Steve Ellis, Wells Fargo reveals how innovation can take banking to the next level

Vaishnavi J Desai November 4, 2015
Steve Ellis, Wells Fargo reveals how innovation can take banking to the next level

Steve Ellis, EVP, Head of Innovation, Wells Fargo, speaks about innovation as a catalyst of change and the next big things in the banking sector.

What happens when the world’s dominant financial services company decides to transform itself to keep up with the rapid technological evolution? They go for the obvious but not so widely executed choice: Innovation. As the banking industry adapts itself to newer technological advances, Wells Fargo has gone a step ahead and formed an innovation group that will ease the shift to digital ecosystem. Steve Ellis, EVP, head of Innovation, Wells Fargo speaks about how the recently formed innovation group improves customer experience and the latest trends in the banking industry. 

What strategies and products will the innovation group provide to improve customer satisfaction?

The innovation group at Wells Fargo leverages emerging technologies to make a positive impact on the customers. Currently, we’re focused on using biometrics, i.e., using someone’s voice to authenticate their identity. We’ve also used a combination of voice and facial recognition and the pilot project is using the veins of the eyeball and confirm your identity. We’re putting a platform in place to be used across the bank and focus on fingerprint, eyeballs and variety of other biometrics.

Another big idea is speech recognition and voice assistant to improve a customer’s banking experience. For instance, I have to send money to my son. I just have to speak in my phone and through speech recognition software the phone knows to send the money to the younger of my two sons, look at the previous transactions made and determine the usual amount too.

How will the innovation group help you stay ahead of competition?

The early structure planned is that the group will be small and surround around payment strategies.  The advantage of a smaller group is that it connects well across a huge company like ours and brings out newer ideas. Therefore, few small teams will work on the concept of providing Banking-as-a-Service. The R&D group will look into newer technologies. The aim of the R&D group is also to bridge the gap between business and technology.

The design and delivery team will try and get the projects done within three to six months. We’re in an industry that is changing so fast, that it is important to move faster. Non-traditional competitors are doing things in months, therefore we need to do it faster.  Another important area is analytics. The chief data officer with the R&D group will help leverage data to build new services.

What according to you is the next big area of innovation? How do you suggest one prepares for it?

Providing location-based services in banking is going to be big and we need to create a more integrated experience with it. The innovation group was created with the idea to transform banking experience for customers and reshape internally as well. Therefore, as lot of solutions come into picture we need a framework to connect things together and not need things individually.

We’ve plenty of ideas in the world outside. Therefore, it is necessary to work with startups, bring those ideas and see to it that they fit inside Wells Fargo and create a better customer experience.

What three innovative things according to you will become the new normal in the banking sector?

First, there will be a lot less physical caches to do carry out transactions. The idea of more mobile payments or wallets will happen. Second, biometrics like veins in the eyeballs, fingerprints, etc., in authentication, speech recognition and voice assistant for secure banking experience will be used a lot.  Finally, leveraging data and using analytics in a way to better and simplify customer experience will be predominant.

 

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