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Wells Fargo has over a million iPad app customers for online banking

by David Needle

November 13 2013

"Moving money isn't hard, the mobile piece ties it all together," says Wells Fargo VP Steve Ellis. (Photo: Jeffrey Holmes)
"Moving money isn't hard, the mobile piece ties it all together," says Wells Fargo VP Steve Ellis. (Photo: Jeffrey Holmes)

Mobile banking has grown in popularity, but most consumers still find reasons to visit a branch bank regularly. Now tablets are changing how banks service their customers and the need to visit those branches. 

NEW YORK - In a keynote address kicking off the TabletBiz conference here, Wells Fargo Executive VP Steve Ellis said tablets, particularly the iPad, have led the bank to think differently about how it provides financial services.

Today Wells Fargo has over 12 million mobile customers and Ellis sees a rapid migration from PCs.

“We have over a million iPad users that use our app for online banking,” said Ellis. (Editor's note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted Ellis as saying these customers used only the iPad for all their banking needs).

At the same time Ellis also notes it’s a mistake to think the future of banking is completely online.

“We think of millennials as always connected and we act like they’ll never come into a store. But from what we know, about a third of them come into a store (a branch bank) every month. I don’t know what they’re doing, but they visit a branch to do something.”

And with that in mind, Wells Fargo is looking at ways to use mobile technology to enhance the in-bank experience. For example, Ellis said his group has been experimenting with ways to use the geo-location features in a smartphone and geo-fencing to know (with the user’s permission) when a customer is approaching a branch.

Then when the customer enters the branch they can use a tablet there that has their history and a customized view of services they may be interested in.

Anything to enhance the customer experience is key because it can be the difference between keeping the customer or having them go to a competitor.

“It’s not about payments, moving money isn’t that hard,” says Ellis. “The mobile piece, enhancing the value and relationship between businesses and consumers is important. The cloud and big data and analytics is how we see this all coming together.”

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Smartphones aren’t tablets

He also took pains to spell out that tablets users, as opposed to smartphone users, have distinct security needs.

“A smartphone is a personal device, tablet tends to be shared,” said Ellis.”If you want to show a picture to someone it’s hard to give up your phone, maybe there’s something else on there you don’t want them to see.

By contrast, he notes that tablets tend to be shared, but they’re not always with you. “Your phone lives in your pocket, the tablet doesn’t live there,” said Ellis.

This ties back to security in that you can have fairly good assurance a person’s phone is with them, but a tablet might be left at home anytime the user goes somewhere so it’s harder to know if it’s been secured and Ellis says services need to recognize the different use cases.

He also said that in addition to security, Wells Fargo is developing new capabilities for its mobile users because that’s where the action is.

“No one’s going backward,” said Ellis. “We’re not building new for PCs, mobile is where it’s at.”

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