One step from an accident leads to a Wells Fargo hit: Mobile banking

I still vividly remember when the idea that everyone was going to bank on mobile struck me. It was 2006, and I was leaving the office in San Francisco’s busy financial district, looking down at my BlackBerry. I crossed the street right in front of a moving bus. Luckily for me, the bus driver was nice enough to stop. The first thing I noticed, once I caught my breath, was that everyone was on their BlackBerrys, which are like computers in your hand. And people bank on their computers.

My next thought was, “They are going to bank on mobile.” I called my boss and explained. He gave me $5 million to figure it out, and nine months later, the first corporate mobile banking service, CEO Mobile®, was born at Wells Fargo.

I’ve been part of Wells Fargo for 28 years, and innovation has always been important. We have a history of using the most up-to-date technology to help customers succeed financially — first the stagecoach, and then the telegraph. Fast-forward to Wells Fargo being the first in the U.S. to offer internet banking. Now, we have a new Innovation Group that will speed up the process of change at Wells Fargo even more and deliver customer-inspired products and services.

A lot of new things are getting done inside our company — from products and services to business models and processes. Really good ideas are coming out of the bank’s businesses. Our Innovation Group will open the eyes of everyone around Wells Fargo to what’s going on.

This is valuable because we need more people inside Wells Fargo knowing what’s moving forward and thinking differently about their business than they did in the past two decades. We need a place where innovative ideas all across the company have a voice.

The team members in the Innovation Group are dedicated to communicating and partnering with business lines to bring more value to customers, team members, and shareholders. This team will be the catalyst to make change happen faster and will work in partnership with Wells Fargo businesses in five areas: research and development, innovation strategies, payment strategies, analytics, and design and delivery.

What’s next?

The “old” way of doing things involved our customers pulling services from Wells Fargo via their computers and cell phones. Today, we’re delivering things like video and location-based services in a new way to our customers — pushing services to them conveniently inside other mobile apps, known as APIs. It’s “banking as a service.” We’re pushing our services to customers where they want them.

Biometrics, which uses unique human characteristics such as fingerprints and retina scans, is a relevant example of work we’ve already done this way. We’ve been looking at proof of concepts for years. Then prototyping. And now, taking it mainstream.

Silicon Valley is in close proximity to our headquarters in San Francisco, and many startups are eager to pitch their ideas to Wells Fargo. We are looking at things coming out in the real world that will provide more value to customers.

I would love for our customers to talk about the things they would like to see in the future. Leave a comment below and let me know: What would you like us to pursue?

Want to know more?

Read more in an interview Ellis conducted with the Charlotte Business Journal.

About Steve

Ellis is head of the Innovation Group at Wells Fargo. A 28-year veteran of the company, he spearheaded the efforts that resulted in Wells Fargo establishing the industry’s first online banking platform for commercial customers.

Tagged , | 2 Comments

Why new EMV chip cards make sense for businesses

Platinum Wells Fargo debit card featuring EMV chip card technology

One of Wells Fargo’s new and replacement debit, ATM, and prepaid cards which feature new designs and EMV chip card technology.

The cost of card fraud in the U.S. is estimated at $8.6 billion per year. But help is on the way in the form of new EMV chip cards coming to the places where you buy gas, groceries, movie tickets, and many other products and services.

According to Payments Leader, an online industry publication, about 40 percent of the world’s credit and debit cards have the chips and 70 percent of the machines outside the U.S. can read them.1

Now the technology is developing and gaining attention in the U.S. because of the “liability shift” taking place Oct. 1. That’s when merchants will become liable for any fraudulent transactions if they don’t support EMV. Before that date, banks and card issuers are liable.

What is EMV technology?

Called EMV (after developers Europay, MasterCard and Visa), chip card technology helps consumers and merchants fight fraud by encoding cardholder information within an encrypted microchip that changes data with each transaction to make it more difficult to counterfeit than traditional magnetic swipe cards.

