Presented by Wells Fargo

Data has become the fundamental building blocks on which we will build the future of the digital age. But data by itself doesn’t really do anything. Emerging data tools like AI enable companies to treat each person as a unique individual rather than part of a customer segment. At the end of the day, it’s all about how each customer receives value.

Over the past few years, artificial intelligence (AI) services have become one of the primary tools in making common sense of the vast reams of data being created every day. Banks are generally portrayed as being out of fashion, and too slow to react to take advantage of the opportunities in the digital arena.

Frankly, that couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to digital services in general, and data analytics and AI tools in particular.

For the past 10 to 15 years, many financial institutions have been testing and learning from prototypes and pilots in areas like real-time customer authentication, cyber fraud, and underwriting in small business loans.

AI is quickly moving from research and development labs and POCs to important production services focused on improving customer experiences and underpinning the fundamental safety and trust of the financial services ecosystem.

From “You’re kinda like this person” to “You ARE this person”

Twenty years ago, the internet revolution transformed business from primarily brick and mortar businesses to a hybrid of virtual and physical stores. Today, using reams of new data and leveraging increased computing power through AI enables us to bring personable experiences into the physical and digital worlds. With the customer’s explicit opt-in, the union of location-based services, facial recognition, smart-enabled web services, data organized holistically around the individual, and other emerging technologies, we can create a rich and dynamic picture of a person’s behavior. With the right data and analytics, we shift from the mindset of ‘people like you tend to do this” to an experience based on “who you are” and “what you want.”

When it comes to leveraging the customer’s account information, the most important thing to remember is, “It’s the customer’s data.” One of the key opportunities for any organization is understanding how to connect the data so it presents a picture of the customer, and then how to use it to give each individual an experience tailored precisely to them.

It’s about providing customers with better information ‘in the moment’ to help them make better informed financial decisions, and then giving them the tools and ability to instantly complete a transaction or conduct other banking services.

Everyone deserves a digital personal banker

Organizing that data more meaningfully is great, but what can we get it to do? By connecting the customer’s wishes and desires with the right combination of AI technologies, companies can create a virtual personal banker and financial advisor for any customer. Customers want new kinds of value that make life easier — without disrupting their ability to interact with their bank how and when they desire.

For instance, if Joe receives an incoming deposit that doesn’t match his usual pattern of transactions, his bank could seamlessly recognize this and offer up a suggestion. This could come in the form of a text message saying, “Hi Joe, we noticed you’ve deposited some money that isn’t needed to cover your regular expenses or bills. Would you like us to deposit this into your savings or investment account?” Joe remains in control, but his assistant is equipping him with all the knowledge he needs to make a better, smarter decision with the money “in the moment.”

In this example, AI, in combination with other technologies, can continuously learn from customer behavior and interactions with the bank to determine the best time, channel, message, product, and financial advice.

The foundation for this technology starts with creating a holistic profile of a customer. Over the years, we’ve been building and refining the taxonomy, classification, and algorithms in order to create an AI system that will continue to recognize and learn patterns, improve from previously gained knowledge, and process and comprehend vast amounts of data across channels.

Thankfully, application programming interface (API) technologies can help bring that data together, and sooner, especially through in-house proof of concepts and relationships with third-party vendors that are experimenting with massive amounts of data.

This is a nice start, but to truly create this immersive, intuitive, and robust personal banking experience, the algorithms must get smarter and faster every day.

There’s no “I” in team, but there is an AI Team

Getting to that next level, where AI in financial services is a true enabler across all parts of the customer journey, requires three fundamental steps:

  • hiring the right engineers and data scientists
  • building a data governance model for the organization
  • and establishing a team dedicated to AI.

This is what we’re doing at Wells Fargo, and it is helping immeasurably. We formed an AI Enterprise Solutions team that will shape future services for customers. This team is singularly focused on exploring and evaluating the vast possibilities of the current technologies in order to drill down to what will add true short- and long-term value to customers.

Data and analytics will soon become a key competitive advantage in financial services, so it’s critical to organize around it now. Data already is helping prevent fraud, process speedier transactions, and make basic recommendations.

If done right, what’s next is even more exciting: revolutionizing the customer experience from start to finish.

Steve Ellis is the head of the Wells Fargo Innovation Group, an enterprise-wide organization devoted to accelerating the company’s delivery of next-generation, customer-inspired technologies, products, and services. A 30-year company veteran, Steve’s previous responsibilities included starting up and running the Wholesale Internet Solutions group.

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