Wells Fargo & Co. is bringing 7-by-24 banking - service available seven days a week, 24 hours a day - to middle-market corporate clients.
To provide around-the-clock access to these customers, the $109 billion- asset company recently expanded a call center that was serving retail and small business customers.
"Once we demonstrate that we can deal effectively over the phone with our customers, it's really the speed that they're after," said Lisa D'Amico, a Wells vice president who oversees the operation. "We're just an extension of the full-service picture that we deliver to customers."
Middle-market clients span corporate America, she said, ranging in annual sales from $5 million to $500 million. The bank has offered these customers phone banking services since the early 1990s, but only during regular business hours. The around-the-clock schedule was adopted in September, Ms. D'Amico said.
Most big banks offer some sort of telephone service to corporate clients, analysts said. But the 7-by-24 approach as well as the amount of call volume the Wells unit generates appear to make it unusual among its peers.
"You don't normally hear about these sorts of things," said Joseph K. Morford 3d, banking analyst with Alex. Brown & Sons Inc., in San Francisco. "But I'm not surprised to see Wells doing this, since they always seem to be on the leading edge of things, certainly in terms of distribution and delivery."
The unit receives "several hundred thousand calls a month," said Ms. D'Amico, a number that has risen sharply since the First Interstate Bancorp merger last year. In an interview last month, Paul M. Watson, a Wells vice chairman, said the center received 471 phone calls that day.
The company can now handle more calls in part because it has a bigger staff - now about 180 employees. About half of the staff came from First Interstate, Ms. D'Amico said. The unit's employees, called cash management specialists or officers, on average have seven to 10 years of experience, she added.
Most of the calls involve transaction processing, inquiries about account activity or history, and other information for which clients used to have to visit a branch, Ms. D'Amico said. For loan-related activity, the unit can refer the client to the bank's closest officer for a personal visit.