Invest in ‘Everything’ to Stand Out, Wells COO Says

canstockphoto10836129In a sluggish, low-rate economic environment, banks find it increasingly harder to differentiate from the competition.

For Wells Fargo, addressing that challenge involves continuous investments, as much in mobile as in bank branches, according to COO Timothy Sloan. “To be able to differentiate yourself, we have to be able to provide our products and services on the retail side to our customers, the way that they want to interact with us,” he said at the Bernstein 32nd Annual Strategic Decisions Conference last week. “We can’t tell them to go here or go there.”

To do that, Sloan said, the bank will continue to invest in its stores and ATMs, which are upgraded every five to seven years. When investing in a branch, it’s not only about the size and location, he said, but more about the density of stores and individual needs of customers in different locations. “In Texas our customers want to be able to drive up in their cars and do banking in what we call motor banks. You don’t do that in New York or in Washington.”

Meanwhile, the digital side of the bank keeps busy, too:

We’ve just rolled out our new mobile application. We’ve taken that mobile experience and now we’re rolling that out online so it looks very seamless. We’ve invested and now rolled out our own Wells Fargo wallet. So it’s things like that that where you have to invest in everything to be able to be differentiated.

In planning ahead, the bank builds its investment strategy “as if you’re going to have to invest not only what you’re investing today, but may be even slightly more to stay relevant to your customers, because again they get to decide how they want to use you,” Sloan added.

Wells announced it will integrate Wells Fargo Pay into its existing app by mid-summer for Android users. Wells bets that its massive mobile banking userbase will drive wide wallet adoption. Last month, the bank surpassed 17 million active mobile customers, a spokeswoman told Bank Innovation. 

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