One day before her birthday last year, Revelda Law-Settles was checking her account balance through her mobile banking app when she noticed a new icon in the lower left corner of her screen. Curious, she tapped the small light bulb to find out what it was. Moments later, she was peering into her financial future.
By clicking that new icon, Law-Settles had launched a digital analysis of her spending patterns, including how much she had spent in the past six months eating out, going to the movies, paying bills, and more. There was also a projection of how much she could save for future needs, like insurance or utility bills. The program, she learned, was an artificial intelligence-based predictive banking tool.
“It was a revelation,” said the retired licensed practical nurse and Wells Fargo customer, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. “It was like the conscience of your financial life, showing you how often you were eating out and spending money unnecessarily in other ways. I’d have to say that has made me be more responsible ever since.”
As part of a pilot, Law-Settles became one of the early users of Wells Fargo’s predictive banking feature, which the company introduced on Feb. 13 to all of its 17 million mobile banking consumer deposit customers in the U.S. If early reviews are any indication, the feature could quickly gain popularity with the entire customer base, company officials said.
“Customers during the pilot have provided extremely positive feedback, which is encouraging,” said Patrick Schwaner, predictive banking product manager for Wells Fargo Virtual Channels. “They are experiencing a tremendous increase in spending awareness. We’ve often heard customers say, ‘I had no idea I was spending that much.’ It has given them a real aha moment.”
The predictive banking feature, which will expand to small business and credit card customers later this year, is a powerful technology that simplifies the data from a customer’s account activity into easy-to-understand, tailored insights, said Jim Smith, head of Wells Fargo Virtual Channels. By instantly calculating and recalling a customer’s past and present transactions, the feature anticipates expenses and deposits, flags potential shortages or fees, and suggests potential savings, he said.
“As with any technology, the bottom line is how much value added it brings to the customer,” Smith said. “With this feature, we are using artificial intelligence to take customer service to the next level by helping people better manage their financial lives, recognize their present and future needs, and take action to meet those needs.”
The company is evaluating additional opportunities to build AI into a wide variety of new and existing products and services for customers and team members. Predictive banking is one of many artificial intelligence-driven initiatives.
Simplicity and customer appeal
As one of Wells Fargo’s latest uses of artificial intelligence, predictive banking has already drawn media attention for being on the cutting edge of financial services technology. Forbes mentioned the feature in a December 2017 article alongside fitness apps, preventive medicine, chatbots, and other emerging smart apps that are gaining in popularity. American Banker reported on it last year, noting its potential to deliver better “number crunching” services than other technologies in the market.
One of the biggest appeals of predictive banking is its simplicity for customers, said Steve Ellis, head of Wells Fargo’s Innovation Group, which focuses on developing next-generation technologies, products, and services for customers.
“We must have the mindset that it’s not just about cool technology — it’s about what’s best for our customers,” he said. “When you can make it easy for the customer, that’s when technology can become really useful and fulfill our vision.”
Revelda Law-Settles said ease-of-use is what sold her immediately on predictive banking.
“There was a time I was not computer savvy at all,” she said. “But my children were eventually instrumental in making me more comfortable with the computer world. So I’m willing to try new technology, and when it works like predictive banking does, that makes all the difference.”