Wells Fargo Wants Its ‘Control Tower’ to Manage Your Digital Financial Life
Ever sign up for a paid subscription and then forget about it?
It’s not surprising if you have, considering the deluge of subscription services that have come to dominate consumers’ lives. Think Netflix, Spotify, Zipcar, Birchbox, LinkedIn Premium, even the local gym. It’s also easier than ever to sign up for new subscriptions, with browsers such as Google Chrome allowing consumers to save their credit card information to make it easier to pay on any site.
That’s one of the reasons why banking giant Wells Fargo is introducing a feature on its mobile app dubbed “Control Tower.” Wells CEO Tim Sloan announced the feature for the first time at Fortune‘s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo., on Wednesday. The feature is set to gradually roll out to Wells Fargo’s roughly 28 million mobile users beginning in 2018.
“When you think about our customers or any of you, you’ve put your payments information in a lot of different places,” Sloan said at the conference. “What happens when you want to make a change to that credit card or debit card? You say to yourself, where in the heck have I put everything?
Akin to a Find My iPhone feature for financial data, Control Tower will allow Wells Fargo customers to track every place they’ve shared their payment information, whether it be via a device, mobile wallet, or online retailer—allowing them to track down an unwanted subscription.
In future versions of the feature, says Brett Pitts, head of digital for Wells Fargo Virtual Channel, Control Tower will allow the user to more fully control all their payments, in part by helping a user stop them. From the app, users will one day be able to eliminate a subscription or stop sharing their credit card information with a website, app, or device, all with the swipe of a finger.
Not all of Control Tower’s functions will be designed to get in the way of commerce, of course. If their card expires or is re-issued, consumers can simply push the data for the new card out to retailers and mobile wallets through the Wells Fargo App.
“I have my card information so spread out—Netflix and iTunes and Amazon and the corner gym—that the updating it all can be a multi-week journey of self-discovery as cycle through the 35 places where I put my card,” said Pitts. But Control Tower would in theory, make that journey unnecessary, and keep consumers within the Wells Fargo app.
But those features too will come in later phases, Pitts said, as Wells Fargo partner up with merchants and fintech firms to create a network that will allow customers to securely share their financial information.
This push toward transparency that Control Tower represents comes at a time when Wells Fargo is eager to rebuild trust with customers. The banks’s reputation is still reeling from its fake-accounts scandal, which came to light in mid-2016. Since news broke that the company had created some 2.1 million phony deposit and credit card accounts, Wells Fargo’s reputation as measured by a recent Harris Poll plunged from 70th to 99th among the 100 “most visible” companies.
For Wells Fargo at least, Control Tower is an attempt to meet consumer and where they spend their time and money. While consumers are going digital, they aren’t necessarily going to bank apps. By some estimates, U.S. consumers spend an average of about five hours on their phone each day —but they spend maybe 2% of that time on banking websites, Pitts said. So Control Tower is one answer to that, a way for Wells Fargo consumers to control their payment relationships, all the places they are in fact spending their time, from within Wells Fargo’s app.
“We want to offer consumers convenience, as long as they come home,” Sloan said Wednesday. “We want customers to have their financial relationship with Wells Fargo.”
The bank in general has already been headed in that direction. Earlier this month, it said that it plans to cut some 450 branches between 2017 to 2018. But the banks they keep may be more “high-touch”: The firm’s head of community banking, Mary Mack, said at the Morgan Stanley Financials Conference in June that Wells Fargo has been hiring millennials who understand how to talk about digital banking with consumers, in the branches that remain.