Most card issuers also may require a PIN or a signature for additional cardholder authorization, further increasing transaction security. In countries that have already migrated to the technology, point-of-sale fraud has been reduced by as much as 84 percent, according to studies by Visa and EMVCo.

Awareness gap

Most small business owners aren’t aware of the shift, according to the latest findings in our Q3 Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index Survey of 600 small business owners. According to the results:

  • Less than half of business owners who accept point-of-sale card payments are aware of the liability shift.
  • Among business owners who intend to add EMV chip card-enabled machines, 29 percent plan to upgrade before October, and 34 percent plan to upgrade soon afterward.
  • Almost a quarter (21 percent) say they never plan to upgrade.
  • Business owners were split equally on whether they thought the technology will reduce fraud.

EMV’s upside

When you consider that one out of every three businesses accepts point-of-sale card payments, and understand the competing priorities that face typical business owners every day, it’s not surprising to see the low awareness.

However, at Wells Fargo, we want to make sure more business owners are aware and understand the benefits of transitioning to EMV chip card technology. Our Wells Fargo Merchant Services business ranks these among the advantages of switching to a point-of-sale payment system that accepts chip cards:

  • Reduced risk of fraud. Upgrading to EMV-enabled systems may prevent businesses from becoming a target, as card fraudsters likely will concentrate on merchants that haven’t upgraded.
  • Fewer financial risks. Merchants that don’t accept EMV chip cards when presented may be liable for any resulting fraud and related costs.
  • More methods of payment. Most EMV equipment can accept contactless payments, enabling merchants to provide additional forms of convenient payment to its customers, including payments made with a smartphone.

We’re also encouraging business owners to talk with their merchant services providers to determine what steps they need to take before Oct. 1 to reduce the risk of card fraud and related costs.

Still have questions about chip cards? Check out WellsFargoWorks.com for tips on the process and benefits of accepting EMV chip card payments and the importance of EMV chip cards and reducing fraud.


Will Retailers be Ready for EMV by Oct 2015? (Payments Leader)


Small business owners unprepared to accept EMV chip cards infographic. Alt: Small business owners unprepared to accept EMV chip cards infographic from Wells Fargo

About Doug

Case is Wells Fargo’s Small Business Segment manager responsible for the strategic direction of Wells Fargo’s focus on small business, which includes the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business initiative, and the online resource, WellsFargoWorks.com. Today, Wells Fargo serves nearly 3 million small business customers across the United States and loans more money to America’s small businesses than any other bank (2002-2013 CRA government data).

Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

College tuition sticker shock and the value of higher education

Father helps son unload items for his dorm room at collegeFor many, the end of summer signals the time when parents, families, and loved ones bid farewell to a teen who is taking the first steps onto a college campus.

As the leader of Wells Fargo’s Personal Lending Group, which includes Education Financial Services business, I’ve always associated higher learning with societal progress, opportunity, and hope for a better life. Yet in the homes of college-bound teens, more conversations are focusing on college tuition “sticker shock” when families calculate college expenses.

The national discussion about the $1.2 trillion (and growing!) in student debt gets louder each year. With no end in sight for rising college costs, it begs the question, “Is higher education still a symbol of opportunity, given the expense of a college degree?”

Spiraling costs

State funding to support public colleges has been falling for some time, and students and families are making up the shortfall. During the 2014–15 academic year, using current dollars for comparison, the average annual cost of tuition and fees at a public, four-year university was $9,139. That’s up from $428 in the early 1970s. At private, nonprofit four-year universities, tuition and fees went from $1,832 to $31,321 during the same period.

If tuition costs continue to increase faster than the rate of inflation, we’ll see students with no other choice than to take on more debt. Already, student loan debt increased from $15,000 to $27,000 between 2004 and 2014, according to research from The College Board.

Changing enrollment

Given the cost of college, more parents than ever are asking, “Is a four-year college best?” Consequently, more teens are enrolling in community colleges or professional schools after high school. A report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center showed that 46 percent of students who completed a four-year college degree had been enrolled at a two-year institution at some point over the previous 10 years.

