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Secil Watson: I manage mobile banking, money movement services, and online and mobile customer experience. Benchmark: Are you responsible for customer experience on the main Wells Fargo website as well as the online and mobile banking services? Secil Watson: The interesting thing about it is that it's actually not a new functionality.
When we saw the success of it online, we thought it would be a great extension to do this on mobile as well. But we don't want the customer to think just oh, now I have my mobile device so now I need to use mobile payments mode and then I'm on online and I use this other thing, and I'm standing at the ATM now and I use this other thing, and I'm at the point-of-sale and now I have to use a card. Ideally, our vision for the future is that we have payment methods that are cross-channel that meet the customers' needs around speed of delivery, convenience, security and easy access and reporting. So the product that was introduced in 2004, we introduced in mobile in 2009, and it's been great. Once people start using it, then they start adding new payees into the system because they realize this is a convenient way to do the payment. Benchmark: So the mobile functionality that you've added for payments, is that website-based?
Secil Watson: Right now our text service is account information, ATM locations and other services around information about your account. Secil Watson: It's something we're considering, among all of the things we're considering for mobile banking. Secil Watson: We introduced text banking in 2007 to customers who were already enrolled online banking customers. What we introduced recently though, which is kind of a game-changer, is the ability to do text banking without having to have online banking credentials. Benchmark: So it's a different kind of customer who is doing text banking versus online banking?
Secil Watson: We thought initially that people who were using text banking and online, browser-based products were going to be pretty much the same. And then we have the other side of customers who typically have smart devices, so their screen size is larger and the usability of the device is easier for them. Basically we've seen the profile of the users evolve differently for text banking versus browser-based. The other thing that happened as we introduced mobile is, in 2007 we couldn't have predicted the impact that iPhone was going to have on smartphone adoption. Secil Watson: Our smartphone adoption predictions were much more conservative prior to the iPhone taking off.
The Wells Fargo iPhone app puts information and transactional capability at a customer's fingertips, including account transfers and bill pay. But it's also the distribution, and just to get into people's minds that hey, you can do banking online. Secil Watson: For developing apps on different devices, the rule of thumb for us is to maintain scalability and efficiency of our operations. But if it ends up in the marketplace in the future that there's a really long tail of these, we probably won't do something different for the long tail. Secil Watson: Our goal is to create good customer experiences that also create business value. The kinds of areas that are going to be game-changing are our ability to offer a payment solution across channels, so that people can do the same type of transaction in multiple channels.
So looking at customer tasks was core to how we started thinking about user experience and designing for users, and it's still very important for us to know what tasks customers do.
So the next step for us is actually to look at the modes that they're in, which is a little bit more of the softer side, where the task is, say, paying bills. But thinking about it from the customer's perspective allows us to know the choices available to the customer. We are really good at providing detailed account information on a same-day basis, in most cases. And going from data to insight means that we need to understand the modes people are in a little bit better. Secil Watson: So if the information was right in front of you, that would be a great experience for the customers.
The good news is that we can help the customer from cradle to grave, because we also added a lot of capability for customers to manage their retirement, investments, brokerage. One thing that's true though is the market has changed so much that, one of the first things you get when you open up a bank account in a branch is a checkbook. The interesting part, though, is that we did a digital age survey where we were asking people questions around their digital adoption, and as a result we would say you're a digital teenager, you're a digital adult, or a digital youth. But you realize that there's more facility with technology and more engagement in the connectedness that technology provides in the younger age groups. But the financial needs culminate around the middle age groups, because typically if you're a student, you have a smaller set of financial obligations to manage. Benchmark: Let's talk about the experience of your users from a performance perspective, whether they're sitting at a computer using your online banking services or out and about with their mobile phone. Secil Watson: We use Keynote as well as other providers to let us know how they think we're doing. It's an active management of all the different drivers that get us there, and more strategic tradeoffs around how much information we present on one page versus how quickly can that page load, because they're both important.
There's a lot of focus on sign-on speed, of course, because during sign-on we do a lot of the back-end calls that allows us to pull the customer's information and render it. Now the interesting part is that we've been doing this online for a long time and there's always room for improvement.
Benchmark: Yes, and in mobile it can be a really broad range of performance between the two. Secil Watson: On mobile we're still back to basics because there's so many devices, and coverage is very important for us because we don't want to alienate any one of our customers.
Wells Fargo's mobile site offers a small-screen optimized experience and access to all key functions. We're constantly chasing the capabilities that arise through the whole system of providers that get the service end-to-end for the customer — a better device, a better browser experience, better standards, better carrier speeds. Secil Watson: I mentioned before that our vision now is to do a lot more things cross-channel.

I think there's a tail of product innovations that are going to be coming out into the marketplace in the next two years that will change the banking relationship for the customer. So it's more these higher order values that we're trying to get to the customer, and it's a different way to create and bundle services and products. Secil Tabli Watson is a senior vice president in Wells Fargo Internet and Mobile Banking, responsible for Customer Experience, Money Movement and Retail Mobile Banking. In December 2009, Watson was named the #1 Bank Innovator of the Year by Bank Technology News magazine.
Watson holds an MBA from Wharton in Finance and a BA from Cornell University in Government and Economics. Keynote helps your company deliver the most effective mobile applications and website experiences. Money movement services includes our online transfer services, transfer scheduling capability, person-to-person payments, as well as bill pay and some of our more niche offerings like global remittances online, as well as some small business offerings we have around employee direct pay, vendor direct pay, and desktop deposit. My customer experience team is a diverse group of professionals who design the website, write the content for the website, and do the interaction models. In 2004, we introduced the ability to make person-to-person payments among Wells Fargo customers in online banking.
And so we want to come up with methods that they just get used to and they use in whatever channel they're in. Basically I envision for person-to-person payments to allow our customers to make payments to anyone in the future.
Part of the reason why we didn't go out of the gate introducing the capability of me-to-me transfers, for example, is because we realized that the market needed to walk before it could run. So we started with a limited number of commands and we're increasing that number over time as we see more prolific usage of the commands. They prefer to go into their banking session on the browser just because most of the time they view accounts, they also have a transaction in mind.
And so, we had to be quick reactors and develop an iPhone app, and that has really taken off as well.
So as long as there are clear market leaders that are increasing smartphone adoption, that have a significant share of the market, we're going to be supporting them with applications that take advantage of the devices that they run on and the operating system that they provide. And what that means for mobile and payments is that we want to create anytime, anywhere access — convenience for the customer so they can have peace of mind and control over their finances.
So they can set up payments, edit payments, change them and manage them from multiple places. In this service, basically the alert is telling customers when a purchase has been made, near real-time, with an SMS message on their phone, so they can track their spending and better manage their finances.
Can we complete the set of services that we have wherever we have gaps and wherever the logical next step is? You seem to have a real ability to get all the constituents involved in the whole process and make customer experience belong to everyone.
We had to have a unified online experience for the customer — it was the first place where our engagement with the customer had to be holistic and not siloed by line of business. We have a really deep understanding now and a lot of data on the tasks customers do, and their objectives around those tasks. Not necessarily using 'bill pay,' because that's product-centric speech, but 'paying bills,' because people can pay bills in many different ways.
And thinking about customer modes really helps us understand how it is that we can get the customer to do the best thing for themselves in a strategic manner financially.
Motivators — how can we get the customer to engage in their financial information, and what insight do people need at different times?
That's how a financial institution can add value, not just to the customers, but to the whole economy, to be honest. Wells Fargo used to be a more regional bank that also offered national services, especially in the area of lending and mortgages. Because it's up to us to lose the customer right now, they're not going to move away from us anymore because they moved to another state and they want the ATM convenience, or their financial situation changed and now they're approaching retirement and they want to take their retirement account somewhere else.
The point is, how do we get the customer to adopt them as their life needs change and life stages change? For a lot of customers now that's an odd thing to get in your hands, not to mention the savings stubs. But if you're a head of a household, you're probably managing an auto loan, home loan, personal loan, accounts for multiple people, multiple direct deposits or whatever; so there's a lot more complexity in your life. And so we get a lot of coverage in the middle of the age range, for the 25 to 45 year old segment basically. How do you manage performance to make sure that your sites are performing well and meeting user expectations? So we want the customer to be able to do a transfer in a certain amount of time, because we know time is sensitive and valuable for customers. But sign-on is not the end game, so it's sign-on and all the different services that the customer touches around transactions they do and the services they call within the experience that do matter. And customer expectations have really increased over the last 15 years and the content that we offer has increased.
On mobile, the challenge is that we are going for multiple devices through multiple carriers and that creates a lot more noise for us to sift through to differentiate what is it that we're causing as the application provider and what is it that is being caused in the system before it hits the customer. We want all the customers with a mobile device that's Web-enabled to be able to use our services.
And those will allow us to rethink our portfolio of products and the value propositions we have in the product mix. It's really exciting to be in banking because, through the kind of new constraints that we face, we're now probably going recreate the value proposition for the customer. Her product management teams manage online payments products and all mobile banking services.
