digital banking analyst and senior vice president of Celent, a financial services technology analysis firm, said it is a positive move for Wells Fargo to be proactive in launching a technology that other large banks are studying.
“It is clearly a good idea for banks to be at the center of the customer’s digital financial life,” he said. “Banks are being very progressive when they recognize that customers today have many financial relationships. It is smarter to work within that reality than to try to turn back the tide.”
Focus group gets ‘control’
Ben Soccorsy, head of the digital payments product team for Wells Fargo Virtual Channels, saw eyes light up in the room as customers — who had gathered last year at a Wells Fargo research lab — realized what Control Tower was all about.
After seeing a few demos and prototypes, the usefulness of the technology hit home for the focus group participants: This feature would give them control over their cards and accounts in new and different ways.
For Soccorsy, whose team is developing Control Tower, seeing their response was a moment to remember.
“Once they understood what this feature is and what it could be for them, it was a real moment of excitement for all of us,” he said. “Getting that kind of validation from customers was a key part of our journey to developing this exciting customer experience, and we’re just scratching the surface of the potential of this concept.”
Sloan emphasized this priority on customer service as he talked about Wells Fargo’s vision for Control Tower and other innovations.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the financial services industry today is the use of innovation and technology to build stronger relationships with customers through our bankers and our digital capabilities,” he said. “We want to simplify the way people can connect to our services — whether at a branch, through mobile, social media, or other channels.”
To learn more, go to “Putting ‘control’ in the hands of customers.” (2 minutes)
‘Innovation is at the core of what we do’
The company is in various stages of developing, piloting, and introducing artificial intelligence, biometrics authentication, and other advanced technologies. Some of the newer innovations include:
- Zelle℠ arrives: On June 24, Wells Fargo introduced Zelle, the expanded industrywide P2P payment network that replaced Wells Fargo SurePay℠ and other similar services. Zelle allows customers to send money via desktop or mobile devices to almost anyone with a U.S. bank account, with funds typically available within minutes.
- Card-Free ATMs: Wells Fargo introduced card-free access to its 13,000 ATMs in March, making it the first large U.S. bank to offer card-free access at its entire ATM network. The system allows mobile banking customers to use a one-time ATM access code instead of an ATM or debit card. More than 1 million of the access codes have been used since its introduction.
- New look for wellsfargo.com: The redesigned homepage debuted on July 18, featuring an enhanced interface, easy navigation and access to key information, and a more personalized experience. It also features an improved Spanish-language experience.
- Updated Security Center: Wells Fargo recently launched a new Security Center, providing customers with a single location to quickly access security and authentication related features, get help to report fraud or a lost or stolen card, and learn how to protect their accounts and personal information.
- Chatbot experience: An artificial intelligence-driven chatbot pilot on Facebook Messenger.
“Innovation is at the core of what we do at Wells Fargo,” Sloan said. “As a company, we’re interested in big ideas that can make banking faster, easier, smarter, and safe — for our customers and the financial services industry.”