One step from an accident leads to a Wells Fargo hit: Mobile banking
One step from an accident leads to a Wells Fargo hit: Mobile banking
August 14, 2015

One step from an accident leads to a Wells Fargo hit: Mobile banking

Steve Ellis, head of Innovation at Wells Fargo, remembers when he realized mobile banking would take off, and talks about the importance of innovation in banking.

I still vividly remember when the idea that everyone was going to bank on mobile struck me. It was 2006, and I was leaving the office in San Francisco’s busy financial district, looking down at my BlackBerry. I crossed the street right in front of a moving bus. Luckily for me, the bus driver was nice enough to stop. The first thing I noticed, once I caught my breath, was that everyone was on their BlackBerrys, which are like computers in your hand. And people bank on their computers.

My next thought was, “They are going to bank on mobile.” I called my boss and explained. He gave me $5 million to figure it out, and nine months later, the first corporate mobile banking service, CEO Mobile®, was born at Wells Fargo.

I’ve been part of Wells Fargo for 28 years, and innovation has always been important. We have a history of using the most up-to-date technology to help customers succeed financially — first the stagecoach, and then the telegraph. Fast-forward to Wells Fargo being the first in the U.S. to offer internet banking. Now, we have a new Innovation Group that will speed up the process of change at Wells Fargo even more and deliver customer-inspired products and services.

A lot of new things are getting done inside our company — from products and services to business models and processes. Really good ideas are coming out of the bank’s businesses. Our Innovation Group will open the eyes of everyone around Wells Fargo to what’s going on.

This is valuable because we need more people inside Wells Fargo knowing what’s moving forward and thinking differently about their business than they did in the past two decades. We need a place where innovative ideas all across the company have a voice.

The team members in the Innovation Group are dedicated to communicating and partnering with business lines to bring more value to customers, team members, and shareholders. This team will be the catalyst to make change happen faster and will work in partnership with Wells Fargo businesses in five areas: research and development, innovation strategies, payment strategies, analytics, and design and delivery.

What’s next?

The “old” way of doing things involved our customers pulling services from Wells Fargo via their computers and cell phones. Today, we’re delivering things like video and location-based services in a new way to our customers — pushing services to them conveniently inside other mobile apps, known as APIs. It’s “banking as a service.” We’re pushing our services to customers where they want them.

Biometrics, which uses unique human characteristics such as fingerprints and retina scans, is a relevant example of work we’ve already done this way. We’ve been looking at proof of concepts for years. Then prototyping. And now, taking it mainstream.

Silicon Valley is in close proximity to our headquarters in San Francisco, and many startups are eager to pitch their ideas to Wells Fargo. We are looking at things coming out in the real world that will provide more value to customers.

I would love for our customers to talk about the things they would like to see in the future. Leave a comment below and let me know: What would you like us to pursue?

Want to know more?

Read more in an interview Ellis conducted with the Charlotte Business Journal.