With a $2 billion budget at a huge institution in the technological heartland of America, one might think innovation comes easy to Avid Modjtabai: with those resources, it's there for taking. But merely throwing money at issues isn't enough.

In her tenure as CIO at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest bank in the country, Modjtabai's main motivation is acting on, understanding and shaping the customer and worker experience. That is the main driver for a technology vision, rather than wanting technology to drive a vision of the customer experience.

This has resulted in things like the new Team Member Innovation Stock Exchange, a forum that aims to harness Wells' internal talent. Technologists across her group can submit their best creative, actionable technology ideas and help develop them. "In a very large organization and at a company like Wells Fargo, it is impossible to do anything without a team. It is impossible to 'dictate' changes," Modjtabai says.

She points to a project to reduce product time-to-market. "I have my opinions about how exactly it should work," she says. "But I think that it is important to let the team devise ideas. It is my job to guide them, influence them, and foster an environment in which they can develop the best possible solution - without 'telling' them exactly what to do."

The way Modjtabai sees it, virtually all financial industry product and channel innovations have, at their core, a basis in technology. Thus it's critical she ensures her 7,000-person organization floats in a culture of trust, openness and transparency. Results this year include new ATMs which recall customer preferences and provide one-button-access, as well as the launch of an innovation lab to test new technology.

When it comes down to brass tacks, Modjtabai also never loses sight of the basic technology role in logistics and operations. When core systems clog up, ATMs go down; such defects result in off-putting letters; the customer experience is damaged.

This year Modjtabai has ensured upgrades to mainframe infrastructure that should cut down on the small number of outages that hit the firm's eight billion annual customer interactions online, at the ATM or in stores. She's been put in charge of an efficiency project to reduce mistakes in fund availability, checking fulfillment and claims. So far, that has involved simplifying checking products, consolidating fees, increasing first-contact resolutions in the call center, and re-writing outgoing letters to customers to make them simpler and more respectful. Meanwhile, the number of paper statements has been cut by 60 million. Even with bulk-rate postage, that's saving money.

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