In this week’s episode of Emissary Live, we connected with Sandy, the former SVP of IT and Enterprise Head of Strategy Management at Wells Fargo, who spent over 12 years as a transformative thought leader at that organization. Here, Sandy shares insights on the vendor values that matter to organizations like Wells Fargo, as well as the unique needs of financial services acting as industry disruptors.
Here are the four key takeaways from the conversation:
1. Banks are playing a key role in the current environment, with crucial loans going out to both individuals and businesses. Be mindful of how this is impacting their business and operations, and be sensitive as far as how that could impact your messaging if you’re seeking to build relationships within that sector. Regulatory concerns will only be under greater scrutiny, so set yourself up for success by knowing what it takes to play effectively in this sector.
2. Social impact is important to Wells Fargo specifically and increasingly to global organizations across the board. It might be wise to identify opportunities to complement the social impact initiatives in play at Wells Fargo or at your other current and prospective customers.
3. Make things easy. With a heavy amount of regulation and a large workload and the current state of the market, the financial services industry is especially strapped. There are organizational delays, validations that need to take place with every vendor. So along with making things as streamlined as possible for them as a customer, be prepared to be patient with them due to the complexity of their organizations and the current environment.
4. Be innovative and do your homework. Learn about the institutions you’re hoping to serve and demonstrate your preparedness and the messaging that you prepare.
Panel Discussion Highlights
Let’s hear your thoughts on the financial services industry in today’s climate. With everything that’s changed recently, what do you see as the direction of technology for that sector?
Technology in the financial industry in general is really right in the middle of addressing some of the challenges that we’re having due to COVID. They’re really at the center of the economic recovery. I feel like financial institutions have learned from prior challenges that we’ve faced, and so it’s more important now than ever that the banks are able to focus on conducting business in a very highly regulated environment, and ensuring that customer privacy is number one.
I also think that in this age of social media, institutions need to be aware of concerns about social impact and reprioritize their roles in society, which may mean sacrificing short term gains for long term sustainability. This is a different world that we’re living in, and consumers are very interested in social responsibility of institutions in general.
Are there qualities at Wells Fargo that the organization wants to be seen as possessing, that you think that vendors should even be mindful of? What are they really focused on as far as the impact that they’re making?
It’s very important in any vendor that you’re looking to interact with at any company, Wells Fargo or any company that you’re working with. I think it’s important to get a sense of their social footprint and what is it that they are interested in. I know for Wells Fargo, community has always been a focus, giving back to the community, having a strong sense and a strong presence in the community. It’s very important, and any vendor that Wells Fargo or any company is connected with, that vendor represents that company. That vendor really is an extension of the company, so it’s very important that how the vendor behaves is in line with the company that they’re wanting to work with and vice versa.
I’d be interested to hear what you saw change during your tenure at Wells Fargo. In other words, what was in the immediate past for that organization and what were they really focused on?
When I was at Wells Fargo some of the things that were really focused on were things like application and tool rationalization. Any large organization that has had several mergers and really had a focus on delivering within a business line is going to have a surplus of applications, and so it’s really important if you want to be competitive, you have to be nimble and you have to streamline. So rationalizing the tools and the applications that are being used is definitely important, and that was a huge focus. Developing strategies to leverage new tools such as cloud computing, AI. Those were definitely things that I saw and did very well with the application rationalization. It’s part of the criteria you would be using to determine, what are your go forward tools? Versus, what do you want to sustain?
[Also] data strategy – that’s definitely something that I’d say in the past year or so has been a huge focus. Not only the strategy, but what data are we going to use and is it meaningful? And how do you make sure that you can take action from the data that you have? So this is the governance around it, and ensuring that when you are comparing elements, you’re comparing apples to apples versus apples to oranges so that you’re making correct decisions based on the data.
Last but not least, there’s a huge focus, especially in Wells Fargo, I would say, in the last couple of years, huge focus on process discipline, along with risks, regulatory controls, both in the business and the technology area. Wells Fargo works very closely with regulators in recent years, and likely still to some extent, to ensure that we’re addressing all concerns in regards to having the right controls. And this is not unique to Wells Fargo. This is definitely something that regulators look at for all financial institutions for very good reasons. The right controls in these types of environments are very important.
In addition to regulatory necessities and some of the compliance concerns, what would you say are the sort of technological touchpoints that are really common in financial services that vendors must be aware of and deeply familiar with so that they can communicate properly to their potential customers?
When you think about financial services, regulatory and compliance has become one of the most significant concerns for a financial institution. Regulatory fees associated with not being within compliance has increased. I’m not saying that financial institutions don’t want to do the right thing on their own, they absolutely do. But the regulators are making sure that they are right there.
It’s definitely a partnership with the regulators and making sure that you are very diligent about looking at all of your controls, monitoring your key performance indicators, things of that nature. Maintaining strict compliance placed significant strain on resources, so that’s definitely something as a vendor that is a consideration. If you are selling a service or a product that can help in that capacity, I would say that that’s definitely going to be something people will want to hear about.
Number two, security. For obvious reasons, protecting customer data is paramount, and security is one of the leading industry challenges.
Finally, the other thing I would say that’s unique and something to be aware of: fintechs are disruptors in this sector. The key that we’re finding with fintechs is they are simple and intuitive. So, the offerings being simple and intuitive are very, I think, appealing to the consumer. It’s definitely something that I think to keep an eye on and to consider.
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