Published February 10, 2017
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Wells Fargo & Co., still grappling with fallout from a sales-practices scandal, is reorganizing its payments, virtual solutions and innovation group as the bank looks to increase its use of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.
The group, led by Wells Fargo veteran Avid Modjtabai, was created in October with a goal to “redefine the next generation of capabilities and offerings, and to prioritize research and development that elevates the customer experience,” according to a statement from the bank.
With the restructuring, it now will increase focus on three areas: payments, artificial intelligence and application programming interfaces, code that helps software components communicate with one another.
Payments and APIs will be overseen by Danny Peltz, Wells Fargo’s head of treasury, merchant and payment solutions group. Steve Ellis, who leads the bank’s innovation group, will manage artificial intelligence.
Mr. Ellis, who’s been with the bank for nearly 30 years, will be charged with exploring new uses for AI and crafting a strategy to expand it across the bank’s business units. Putting the strategy under a single leader could limit redundant efforts and give the bank a more unified approach to how it manages data and delivers it to customers in real-time.
“Our preference would be that we don’t have 18 different versions of AI, or have it deployed 20 different ways,” Mr. Ellis said in an interview. “It’s not an effective or efficient use of data.”
Financial institutions see artificial intelligence as a way to improve customer experience and automate routine back-office processes and compliance tasks, which could save money and free employees to focus on value-added activities. Spending on AI technologies by companies is expected to grow to $47 billion in 2020 from nearly $8 billion in 2016, according to a forecast from market-research firm International Data Corp.
Wells Fargo continues to explore AI’s role in fraud detection, underwriting, payments, compliance and cybersecurity, among other areas. The bank sees opportunity in speech recognition technology that could help customers complete transactions while driving, or improve their experience interacting with technologies like chatbots or Facebook Inc.’s Messenger platform.
AI could also help anticipate customer needs and provide a more personalized experience, Mr. Ellis said. After someone receives a text message from a friend asking for $200, perhaps a payments platform could open automatically instead of making the customer find and open it himself.
Wells Fargo continues to feel the repercussions of a sales-tactics scandal that led to the abrupt departure of CEO John Stumpf and an investigation by the Justice Department. The bank in September entered into a $185 million settlement and enforcement action with regulators over sales practices that included staff opening accounts without customers’ knowledge.
Re-disseminated by The Asian Banker from The Wall Street Journal