Wells Fargo Head of Global Treasury Management Payments and Transaction Services John Hunter is focused on simplifying the bank’s experiences with cloud, AI and machine learning.
The San Francisco-based bank invested $9.4 billion in technology in Q1, launched Wells Fargo Vantage digital banking platform and continues to look to AI for opportunities within the bank.
Hunter discussed the $1.8 trillion Wells Fargo’s recent efforts on its payments strategy, digital banking platform solution and use of AI and ML within its platforms. What follows in an edited version of the conversation:
Bank Automation News: What technology has Wells Fargo been working on in the treasury management space?
John Hunter: We are thinking a lot about creating new solutions that simplify overcomplicated banking experiences while leaning into emerging technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learnings to modernize our payments platforms. We want to help clients make payments simpler, faster and easier. One of my priorities has always been to help clients transform at their speed — it’s great that we can provide a banking platform with the same goals.
It has also been exciting to see our clients begin to use Wells Fargo’s Vantage platform, a digital banking platform for our wholesale clients that aggregates all their banking needs — even beyond Treasury — into one solution. The system’s AI will be able to provide recommendations tailored to each client’s specific needs while the ML continually learns how to best provide personalized experiences that help clients grow their businesses.
BAN: How have you worked to bring together Wells Fargo’s Treasury Management and Global Payment Solutions product teams? What has that entailed?
JH: It starts at the top with the head of Global Treasury Management for Wells Fargo, Paul Camp. Paul brought me in to lead payment products relatively soon after he started at Wells Fargo, in the fall of 2021. He was bringing together the legacy treasury group and the Global Payment Solutions (GPS) business that was a separate line of business, focused on providing payment and liquidity services to financial institutions.
What we have done with the GPS business is the same as what we have implemented in areas like commercial real estate, healthcare and technology. It starts by using traditional product management disciplines that maximize returns and efficiency. And, specifically, you need people who have a deep understanding of the business segments they are supporting and can work with partners across the firm to develop the payment solutions that our clients need to grow and transform their businesses.
BAN: What innovations in the treasury management space, or payments space, are you excited about?
JH: Technology moves extremely fast, and, even from the inside of the payments world, we can’t always predict where things are headed. For example, see how fast AI has become part of the conversation across industries. We need to be able to support our clients by providing holistic solutions that will not only support them where they are today, but where they want to be going forward.
I mentioned how we are using AI and ML in our digital banking platform to create personalized banking experiences. We also think that automation will go a long way in solving challenges that we have in the payments business. The system has too much friction from different payment types and different channels, which creates manual work to reconcile payments. ML and AI can be used to address those issues and help produce significant operational cost savings for our clients.
Looking farther into the future, I’m excited about open banking and event invisible banking. I see a future where banking will be behind the scenes, embedded in everyday activities. Even phones as payment conduits may become obsolete as emerging technology enables seamless, automated payments — what you might call an invisible experience.
BAN: What are your plans for the treasury management payment product team for the rest of 2023?
JH: We have a lot going on! We are involved in a couple of promising POCs. One is around on-us services. These are payments where we are the bank on both sides of the transaction. The POC is helping us learn how to better leverage our scale around 24/7 settlements. We also are working on a distributed ledger (DLT) pilot, exploring how to simplify settlements and reduce risk.
ISO 20022 [an open global standard for sending digital payment messages and data between financial institutions] is also a focus for the rest of the year. We are always trying to unlock value for clients. And I think the way we use data can be a real differentiator. There is a huge opportunity to unlock the potential of the rich data that will be exchanged with the industry transition to ISO 20022. It can be a foundational data layer that enhances new products and provides new client insights.
Finally, we are working on a new payments engine for our core products that will be able to provide specific, value-added services to clients in a broad range of market segments. It’s exciting work that we hope will pay huge dividends for our clients going forward.
BAN: What is the best leadership advice you’ve received?
JH: I was once told, as a leader, you should always give your team credit for the successes but take the blame for the mistakes. It’s important to celebrate the wins and give recognition to the team that helped you get there, while also providing cover and understanding that “the buck stops here” when things go wrong.
I try to always remember that as a leader. No one can do it alone, but, ultimately, it’s my responsibility to ensure things go well. I think this instills trust with your team and helps them feel supported to do their best.