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Innovators 2011

Smart About Smart Phones And Self-Serve

Innovator: Wells Fargo

Recent Innovations: Mobile and ATM banking

Why They Matter: Mobile banking is growing rapidly; ATMs are ubiquitous but innovation has been slow

What's Next: NFC contactless payments


Some institutions are stuck in the mindset that mobile banking is just an extension of online banking. Not so Wells Fargo, where Secil Watson, the senior vice president of customer experience, money movement and mobile banking, knows that mobile banking is more than a small screen version of online banking, it's a discrete channel and needs to be treated as such. "Our design approach is to mobilize and optimize, but not to minimize," Watson says. For instance, a new GPS feature allows a mobile user to find the nearest ATM, a feature a PC-bound user wouldn't need.

The bank has a triple-play mobile strategy: applications, browser and text. Even as mobile bank technology has advanced over the past year, Wells has found older mobile offerings are still effective in driving major adoption. Applications are all the rage, she says, but text actually drove significant mobile adoption in 2010 after the bank decided to offer text-based banking to all bank customers; previously only online customers had the option. The extension of mobile banking to non web banking customers has become a substantial component of Wells Fargo's attempts to separate the two channels.

"We realized that certain customer segments-such as gardeners, nurses and teachers-often didn't have convenient, private access to a PC and they wanted the convenience of mobile banking. ...If customers don't have a smart phone and data plan, text is good for them." This offering has helped drive mobile banking at Wells Fargo to 5.5 million active users, compared to 19 million online users.

Besides the text-based banking initiative, Watson says the bank rolled out applications for all the major mobile operating systems in 2010-Android, Palm and Blackberry-to complement its existing iPhone application. The bank also offers rapid transaction alerts-set by the consumer-to notify if a transaction is more than a certain amount, or occurs outside the U.S., or was processed with a "card not present." And more innovation is on tap. The bank just rolled out an employee-pilot program for NFC-contactless payments.

"That pilot really shows they understand what matters for the future," says Aite senior analyst David Albertazzi. "And it's great that it's a bank leading the charge."


ATM Innovations

Jonathan Velline, executive vice president and head of Wells Fargo ATM banking and store strategy, quips that if mobile innovation moved at the same speed as ATM innovation, everyone would still be speaking into brick-sized cell phones. But Velline is doing his part to update the ATM at a faster pace, particularly when it comes to taking paper out of the equation. "In the last 12 months, we've had several small innovations that add up to a different experience at the Wells Fargo ATM," he says.

Among the advances, he says, are ATM e-receipts, a feature that allows a customer to choose to receive an electronic receipt instead of a physical receipt; ATMs that can accept deposits of checks and cash at the same time in a single slot; and a cash tracker feature, which allows a customer to see ATM transaction history and set monthly withdrawal targets.

The bank has also added a donation feature that can be tailored to local charities or national campaigns. For instance, earlier this year Wells Fargo customers raised $1.6 million in a week for Japanese Tsunami victims.