Wells Fargo, along with a few competitors such as Citigroup, is exploring largely unchartered territory for mobile banking — international corporate trade. The bank hopes to sell companies on the use of mobile applications for imports, exports and other business-to-business transactions. This would allow Wells Fargo to broaden relationships with these firms and increase fee income by acting as a coordinator of transactions between and among corporates.
"International trade is driven is driven by documents, which haven't turned the corner in becoming all electronic yet," says John McFadden, manager of the Wells Fargo (WFC) team that manages the bank's trade services products.
Wells Fargo has made its TradeXchange product part of its CEO Mobile app, available on iPhone, Android, Blackberry and via web browser. The bank has also created a shipment portal module within the TradeXchange service that aggregates a series of shipping transactions. TradeXchange mobile is available to any corporate customer that's also enrolled in the CEO Mobile app.
Most initial forays into corporate mobile banking have been of the "remote approval" variety: these apps let executives view and approve payments, payroll, corporate travel and entertainment expense and other transactions while out of the office. There's a transaction approval function in the mobile version of TradeXchange.
But TradeXchange goes beyond such functions. It provides a broader set of tools that allow corporate executives and other staff to view the current and scheduled flow of money in and out of their organizations. That gives the executives the ability while traveling to check the status of pending bills or payments, funding requirements and whether a transaction has actually been executed.
"There are some automation capabilities that allow keystrokes to be eliminated because the documents are digital, along with purchase order management capabilities," says McFadden.
On the PO management side, the mobile version of TradeXchange lets companies access recent vendor payments under letter of credit terms, and view letter of credit advising information from trading partners. Users can also view outstanding letters of credit balances and payment history and letter of credit funding requirements on payments coming due, and receive email alerts regarding transaction activity. Wells is positioning itself through TradeXchange as an enabler of smooth transactions for corporate clients, giving the bank a jumping off point to sell other financial products.
"The bank plays a coordinating role among the trading partners through TradeXchange," says McFadden. This includes capturing and digitizing document images and delivering the images to all parties in a transaction — buyer, seller, and customer or broker.
The shipment portal within TradeXchange includes an aggregation engine that helps firms engage with trading partners on the financing of shipments-documentation, scheduling and payments. "Buyers and sellers can communicate and cooperate…whether it's creating the invoice, packing information, information about how the shipment is being put together and at the end of the process, the shipment portal will create a document that the buyer can use to evaluate whether the purchase order was fulfilled or not," McFadden says.
Citigroup (C) recently rolled out a similar set of features. It extended its Trade Advisor product — which includes updates on letters of credit, trade finance loans and documentary collection — to its Citi BE mobile banking service.