March 18, 2015

Putting innovation to the test

One day you may be able to bank using a smart watch or connected car. At its Digital Innovation Lab, Wells Fargo is testing these ideas and more.

Mobile banking. Real-time account alerts. Person-to-person payments. Making an appointment online with a banker. Wells Fargo advanced all of these digital solutions by emphasizing a test-and-learn approach to innovation.

“We’re developing digital solutions to simplify customers’ financial lives and help them succeed financially,” says Miranda Hill, a manager for the Wells Fargo Digital Innovation Lab. “Technology should enable and enhance the relationships we’re building with customers. It’s not about technology taking over.”

One manifestation of that approach is the Digital Innovation Lab, where Wells Fargo tests new technologies to understand how they can improve customers’ financial lives — before introducing these concepts to customers.

“It is a test-and-learn center to evaluate technologies aimed at offering our customers the right tools for financial success,” says Jim Smith, head of the Virtual Channels Group.

Wells Fargo launched an online lab about eight years ago, and then followed that with a physical lab three years ago. Last year, the lab moved into a new physical space in San Francisco that is “modern and inspires creativity,” Jim says.

Miranda says the goal of the test-and-learn approach is threefold: sparking new ideas, testing new capabilities, and reimagining experiences for customers. Building demos, launching team member and customer pilots, and gathering feedback are key components of this approach.

Some of the ideas being tested include banking with a smart TV or in a connected home. Video banking is another technology being tested. “Video banking capabilities create face-to-face connections between bankers and our customers anytime, anywhere,” says Miranda.

She adds that Wells Fargo team members are an important component of this work, as they participate in pilot groups, attend demos, and in general are a part of the innovation culture.

Not all of the concepts are adopted, but Miranda said this strategy ensures that when a product or technology does roll into production, “We do so in an informed way.”

Participate in innovation

A version of this story also appeared in the 2014 Wells Fargo Annual Report (PDF).