Wells Fargo's Jim Smith Sets Up a Big Data Lab

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Jim Smith, executive vice president and head of the digital channels group at Wells Fargo, joined the bank 20 years ago with the group that created Internet banking.

"The technology and pace of change has increased in those 20 years, yet there's so much more that can be done with mobile and all the information we have available to us now. I feel like we're just at the start of this journey of transforming how people manage their finances," Smith says.

Among the bank's digital accomplishments in 2013, Wells Fargo extensively redesigned its website; launched a service, now with 1.5 million users, that allows check deposits to be made through smart phones; and added the SurePay service, which allows person-to-person payments nationwide through mobile devices using an email address or mobile phone number.

Smith's team also set up a Big Data Lab to pioneer the use of emerging technology and data science to drive customer experience, prevent fraud and develop customer insights. They launched a Wells Fargo app for use on iPad and Android tablets, providing access to Wells Fargo accounts, transfers, payments, mobile deposit, and brokerage access and trading. Two weeks after the launch, nearly 200,000 customers downloaded the iPad app, and more than one million downloads have been incurred since. Access to Wells Fargo Advisors accounts has been added, as has the ability to trade via mobile device.

On the ATM front, two years after the bank introduced an e-receipt option at its ATMs, customers have used the service more than 100 million times. In 2013, Wells Fargo surpassed one billion electronic statements and receipts.- Mobile banking is used by almost half of Wells Fargo's more than 23 million active online banking customers.

In the early 1990s, it was easy to innovate because customers were excited with anything the bank was rolling out for them, he says. But in today's environment, with 24 million customers using the Wells Fargo website and more than 12 million mobile customers, anything that is deployed has to be rock solid.

Through its innovation practice, Wells Fargo looks five years or more into the future at what might be possible, trying to understand how technologies are changing even outside of financial services and outside of the U.S., as well as how demographics are changing. The bank then identifies themes, and moves some of the ideas into its incubator environment to test technologies and build prototypes. The usability of promising technologies can then be tested with the bank's 270,000 employees before testing with bank customers.

"The areas we think are really interesting in the next five years relate to mobile," Smith said. "So far, most companies have just taken capabilities they had in online banking and other channels and rebuilt them into mobile."

In the next several years, the unique capabilities of mobile devices could be used to transform experiences in other channels — maybe rebuilding entire loan application processes or account openings around mobile capabilities, Smith says. And other Internet-connected devices, such Google Glass, smart watches, or cars could be integrated into banking experiences.

Originally published by Bank Technology News

This article originally appeared in American Banker.
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