Our response

How students are paying for higher education is also changing. Falling interest rates are contributing to an increase in the refinancing of student debt, allowing for the combining of multiple student loans into one monthly payment at a lower cost. The private student loan marketplace has been quick to respond with more financial product offerings and promotions to drive down the cost of college.

This includes Wells Fargo’s Get College Ready program, which offers interest rate discounts on new and refinanced private student loans on top of other rate discounts available to customers. We also are offering a newly designed, interactive website that helps students plan and prepare for college.

Of course, it’s nearly impossible to estimate what college will cost decades from now. So we’re also committed to investing even more in financial education resources to help families plan and prepare. For example, in addition to Get College Ready, our current resources include the CollegeSTEPS emagazine, the Student LoanDownSM blog, and an army of team members who volunteer their time each year to conduct college planning workshops at high schools.

Still worth the cost

Despite balancing the rising cost of college, low interest rates, and a changing student loan marketplace, is college still worth it?

I believe the answer is yes. Statistics continue to show that the benefits of earning a college diploma outweigh the investment. An adult with a bachelor’s degree will earn on average $56,700 ($27.26 per hour) annually, or $2.3 million over a lifetime. Bachelor’s degree holders also typically earn 31 percent more than workers with an associate’s degree and 74 percent more than those with a high school education.

Want to know more?

Listen to a Wells Fargo-recorded podcast of a media briefing about rising college tuition, financial aid, and the way forward featuring Rasmussen, Wells Fargo Senior Economist Eugenio Aleman (author of the report, “A Demographic Look at Student Loans”), and Johnny Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund:

 

Wells Fargo What College Costs infographic

Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Homeownership survey says: Dream alive, but misconceptions remain

A lot has changed since I started my career in the mortgage industry more than 25 years ago. But owning a home remains a vital part of the American dream and of the strength of our communities, economy, and nation.

Those sentiments were confirmed again by our second annual Wells Fargo Homeownership Survey,* which found that most Americans agree now is a good time to buy a home. That’s the good news.

The not-so-good? Misconceptions remain that are holding many potential buyers back, including the two biggest obstacles:

  • The mistaken belief that credit scores alone determine eligibility for a home loan.
  • The mistaken belief that buyers need at least a 20 percent down payment.

These persist despite efforts by lenders and the government to make credit for mortgages more available and to introduce low down payment programs. We believe these misconceptions can be overcome with a better understanding of how credit works.

Beyond the credit score

Percentage of home buyers who think a 20 percent down payment is required infographicCreditworthiness is not determined based on a single factor, so it’s important for potential homebuyers to investigate home financing options before excluding themselves based on credit scores alone. A good lender will use a borrower’s entire financial picture, not just credit score, when deciding whether to lend.

In addition, many borrowers overestimate what is truly a “good credit score” and think it should be above 780. In reality, while there are multiple credit score models and investor guidelines, a score higher than 780 is generally considered “excellent,” and more than 660 is generally considered “good.”

The legend of the 20 percent down payment

Surprisingly, many people still believe a 20 percent down payment is required to get a home. The fact is, there are other options that some borrowers may be eligible for, including programs with down payments as low as 3 percent.

The important thing here is to do your homework. Have a good understanding of what you can afford and find a lender that will look at your full financial picture and help you understand the options available to you.

 Home buyers want online convenience and personal guidance infographicHigh tech with a human touch

One other interesting finding in this year’s survey was that consumers are increasingly looking for digital options. Many potential homebuyers prefer doing online research before they talk to a mortgage lender or a bank, or even before consulting family or friends.

But, when they are ready to apply, most consumers want high-tech tools and a human touch. That makes it even more important to choose a lender that can provide the convenience of online tools like yourLoan TrackerSM, as well as personal guidance from local professionals, like Wells Fargo’s 7,500-plus home mortgage consultants.

Of course, these are only starting points. More than anything, it’s important for consumers to educate themselves so they can make informed choices.