She was recognized for her leadership in person-to-person mobile payments, advances in online and mobile banking and research into next-generation customer experience—all innovations handled in-house. And I also have a 'best practice' customer insights team made up of all customer insight practices including syndicated research, market research, user research, and ethnography. We started with zero marketing and it's still a minimally marketed product; it's been word-of-mouth growth.
Our vision basically is to provide payment options for customers that give them peace of mind and a sense of control.

Also, what I call the 'in-house' services — people paying the cleaning lady, babysitters, dog walkers, and that kind of thing. Because one of the things we see is that we still have some customers, definitely a minority of our customers, who haven't adopted online banking.
There will probably be developments in the alerts area because information is very valuable for customers. Rapid Alerts let consumers monitor their Wells Fargo Visa credit card account activity and take immediate action if they believe a potentially fraudulent transaction is taking place.
And can we do it in a way that allows us to be able to invest in developing new services in the future, so then there would be business value for the bank as well. Are there any new developments in that front, any new ideas, new techniques that you're applying to foster the whole customer experience across the board at the bank?
So as we were evolving, as the practice was evolving, one of the things we learned is how important it is to define your processes around how the customer manages their tasks. What we found through our research is that everybody knows it's really important to save for retirement, save for their kids' education, save for a rainy day, to be able to accomplish some of their life goals like that trip that they were dreaming of or that house extension they really want to do in a few years. How can we take the doing of it away from the customer and automate it a lot so that the insight appears to the customer in a more baked fashion?
And how do we provide this information so that eventually the customers can then have enough money for retirement and to achieve their life goals? Not around the tasks customers do, because if I asked you how often do you plan for your future and if you're being honest, probably quarterly is the most you'll do, right?
That's even odder — you open up a savings account and there's this little notebook that comes with it. So, as technology becomes a part of how we live, broader age groups adopt it, but the people who adopt it most readily are the young people.
It doesn't always trend the same way, which then has our technology team scratching their heads trying to figure out why one indicator is going one way when the other's going the other way.
So we'll get those various data points and we'll try to figure out, what are the drivers of each, and we have a team that's looking into any issues that may be percolating in the backend. We don't want to put the transfers capability seven screens in so that everything is so light and loads fast. There's video, there's animations, there's flash, there's complicated JavaScript, et cetera, that comes on the page.
So it's really important to have testing that is simulating the customer's experience — so that it is going though different carriers and different devices.
Is it something that we're doing that's eroding the experience or improving the experience? So it really impacts how much you can put on a page and how fancy you can make that experience, but that's going to evolve. Our technology team and HTML5 can make us do a lot of things that we were doing with Flash for example.
There's a lot more cross-channel collaboration, and we're trying to find the right ways to interact and engage with the different channels and their technology teams and their servicing groups. And I think it's going to be one that does focus on this overall value of managing your finances, understanding the information and being in control. Her Customer Experience teams advocate for customers and provide customer insights, communities and site designs.
Prior to that, she was a management consultant for Fortune 500 companies in telecom, banking and healthcare. They really help define what the experiences should be for customers, for both online and mobile. It's gotten pretty solid adoption across our customer base, and there are a lot of repeat users. We know of through our research that sharing rent between roommates is another common usage of money transfers.
For example, to request a snapshot of all accounts, the customer sends a text with "bal all" and quickly receives an automated response.
There are people who have a frequent need to check their account information who prefer text banking because it's really fast. I prefer text banking if I just want to check account balances, like, did that check clear or did that deposit come in? We've realized that some of our channels that are face-to-face are a lot more relationship based.
You can see American savings habits haven't been where they ought to be in the last decade. We're going from an economy of data, presenting a sea of data, to something that improves the accessibility of data and insight.
And they don't necessarily go to the browser session that often because they don't have as many needs to transact. But when it comes to making transfers, adding accounts to view, or paying a bill, I use browser banking. They can use the person-to-person service to pay their gardener, et cetera, or they can use bill pay. And we have online and mobile and significant adoption numbers in our electronic delivery channels. So it's our national obligation, I think, to teach customers good financial management habits in a way that is not penalizing or forcing the customers to do something, but in a way that it becomes a good healthy habit for them to live on. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Company has consistently (but conservatively) blazed a trail at the edge of the digital banking frontier.
To do that we really need to engage the customer in their financial information in a way to allow them to understand what's going on.
Benchmark spoke with Watson about online and mobile banking, and a future that will bring ever more powerful financial tools into the hands of consumers.

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