Mike Duke has been in the role of Chief Innovation Architect for nearly ten years, and with Wells Fargo for eight more. “The focus of my role is to empower diversity of thought at Wells Fargo. In other words, if a team member had a unique idea that could benefit other team members, our customers, or stakeholders, then my job is to listen to it, figure out what it would take to make it happen. If enough team members think it’s important enough, I make sure it happens.”
Ten years of tinkering, and hundreds of new products, patents, and prototypes later, Wells Fargo are arguably decades into their journey with AI. “Across all the different channels and areas of financial services, it’s going to exponentially grow,” Duke argues.
Perhaps it already has. What we call AI or machine learning today is one wave in a series of waves of automation dating back to the 70s. Wells Fargo themselves have been using artificial intelligence technologies as far back as 1994, in the form of a rudimentary chatbot called Sigmond. “Sigmond actually answered our emails as part of our change management system back then, which was authored on Lotus Notes of all things,” explains Duke.
However, this wave of AI also represents a uniquely new ecosystem of business and technology – and Wells Fargo doesn’t plan to miss out. “I would say that, going all the way back to the very beginning, we’ve always been looking for better, faster, cheaper ways to do what we do. Anything that provides more convenience, more security, more access to information, is going to benefit our customers in the long run.
Wells Fargo: entering the collaborative universe of bots
However, the seachange for this wave of AI really comes in the form of ‘synthetic collaborative intelligence’. This is what happens when AI bots begin to communicate not just with customers, but with other AI entities about customers. About you.
One example of this is a proof of concept tool called Socrates that’s been trialed by Wells Fargo. “This is a chatbot that is responsible for empowering the human resource areas of an organisation. We envision someday team members being able to say to Alexa, ‘I’d like to take next Thursday off’. Alexa will be able to actually communicate with the internal HR chatbot at Wells Fargo, get the boss’ permission, and then come back to you and say, ‘Okay, your request has been approved by your manager’. Inevitably, those bots are going to have a collaborative network that better understands our customers and team members so it can provide a better and more secure experience.”