I’m personally inspired by what consumers told us in the survey. It tells us that homeownership is a vital part of the American dream, and it gives us insight into how we can help customers achieve financial success. It also reinforces that, while the housing industry has changed, the importance of homeownership in America has not.

Have a story about your personal journey to homeownership? Use the “Leave a comment” feature below to share your ideas.

About Franklin
Codel is the head of Mortgage Production for Wells Fargo Home Lending, which includes sales, operations, quality, compliance, underwriting, and support for Wells Fargo’s Retail and Correspondent Mortgage lending businesses.

*National survey of 2,016 respondents conducted online between April 8–15, 2015, for Wells Fargo. The sample includes 1,924 respondents who either own or rent a home. 

Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Five steps toward declaring financial independence

I'm declaring financial independence photo of woman managing money onlineEvery Fourth of July I look forward to two things: celebrating the holiday with friends and family (around our house, we like a good barbecue), and appreciating the freedoms we enjoy every day. As we think about Independence Day and our freedoms, let’s not forget the importance of understanding how to work toward our own financial independence.

Independence Day reminds us that we have the freedom to pursue any goals we set our minds to — that’s the American Dream. For many, part of that dream is achieving financial independence and success. Many of us have mortgage, car, and tuition payments that we make every month and — sometimes — the idea of managing debt can seem challenging.

While it can be overwhelming, here are some small steps you can take today to make managing your debt easier and move closer to financial independence:

  1. Monitor your credit regularly: Make sure your credit report contains current and accurate information. If you find errors, correct them as soon as possible because they may negatively impact your credit score and even indicate possible identity theft. You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion® — once each year at AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll-free 877-322-8228.
  2. Pay more than the minimum payment due: Paying more than what’s due, or paying every two weeks, instead of the minimum balance once a month, can help you to pay down debt faster and may also improve your credit score.
  3. Know your limits: Being close to or maxing out your credit limits may negatively impact your credit score. It’s a good idea to keep your balance on revolving lines under 30 percent of your credit limit. Generally, the lower your balances, the better your credit score.
  4. Take on new debt only when needed: Apply for or open new credit accounts only if you need them. Having too many accounts can lower your credit score and may become difficult to manage.
  5. Always pay on time: Payment history makes up 35 percent of your credit score. If you have missed a payment, pay as soon as possible — it makes a difference. Credit reports will track if you are 30, 60, or 90 days late on payments.

Because more than half of Americans want to learn more about credit, according to a 2014 Wells Fargo survey, we recently enhanced the “Borrowing and Credit” section of wellsfargo.com. With the redesign, we made that section (one of the most popular links from our home page) mobile-friendly. That means when consumers come to us using a smartphone or tablet, it will be easier for them to find the information that can help them make responsible, informed decisions about borrowing and credit.

The redesign also includes a refreshed Smarter Credit™ Center where consumers can find tips and guidance to help them establish, improve, or rebuild their credit and stay on track with debt.

As I mentioned before, managing debt can be challenging, but if we’re committed to pursuing it, it can yield incredible results. Said James Truslow Adams, who coined the “American Dream” phrase: “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

For more information about credit and how to manage it, visit the new Smarter Credit Center at www.wellsfargo.com/smarter_credit.

About Gary
Korotzer leads the Wells Fargo Consumer Credit Solutions Marketing team, where he oversees marketing support for several Wells Fargo businesses, including credit card, personal lines and loans, direct auto, fee-based services, rewards, and student lending.

Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Money-saving tips for newlyweds

 Elli and Tony Dai on their wedding day and today

Elli and Tony on their wedding day (left) and today.

’Tis the wedding season, and I remember my big day ― now nearly 25 years ago ― as well as the financial challenges and lessons that followed.

While my job for Wells Fargo involves helping people save for retirement, I can tell you that my early married years were tough financially. We married fairly young (by today’s standards) and started our family early. My husband, Tony, delayed college while serving in the Army, so I worked while he earned his undergraduate degree. Then I went to night school for my master’s degree when he was done.

