Sloan on tech: Customer’s voice leads us into the future
From voice recognition to artificial intelligence, a handful of new technologies will shape the future of banking, but the ultimate focus must be on what the customers really need, not just producing the 'coolest' technology, said CEO Tim Sloan.
With an eye on what is already here and what is yet to come, Tim Sloan’s vision for the future of financial services runs the high-tech gamut — from the smartphone to the cloud; social media to multimedia; biometrics to artificial intelligence.
Amid the fast-growing advances of the digital era, however, Wells Fargo’s CEO said he never loses sight of the fact that it is the voice of the customer driving the future of innovation for financial institutions.
“Financial services innovation is not just about delivering the coolest new technology to our customers,” Sloan said Jan. 9 in San Francisco at the FinTech Ideas Festival, which was sponsored by the Financial Services Roundtable. “It’s about providing customers with better information ‘in the moment’ to help them make better informed financial decisions.”
Sloan spoke at the inaugural gathering of some of the top U.S. leaders in financial services and technology. It focused on the future applications of automation, the internet of things, big data, financial inclusion, cybersecurity, and other emerging technologies that the roundtable said “will impact the way consumers interact with their finances.”
“The financial and technology industries are innovating and converging to offer more security and accessibility for consumers,” said roundtable CEO Tim Pawlenty. “The FinTech Ideas Festival will help jumpstart further industry collaboration and guide the evolution of the biggest ideas that will revolutionize the future.”
Among major financial institutions, Wells Fargo has been at the forefront of financial technology, Sloan said, as its customers have come to expect the convenience and accessibility of mobile and online technology. The company launched mobile banking, for example, even before the iPhone was introduced in 2007, he said.
Wells Fargo has stepped up to meet the rising demand, introducing new digital features such as real-time, person-to-person mobile payments; mobile wallet; voice and fingerprint ID verification; and card-free ATMs that customers can use with a one-time mobile banking code, Sloan said.
“Unfortunately, banks are not generally portrayed or viewed as being the type of companies where cool technology occurs,” he said. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth. When we look at our business today, there is so much innovation going on. And in the last 20 years, we’ve led the way in terms of designing and delivering digital financial services to our customers.”
Sloan said innovation also plays a key role in Wells Fargo’s efforts to rebuild trust in the company after some of the challenges it has faced in recent months. He said the company is committed in the short-term and long-term to bring the best, safest, and most secure technology to its customers.
“We have a number of actions under way at Wells Fargo today that are very important in making things right with our customers,” Sloan said. “So it is critical that we provide information and innovation so our customers feel comfortable doing business with us where, when, and however they want to do business with us, whether at one of our branches, over the phone, at an ATM, or via mobile.”
Ahead, Sloan said he anticipates a handful of emerging technologies that will figure prominently in banking’s future:
- Application Programming Interface technology — a new type of secure, online pipeline where financial services can be embedded directly into other digital experiences outside of platforms managed by Wells Fargo, and into the moments when its solutions are most immediately relevant to customers.
- Biometrics — accessing account data and other services through secure voice, face, eye, and fingerprint identification.
- Advanced mobile payment technology, which provides customers with secure, convenient, and easy ways to make payments from a mobile phone.
- Artificial intelligence — automation that anticipates customer financial needs and provides guidance to them.
- Cloud computing, which can simplify the development of new technology, reduce risk, and speed the rollout of new services.
Wells Fargo has pilots or limited introductions underway involving all the emerging technologies, Sloan said. Despite their great potential, however, the company’s approach to introducing new technologies is measured and targeted, he said.
“It is important never to forget there’s a customer at the end of every technology we deliver,” Sloan said. “It is critical that we are listening to our customers — piloting, testing, asking them what they are interested in — not telling them what we’re going to provide them. That way we can be responsive to their needs. It’s not about disruption. It is about delivering products that customers really want.”
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