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Wells Fargo's Mixed-Media Accepting ATMs Latest in a String of Branch, ATM Innovations

Wells Fargo is piloting ATMs in Colorado that accept a random mix of checks and cash; other retail technology innovations are enhancing customer experience across channels, EVP Jonathan Velline shares in an interview.

Wells Fargo has been piloting a new ATM module in 38 of its ATMs in the Boulder, Colo. area that lets customers deposit a mix of envelope-free checks and bills since January. Beginning in November, the bank will extend the pilot to the entire state of Colorado, installing the new module in about 200 NCR machines.

It's the latest phase of ATM innovation for Wells Fargo, which was the first bank to let customers deposit envelope-free checks at ATMs in 2002. Wells was also first to roll out bulk check deposits at ATMs, allowing people to deposit as many as 30 checks at a time. This has helped small businesses that tend to have a lot of items to deposit and benefit from being to make such deposits at the end of the day, on their way home. "We're trying to drive continuous innovation," says executive vice president and head of ATM banking and store strategy Jonathan Velline. "It's not building the legacy system of tomorrow, it's building something you expect to tear out tomorrow to make something better. When I describe this to counterparts at other banks they're surprised by it because most banks don't approach technology that way. But if I talk to people in Silicon Valley who are developing handsets and websites, they're always thinking about making better technology all the time."

Although the percentage of customers who told Wells Fargo they were interested in depositing intermixed checks and cash was not large, "We've always been careful to not let percentage thinking get in the way of better design," Velline says. "This is just a better way to take a deposit, it's simpler. The machine does the work and it's a more elegant design." When Wells Fargo decided it wanted to offer bulk deposits at its ATMs, the ATM manufacturers who made single-check devices argued that the average customer only deposits 3.1 checks a month. "The reality is there's a very long tail on that," Velline says. "We built bulk check devices not knowing what the volumes would be on those devices. When I look at the numbers today, 9% of checks deposited in Wells Fargo ATMs come in bundles of 10 or more items. If we didn't have bulk deposit, we would have missed all that volume."

Wells Fargo worked closely with NCR to design the new mixed-media module. "Our design brief all along has been, figure out how to do this all in the same footprint," Velline says, which NCR did. "NCR has a lot of technical know how, they've been in this business forever and they're good at taking on a technical challenge. It was fun to work together to create this and see what they could do from engineering perspective."

The new machines perform better than some of Wells Fargo's older machines in terms of throughput and uptime. And the satisfaction rate of the newer ATMs is about 10% higher than for the older units.

Velline works on innovation across the ATM and branch channels. "The reality is, 60% of our ATM transactions are done by teller-preferring customers," he notes. "They use tellers, they use online, and we take from that the lesson that we can't design our channels separately, we have to remember all the interactions customers have with us and use that to inform our design." The bank has begun installing ATM-like PIN pads outside teller stations in its branches (or stores, as Velline calls them). "These customers are also making ATM transactions, they just swiped and PINed their card at the ATM," he says. "We're fronting that small interface so if you want to make a withdrawal from a teller, instead of filling out a counter slip, you enter the withdrawal amount on the PIN pad and create connections between the different channels and interfaces, regardless of where you're banking." So the bank is using ATM technology to speed up teller transactions.

"I always look for opportunities to let the machine do the work, whether it's for the customer or the teller," Velline says. The bank also tries to create ties between the channels, he says. For instance, for customers that bank online at wellsfargo.com and use ATMs, the bank created connections between ATM and online channels to allow customers to have their ATM receipts emailed to them. "I like to have print receipts but I don't like having the paper, so now I select email to my personal email address and it shows up a couple of seconds later on my BlackBerry," Velline says. Wells Fargo also lets customers sign up for mobile banking at its ATMs.

Wells Fargo has been integrating its online, ATM and branch channels for a long time. "If I make an envelope-free deposit at an ATM and I run as fast as I can to log into wellsfargo.com, I will see that posted," Velline says. "The tellers will see it posted too. That's important because we recognize our customers use all channels and sometimes sequentially: they'll go in, deposit with a teller, then use the ATM to withdraw. If those are out of sync you can confuse your customers."

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