One child became two, and finally three.

Like many young families, we had a lot of financial goals to work toward. Money was tight. There were many weeks when we really weren’t sure how we were going to make it to the next paycheck. But we found our footing, figured out a plan that worked for us, and made it through.

Looking back, there were principles that helped us get our financial footing and build a solid foundation. What follows are five money-saving tips that have served us well. I hope they’ll do the same for other couples who are beginning their lives together.

  • Limit the number of credit cards. We came into our marriage with a bunch of smaller balances on different credit cards. It masked the true amount of debt that we had and also stressed me out to see all of the bills roll in each month. Our first joint task as a married couple was to pay off the cards one by one and get down to a single card that we paid off every month.
  • Save a little at a time. After our bills were paid each month, we’d see what was left over and if we could eke out an extra $50. Then, we started an automatic savings program to deduct that from our checking account every month, or add to one that we’d already set up. I’ll admit it was hard to commit to save those dollars, when we’d have rather had a nice dinner out. And we didn’t always follow through! But over time, this strategy helped us get into the savings habit. We were able to establish one account for every main goal that we had and were soon seeing our savings build every month. We also committed to save 85 percent of any raises or bonuses and took advantage of our 401(k) plans at work to squeeze out extra savings.
  • Focus on staying healthy. Simply put, we couldn’t afford to get sick. I had very little vacation time, and Tony had a job where if he didn’t work, he didn’t get paid. Paying for a gym membership was out of the question. Fortunately, I knew how to cook inexpensive, healthy meals (thank you, Mom!), so we kept our grocery bills low and ate well. Tony would play in community sports leagues, which was a key source of exercise and inexpensive social outings for us. Thankfully, we made it through those years without any major medical issues.
  • Underspend on housing. Once things started to stabilize for us, we still chose to rent a tiny apartment for several years. We were constantly asked why we didn’t move to a nicer place now that we could afford to. In hindsight, those few extra years in the apartment were one of the best financial decisions we ever made. It freed up hundreds of dollars each month that we could sock away towards a down payment on our first house — and allowed us to finally establish a substantial emergency savings account.
  • Avoid the lure ― and prolonged payments ― of new cars. We’re not “car people,” so we buy mostly used cars and drive them until they die. We have a van that has more than 200,000 miles and could tell some great stories if only it could talk. Even avoiding having car payments for a few months (and saving the difference) can add up over the years.

While those are the basics that have served my husband and me well over the years, we’re always learning and adding to the list. (There are so many retirement planning calculators and tools available that can help you plan.) Example: That old “take your coffee to work to save money” cliché? Well, it’s true. I started doing that about nine months ago when I realized how much I was spending for my favorite chai latte every morning. I still enjoy a visit to the local barista occasionally with my teammates. But, I have racked up the savings and am living proof that sometimes even the most trite advice has merit!

Things are different for us now. Twenty-plus years of (mostly) good habits have allowed us to raise our kids and enjoy life without too many financial detours. But we hope to have a lot of years ahead of us, and so we also hope to continue to stay disciplined in reaching our next set of goals.

We’ll never be “the Joneses,” and we’re perfectly OK with that. Having lived on the financial edge, we treasure the peace of mind that comes from living within our means while continuing to save for the future.

What tips would you add to my list? Use the comments feature below to continue the conversation and help other young couples wisely move forward financially together.

About Elli

Dai leads the Participant Services group at Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust, where she oversees the education, communication, and call centers for retirement plan participants.

Tagged , , | 14 Comments

The secret to saving for retirement: Life-stage planning

Top three reasons infographicMy family has been reaching a lot of important milestones lately. One of our daughters just graduated from college and got a job. My son just bought his first home, and my youngest daughter is entering her junior year in college — only two more years of tuition! Now empty nesters, my wife and I are contemplating downsizing.

All of these are major life changes that require guidance (whether from family, friends, or a professional) and planning, because they definitely affect saving for retirement.

So you can imagine how interested I was in this quarter’s Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index, which included a question about when investors would want to seek professional advice.

