At Wells Fargo, true transformation means making IT obsolete

Secil Watson, head of Digital Solutions for Business at Wells Fargo, tackles digital transformation by considering each challenge in three distinct time horizons. Her ultimate goal: to automate IT out of a job.

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Magdalena Petrova

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In the past several years, a combination of regulatory changes, pressures from fintech startups and big technology companies, new technologies (like advances in machine learning), and a shifting cyber risk landscape have brewed a perfect disruption storm in financial services.

While retail banking has evolved quickly—mobile and paperless banking are now mainstream—commercial banking has been slower to adjust. But the tide appears to be turning. In "Top-10 Technology Trends in Commercial Banking: 2018," IT consulting firm Capgemini notes that a combination of increasing expectations from commercial customers and the proliferation of next-gen technology, along with new regulations, are motivating banks to overhaul their back-end processes and deploy data analytics and automation.

Capgemini says commercial banks will begin evolving at ever greater speeds as they seek to address customer pain points ranging from slow payment and settlement cycles to paper-based trade finance processes.

Accounting firm, Deloitte, agrees. In "Perspectives: 2018 Banking Industry Outlook," Deloitte experts say corporate customers are increasingly "demanding seamless, tailored product and service choices with user-friendly interfaces." They predict that 2018 will likely see corporate banking divisions focus on making technology investments to enhance customer experience and simplify operations.

Technology leaders at these banks will bear the brunt of pushing through these digital transformations.

Address, anticipate, automate

"I think the biggest change is that the pace of change and technology is accelerating," says Secil Watson, head of Digital Solutions for Business at Wells Fargo. "The [rate of] change we've seen in the last 25 years is now going to happen in the next five years. When the pace accelerates to that level, we can no longer have very linear strategic planning functions. I think we need to place our bets in three different time horizons."

For Wells Fargo, projects fall into three stages:

  1. Address immediate customer challenges or opportunities
  2. Anticipate customer demand or leap-frog the competition
  3. Automate to remove IT from the process

"We're looking to find a way to get ourselves out of a job," Watson says. "Instead of addressing a current opportunity with the tools at hand, we need to think about what it would take to make our role obsolete, to automate ourselves out of a job."

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