Today marks 20 years of Wells Fargo banking services on the internet. Back in 1995, Wells Fargo was the first bank in the country to offer customers access to their accounts online.
wellsfargo.com home page, 1995. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)
The story behind this milestone is largely technical. Wells Fargo has been committed to using the latest technology since 1852, to help customers get access to their money and send it over distance. Wells Fargo opened for business in San Francisco to provide financial services to gold rush pioneers—miners, merchants, ranchers. Wells Fargo agents traded gold dust for coin, and remote pioneers could send money home “back east” by check, or by convenient bills of exchange.
Wells Fargo went “digital” in 1864, with the transfer of money over telegraph lines. In fact, before Wells Fargo & Co. was founded, Henry Wells helped build the first commercial telegraph line from New York City to Buffalo. When the transcontinental telegraph was completed in 1869, Wells Fargo was ready to use it.
Fast-forward a century and a quarter, to 1994: wellsfargo.com was launched. But Wells Fargo customers had been able to manage money “ON-LINE,” with proprietary software for PC. In the spring of 1995, Wells Fargo was the first major US bank to offer merchants secure online payments on the internet.
Ad for Wells Fargo internet banking, 1997. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)
The mid-90s were hot. Wells Fargo was first to offer internet access to account balances and transaction histories. In March 1996, Wells Fargo accepted online applications for checking, savings and credit card accounts. Only a few months later, Bill Pay service was launched: Just as in the earliest days of business, Wells Fargo customers could send money and pay bills to anyone, anywhere in the US.
Wells Fargo Online Banking® reached one million customers in 1999, and five million in 2003. In the last decade, Wells Fargo launched My Spending Report, the industry’s first all-in-one online spending tracker. Mobile banking was launched in 2007 and reached 10,000,000 online customers. And in 2012, Wells Fargo introduced a Spanish version of Online Banking® and Mobile Deposit.
Mobile banking, 2007. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)
When Wells Fargo launched internet banking in 1995, about 1 in 10 adults used the internet. Wells Fargo and Wachovia merged in 2009, and 1 in 3 American households were served by Wells Fargo. That year, Online Banking® reached a milestone of 15 million customers. Today, about 8 in 10 adults use the internet, and Wells Fargo reaches 25 million online banking customers.
Jim Smith leads Wells Fargo Virtual Channels, the group responsible for these successes. (History lesson—Virtual Channels began as Online Financial Services, then became Internet Services Group, then Digital Channels Group. Now you know!) Says Smith:
I believe the innovative spirit and focus on our customers that led our efforts 20 years ago will lead us into the future as we strive to pioneer the next generation of financial services and provide the best virtual experiences, anytime, anyway, anywhere.
I am honored to have worked with so many talented and hard-working team members over the past 20 years. It’s your dedication, willingness to think in new ways, and unwavering focus on our customers that will continue to fuel our success and growth for the next 20 years.
Technology with you, now and over time. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC