As banks continue to roll out new ways of banking via mobile devices and the web, the holy grail of sorts is integration -- tying platforms together to provide a consistent experience across all channels, including ATMs, branches and call centers, in addition to mobile and online. Providing this unified banking experience means synchronizing transactions so that a customer can open an account in one channel and immediately be able to make a deposit or withdrawal via another. It also demands the ability to create a new feature or modification for compliance reasons and then extend it across all channels simultaneously.
Such tight channel integration could help banks easily introduce customers to new channels, notes Emmett Higdon, senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester. For instance, when a customer opens an account at a branch or online, chances are she has her mobile phone in her pocket. "By synchronizing those access points and login credentials, it's a seamless process to engage that branch or mobile customer in the online space to deliver e-statements," Higdon says. "It makes the on-ramp to online banking much shorter."
Wells Fargo was one of the first large banks to execute this concept. "We have a strategy and commitment around our customers banking at any channel, any time they want, any way they want, anywhere they want," says Jonathan Velline, EVP and head of ATM banking and store strategy at the San Francisco-based bank. "A lot of times when you read about cross-channel strategies, you hear channel managers talk about moving customers from one channel to another for cost or efficiency reasons, and you hear about specific investment in specific channels. To me it sounds like the customer is sometimes forgotten in those discussions."
Wells Fargo ($1.2 trillion in assets), Velline says, is investing simultaneously in all of its channels, including legacy store channels as well as newer mobile channels. "As we're doing that, we're figuring out ways to tie those experiences together," he says. "Customers have told us and demonstrated with their transactions that they are multichannel users, and just because you've introduced a new channel to them, that doesn't mean they're going to stop using the old ones. It's important for us to not have disconnects between our different channels because that's going to create a service disruption for customers who use all these channels."
Bridging the Continental Divide
One facet of this continuity is ensuring that a customer who makes a deposit at a New York branch can fly to California and withdraw money the same day from a branch there, whether the branches were formerly under Wells Fargo or Wachovia, which Wells acquired in 2008 amid the financial crisis. "That's hard, and a lot of times banks with large networks have not done that integration," Velline notes, adding that the bank has also extended this idea to its ATMs; all 12,000 Wells Fargo ATMs across the country are on the same platform and provide a similar experience.
Further, Wells Fargo looks for ways to create connections among channels. Velline points out that research conducted by the bank shows that 60 percent of ATM transaction volume is conducted by customers who prefer to bank with a teller. "That, for me, emphasizes the importance that when we're creating an ATM experience, the context in the store is important," he says. "If I make a deposit at a teller and conduct a withdrawal at an ATM 30 minutes later, that deposit must be available in real time, with the right available balance."
And an ATM transaction needs to be reflected in the balance the customer sees on his mobile phone as well, Velline adds. "All the channels have the same view of the customer, the same balance," he comments.
The bank also lets customers sign up for mobile banking at an ATM and e-mail ATM receipts to themselves rather than getting printed receipts, Velline reports. And account names that a customer sets up in his online banking account are immediately reflected on his mobile device.
"You'll see Wells Fargo continue to invest in all of its channels," Velline says, "and make those experiences as connected and value-added as possible."