At the top of the list were creating a long-term financial plan, nearing retirement, and buying a house. At the bottom? Making a major purchase like buying a car, starting a new job, and getting married.

While that might surprise some, it doesn’t surprise those of us in the retirement industry. It also shows the considerable gap we’re still working to close as we help people realize retirement is something you have to plan for and work toward throughout life.

I like to think about it in four life stages:

  • Early savers, like my daughter, the new college grad with a new job.
  • Mid-career folks who have competing financial priorities – kids in college, aging parents, etc.
  • Near-retirees who have complex questions: When can I retire? How long should I plan on being retired? When do I begin collecting Social Security?
  • Retirees, who need to know how much monthly income they have to work with.

Because each life stage brings its own set of retirement-planning needs, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but here are some things to keep in mind as you move through each of them:

Early savers. If you have access to a workplace retirement plan, start using it as soon as you’re eligible, and make sure to save enough at least to get the company’s 401(k) match. You have the power of time on your side, and can make the most of compounding at this stage. If you don’t have a workplace plan, set up auto contributions to an IRA. Get in the habit of saving, and create a budget to help you stick to it as you’re just starting out. I always told my kids: Enroll in a workplace retirement plan, get the match, diversify your investments, contribute at least 10 percent, and come back to talk to me in 10 years about how your money has grown.

Mid-career f0lks. This is the time when your financial life becomes more complex. Maybe you have a family and a home and are starting to realize that retirement will one day arrive so you want to save more. But maybe you’re also trying to save for kids’ college or are caring for aging parents. It’s hard to balance these priorities. Step back and take a personal financial inventory. Look at monthly income and expenses (this can be done in minutes with most financial websites), and I am confident you can find discretionary expenses to shift to retirement savings. Even if it’s only a little now, it can make a difference later.

Near-retirees. By now, the light at the end of the professional tunnel is clearer, and you know retirement is just around the corner. This is when catch-up contributions can really help, so take advantage of them when you become eligible at age 50. Also, this is a time many begin thinking about how to make that retirement nest egg last through retirement. This can be a good time to seek professional financial help to figure that out – because it’s not only about figuring out your own longevity, but also how to manage risk so that your savings are protected as you’re reaching the end of your working years.

Retirees. You’ve crossed the finish line, but this can actually be an incredibly complex time with your money as you determine when to start collecting Social Security, where your income will come from (taxable accounts or tax deferred accounts?), how much to withdraw from your retirement savings each month, and how to address healthcare costs, and estimate how long you’ll live (and subsequently how long you need your money to last). Shifting from a regular salary to spending your retirement savings can be a scary transition given the complexity of decisions and options. Seek out the advice of financial professionals well in advance of your actual retirement date. Research and explore a number of potential strategies including optimization of Social Security choices, use of guaranteed income, longevity insurance, lifetime care options, and investment strategies that optimize income and manage risk. Active engagement and planning for your retirement income phase will make sure all your years of hard work and savings are maximized to help enjoy life in retirement – you’ve earned it!

Life does come at us fast, but when it comes to retirement saving, foresight always pays off.

About Joe
Ready is the director of Institutional Retirement and Trust for Wells Fargo, overseeing the company’s employer-sponsored retirement plan business as well as institutional trust and custody services to help America’s diverse workforce prepare for a better retirement.

full 2Q2015 Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index infographic

Tagged , , , , | Be the first to comment

Nail it! 9 ways to hone your startup’s pitch to a prospect

My job is to help tweak the evolution of technology at Wells Fargo by working with young companies that have innovations to offer us — and to influence the success of these young companies by exposing them to the scale of a large and complex corporation.

Too often, though, I feel like I’m at a “speed dating” exercise: Startup leaders, I find, seldom are expert at pitching their solutions to corporate executives.

For technology companies to be successful, you need to know how to navigate the labyrinth of stakeholders, incentives, concerns, and the accompanying risk, compliance, and business drivers of a company with scale and complexity.

