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Wells Fargo banks on Greenhouse

New mobile-first service relies on artificial intelligence aid for customers needing guidance

New mobile-first service from Wells will launch early next year as a steppingstone to broader, deeper relationships with the bank. New mobile-first service from Wells will launch early next year as a steppingstone to broader, deeper relationships with the bank.

“We hear from a lot of people that they get stressed about money,” says Steve Ellis, head of the Wells Fargo Innovation Group. In the first quarter of 2018 the bank plans to pilot a new mobile-first app called Greenhouse that is intended to address such stressing, especially for millennial customers.

The idea behind the new Greenhouse app is to help consumers manage their money and understand their financial status in real-time using artificial intelligence.

Ellis explains that many bank customers manage their funds using a “rear-view-mirror” approach. Mistakes have already been made, then. The new service will help the customer learn from experience but will also help manage financial affairs before the customer gets into trouble.

Meant for mobile

“The Greenhouse experience helps consumers take control of their financial health by enabling them to become more hands-on with the finances,” says Ellis. “From creating a weekly spending budget, to working toward financial goals, the customer is in control—all on a mobile phone.”

Ellis says the forthcoming account was created for phones specifically—the iPhone first—for two reasons. One is that many more banking consumers own smartphones than tablets. Another, he said, is that “phones are in your pocket, tablets are in your briefcase.”

Greenhouse will give customers personalized views of their financial affairs based on artificial intelligence. A basic element of the service is a pair of financial accounts. One account, designed for weekly spending, can be accessed using the customer’s debit card or a mobile wallet. The other is dedicated to saving and to paying bills.

As Greenhouse learns about the customer’s usage patterns, AI will permit the service to make personalized insights. Access to the Zelle peer-to-peer payments network rounds out the payments aspects of Greenhouse.

Where Wells will take Greenhouse

As Ellis describes it, Greenhouse is intended to be a work in progress for both the customer and the bank. As the bank begins rolling it out, Wells intends to monitor what people are saying about the service.

“We want to have people bang on it,” says Ellis.

What the account means to customers will evolve.

“Our view is that this is a steppingstone,” says Ellis. “We made this for long-term relationships.”

However, while Greenhouse represents a product designed to meet the needs of a demographic slice of the bank’s markets, Ellis says he believes that building banking apps based on customer segments can only go so far.

“We probably don’t need to have 100 different apps built around that many micro-segments,” said Ellis.

Instead, over time, hopes to see the tailoring of account features come from the application of AI to banking needs.

Ideally, he explains, “”everyone becomes a customer segment of one. … It’s our job to bring you what you need.”

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