Finance Everywhere

How Wells Fargo and Google Cloud AI are scaling up the bank’s digital offering with ‘Fargo’

  • Wells Fargo is launching a new virtual assistant named "Fargo", powered by Google Cloud AI, to keep up with the digital transformation trend driving evolution of financial services.
  • Although virtual assistants in banking are still relatively new, they represent a key part of the future of banking.

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How Wells Fargo and Google Cloud AI are scaling up the bank’s digital offering with ‘Fargo’

People who used to stick longer with their bank than their life partner are now in the distant past.

Today, amid juggling multiple financial challenges, consumers are quick to make a move when they feel their needs are heard and better addressed by a different banking service provider in order to regain control of their finances.

Digital transformation is a ubiquitous trend driving the evolution of financial services, but where do consumers stand on the economic well-being spectrum? 

Financial well-being isn’t limited to a specific balance in a bank account or an investment portfolio – instead, it can vary from credit counseling services to managing everyday finances smoothly to feeling the satisfaction of paying bills on time, or hitting savings targets while still covering bills. Personalized advice and tailored solutions at every stage of their financial journey are what consumers are looking for.

Even though banks have generally been slower to adopt this type of digital service, which would typically happen in person at a local branch, some market incumbents are taking steps in this direction. 

Wells Fargo is the latest example, launching its new virtual assistant named "Fargo", to its mobile app consumers, powered by Google Cloud AI.

Last year, Wells Fargo and Google Cloud collaborated on business-critical public cloud services, when the bank launched its new digital infrastructure strategy. It combined a multi-cloud approach with third-party data centers to drive technological speed, agility, and scalability for its customers and employees.

At present, Wells Fargo's mobile app is quite well-reviewed by customers, ranking third in the JD Power study after Capital One and Chase. When it comes to online banking, however, Wells Fargo stood below the industry average in terms of consumer satisfaction.

“As mobile banking has become Wells Fargo customers’ most preferred way to the bank, we will continue to innovate in collaboration with strategic partners like Google to build customer experiences that motivate and support them on their financial journeys,” said Michelle Moore, head of Consumer and Wealth, Investment Management Digital at Wells Fargo in a press release shared with Tearsheet.

Fargo will be built on Dialogflow, Google Cloud's conversational AI platform. The virtual assistant (VA) will tap into Google’s language processing capabilities to understand customers’ needs and provide customized responses to their queries – while the platform architecture will keep Wells Fargo's customer data secure and private.   

“By pairing our leading AI and natural language processing capabilities with Wells Fargo’s industry-leading banking experience, we can provide customers with connected, personalized tools that seamlessly blend with their financial needs,” added Yolande Piazza, Vice President of Financial Services at Google Cloud, in the press release.

Expected to launch in a short time, Fargo is designed to assist users across a wide swathe of services – from turning on/off debit cards and going over credit limits, to digging into specific transactions categorized by date, amount, or type. In case of an intricate inquiry or request, Fargo will pass it on to a live agent for further assistance.

In a digital-first world increasingly driven by technology, more people are adopting voice-activated devices like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant to perform their mundane chores – from web searches, scheduling calendars, getting driving directions, playing music, or switching on/off lights within their homes. 

This transition makes it likely that more people will be keen to use banking virtual assistants as well, to simplify and save time on their basic day-to-day banking inquiries, like making simple transactions by talking to a virtual assistant on their phone, instead of typing information manually.

Although virtual assistants in banking are still relatively new, they represent a key part of the future of banking. This is the reason banks are bullish on investing heavily in digital technology, now more than ever, having seen the rise in digital banking, and the growing demand for a full-service digital experience since the start of the pandemic. 

Around 65% of millennials and Gen Z choose a virtual assistant for customer service needs rather than waiting for a customer service representative on the phone. 84% who have opted for virtual assistants found it to be a favorable experience, while 70% pointed to time-saving as a principal advantage of the service, according to research by Ipsos on behalf of Wells Fargo & Company.

What’s on the horizon

Banks are trying to keep pace with digital technology by incorporating innovative solutions every now and then, to stay relevant and help their customers achieve a smooth financial journey. For the same reason, banks not only need to introduce smarter digital tools but also need to revamp their offerings according to evolving customer needs. 

Going forward, Fargo plans to expand its language feature and add Spanish language capabilities to its system by 2023. It also intends to take a more proactive role in guiding customers toward financial wellness by tapping into predictive analytics – this would pave the way for meaningful personalized conversations providing financial insights and financial advice to each of its customers. 

Moreover, Fargo aims to deliver value across the organization through advanced assistance in areas, which include:   

Drive improved customer financial management:

Other than making transactions, its advanced feature will help users keep track of their spending, monitor recurring charges, and if those areas need attention.

Increase the prevalence of effective budgeting:

For the ones who feel anxious about their financial situation and bank on savings – the VA will prompt them with alerts about their safety net of how much they can safely spend well within their budget while building savings.

Smarter moves for smarter financial decisions:

Last but not the least, Fargo also aims to promote financial literacy to help its users make smarter financial decisions. The feature will help consumers understand how they could manage their debt while maintaining their savings at the same time or how they could be self-reliant by aligning their money management with their personal financial goals.

“It's more than just dollars and cents; it's about uplifting our customers’ emotional and financial well-being by understanding their financial goals and providing the most convenient interactions to meet those goals,” said Wells Fargo’s Moore.

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