‘Am I about to overdraft?’ Wells app predicts consumer behavior

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Add Wells Fargo to the list of companies giving customers a glimpse of what may soon happen to their bank account via a mobile app.

The bank’s new feature, which mines account information, will let mobile bank deposit customers take action with their accounts, such as transfer money from savings to checking if an overdraft fee seems likely. The bank said there are 50 different messages a customer can receive.

While still rare in a bank app, short-term financial forecasts have been part of a handful of fintech apps’ offerings for years. The big idea is to help customers lead healthier financial lives by providing information before it’s too late to prevent a bad outcome.

The forecasts are also meant to be relevant and convenient. In the past, personal financial management services never caught on, often because they were packaged in budgeting features hidden away in a tab on a bank website and difficult to use. But as some technologists see it, this time is different. If someone wants to know where he’s standing before a negative outcome happens, the mobile app seems to be the best bet for easy access to the information.

Certainly that’s what Wells Fargo is betting on. For the new feature, customers access the predictive messages by tapping a blue lightbulb icon found inside the account information screen of the mobile app.

“Having information in the palm of their hands can help lead customers to take action and make more informed financial choices,” Steve Ellis, who heads the bank’s innovation group, said in a press release.

Wells Fargo has been testing the predictive feature since May 2017, and the San Francisco bank has been experimenting with the concept for even longer. In 2013, Wells Fargo was testing an account balance tool for interested online banking customers.

While Wells Fargo is still facing serious consequences from its phony-accounts scandal, it continues to make a splash in tech news. It has been leading the charge in making data-sharing deals with fintech providers, and it has been testing a concept that would let customers control the data they share with third-party services, like subscription providers, through the bank app.

This latest announcement comes as more banks continue to revamp their bank apps with mobile money management features. In the press release, Wells Fargo said it will expand the predictive feature to small business and credit card customers later this year.

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