Wells Fargo recently closed in on its 10 millionth mobile banking customer and is gaining traction with its new iPad app. We caught up Thursday with Armin Ajami, vice president and senior product manager with Wells Fargo's Digital Channels Group about the iPad app the bank launched in mid-December and a few mobile banking plans on the bank's drawing board.
In the two months since its launch, the iPad app has been downloaded by a half million Wells Fargo customers, who have rated it just under four stars. What's unique about the app is that it lets customers manage consumer, small business and Wells Fargo Advisors brokerage accounts in one place. Its basic banking features include balance checks, transaction history, mobile check deposit, bill payment, and person to person payments (through bank-owned payment venture clearXchange). Brokerage tasks that can be handled in the app include trading, viewing market conditions, and a stock watchlist.
"We often talk about having a 'one Wells Fargo approach' to banking," Ajami says. "We're a large operation with many business units, but from a customer standpoint we want to be one unit. Part of that is having a single-sign-on experience for different account types. When you log in you should see a comprehensive view of the accounts you have with Wells Fargo and be able to interact with them. That we think is a really rich experience, integrating your financial life."
App Store reviews and customer survey results have been largely positive, Ajami reports; more detailed customer surveys are planned this year.
One iPad app user complained that the bank's mobile check deposit limit is too low to be practical for a small business. Ajami responds that the bank's limits are in line with competitors, and that they will be reviewed continuously over time. Wells Fargo, like other banks, keeps a wary eye on the rate of check fraud that occurs through the mobile channel.
"That's why everyone has limits," Ajami says. The bank uses advanced encryption and security software on its mobile devices. "Security is a top priority of every project. Wwe have detailed security reviews. We make sure we're not leaving sensitive information on devices. That's definitely a big no-no. We don't store check images on the device itself, we don't store nicknames or account numbers."
Future features of the iPad app will take better advantage of capabilities built into the hardware, such as the touch screen, although Ajami would not get specific. "We don't want to innovate for innovation's sake," he says. "We want to focus on customers and help them manage their finances; we want to come up with customer interaction that facilitates that."
Voice activation will gain traction among mobile apps in general in 2013 and 2014, he predicts. But the use of voice recognition to securely identify customers will come much later, he says.
Merchant-funded and geolocation based rewards are on Wells Fargo's radar, but the bank is proceeding cautiously.
"It's all about being contextually aware of the location and being able to offer something to customer that's valuable," Ajami says. "You've got to have the right opt-in and privacy measures in place. If you're bombarding folks with offers that aren't very compelling or not targeted offers, you're going to turn a lot of people off. That's where a lot of time and investment is, making sure you're doing it in a smart way and have good offers and compelling offers. That's not always easy."