Wells Fargo’s chief marketer talks navigating a crisis

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NEW ORLEANS — “Feedback is a gift,” Jamie Moldafsky says.

If that’s the case, every day on Facebook must be like Christmas morning for the chief marketing officer of Wells Fargo.

Moldafsky was in New Orleans this week to discuss the future of money and the evolving job of CMOs at the Collision conference. She took some time to meet with American Banker before her first talk.

The conversation ranged from the role that marketing plays in unifying the multiple channels of the bank to how the bank is using data to determine customers’ needs rather than merely to push products. Yet much of it was spent discussing the marketing efforts Wells is undertaking to rebuild trust with customers.

There are two tracks, Moldafsky says. The first one — essentially the bank’s public mea culpa — was detailing its immediate efforts to fix the operational problems that led to the phony-accounts debacle.

The second one, which the bank is calling Building Better Every Day, launched last month and is intended to underscore the things the bank is doing to simplify the lives of its customers. For instance, one of the ads shows people actively searching for their wallets and touts the bank’s new mobile-enabled cardless ATM access.

Much of those campaigns are being carried out via social media — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and the like. The beauty of such platforms is the visceral reactions from customers.

The real-time feedback is akin to “holding up a mirror to ourselves,” Moldafsky said.

“For our company right now, it is critical. We want to know what is concerning our customers. We read the comments voraciously,” she said. “And there is a full range of responses from our customers and all of them are important.”

The social media comments are the qualitative part of how the company is measuring its progress, but it is also relying on nightly polling to quantify the progress. There are signs that the new campaign is helping, Moldafsky said.

“We saw a huge positive swing with the cardless ATMs because people see that as us making their lives easier,” she said, while acknowledging there is still a lot of “noise in the day-to-day” results.

Moldafsky added that the polling helped Wells executives judge when it was best to roll out the second leg of the rebuilding trust effort.

“Some people asked, ‘Why not sooner?’ “ Moldafsky said. “People were waiting to hear from us, but we were waiting for sentiment to be strong enough. … People wanted to know what else we are doing.”

During her session on the future of money, Moldafsky was paired with Peter Smith, CEO of the digital-asset firm Blockchain. The two discussed their opinions on the future of banking. Smith predicted that banks would need to reinvent themselves as tech companies to survive.

Unsurprisingly, Moldafsky referenced how Wells Fargo has managed to evolve from a stagecoach company to a bank over the last 165 years as proof of its ability to adapt.

Still, much of the conversation centered on the idea of trust in financial services. Moldafsky said that as people’s financial lives mature, they want the security and inherent trust provided by the traditional banking sector.

Smith questioned the value of that trust given the “horrific” net promoter scores banks have compared with other industries as well as banking's notable problems, not just the scandal at Wells.

“The missteps make people question, ‘How is my money being managed?’ " Smith said. “That is a great opportunity, because anytime people question what they have today, it creates an opening to capitalize on.”

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