In advance of Wells Fargo’s 2015 Technology Partnership Summit in San Francisco, we asked leaders from across Wells Fargo* for pointers they would give to tech companies pitching to larger clients.

  1. Acknowledge the obvious challenges
    Large, complex companies can challenge the best of technologies both in terms of size and architecture. Be prepared to constructively respond to this challenge with agility, differentiation, and speed-to-market. Your product, platform, and pitch should reflect this reality.
  2. Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate
    You are potentially displacing or otherwise disrupting incumbent vendors. Be crisp on how you differentiate and fact-based on how your solution is unique. You can also explore partnering with a larger technology company for navigating enterprise scale.
  3. Get specific
    What can your technology do now versus what is in the roadmap ahead? At some stage in the pitching process, you’ll need to review your financials, funding, staffing, and sales pipeline. Be prepared with details for evaluation of things like what your cost model is and how you are positioned to compete and defend against copycats.
  4. Work your contacts
    Avoid the urge to send an email blast to everybody you can get to via LinkedIn. This has a counterproductive effect on a company’s appetite to engage and is a colossal waste of resources for all. A more effective method is to approach a company through a referral from your investor partner, a board member, or a key business or technology executive.
  5. Do your homework!
    Most larger companies have a wealth of public information in print, online, and social media. Understand the company’s scale, business imperatives, risk appetite, and more by doing your research ahead of time. Also know who you’re meeting with. Is it senior technology leaders? Their staffs? The receptionist? Know who they are, and tailor your message for the audience.
  6. Mute the sales pitch
    Most companies are acutely aware of the problems or opportunities for which you’re trying to solve. Avoid obvious and absolute superlatives and “market speak.” Instead, compare and contrast with obvious and not-so-obvious competitors and technically proven facts.
  7. Crawl before you run
    If feasible, start with smaller institutions before pitching to a larger company, which allows you to position more credibly to solve for the opportunity.
  8. Place the geeks front and center
    Bring your senior technical and executive leaders to deep-dive meetings so they can participate. Sales pitches are a dime a dozen. Large companies have armies of sales consultants. Differentiate your company by being technical, visionary, precise, and brief.
  9. Be pragmatic, not dogmatic
    Although you’re certain you can solve every problem — and your ideas are technically sound — be pragmatic in how it integrates in a cost-effective and risk-neutral way with existing technologies. Avoid getting into philosophical debates on what the possibilities are.

What tips would you share? What questions do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


*Important disclaimer: These pointers are a synthesis of suggestions from several leaders at Wells Fargo who provided counsel: Phil Little of Wells Fargo Securities, Avi Avivi of Cybersecurity Architecture, Brian Pearce of Wells Fargo Virtual Channels, Jeff Peckham and Eric Altman of Enterprise Data/Analytics Architecture, Bipin Sahni of Wholesale Services and the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator, and Vas Kodali of Advanced Technology and Partnerships.


About Manoj

Govindan works in Alliances for Advanced Technology & Partnerships at Wells Fargo, strengthening the company’s exposure to emerging technologies and supporting technology investment.

Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A business plan: An essential part of small business success

Wells Fargo infographic showing only one in three businesses have a business plan. upon click, make this call up larger one provided here in attachmentsAs the former owner of a strategic marketing and communications agency in San Francisco, I can’t stress enough the importance of a written business plan. My small business didn’t have a documented plan, but if my partners (also good friends) and I were ever asked, we’d have said we had one in our heads.

This rings true for a lot of small business owners today. In fact, only one in three in our January 2015 Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index said they had a formal, written plan. But those who told us they did have plans reported greater optimism for 2015, including plans to: add jobs, increase capital spending, and generate higher sales during the next 12 months.

Why are business plans important?

Today, I have the opportunity to be part of a team at Wells Fargo that is doing everything we can to help small businesses meet today’s demands and prepare for tomorrow. We know business owners in general are very busy and mainly focused on day-to-day activities. So it’s not surprising to see that creating a written business plan isn’t top-of-mind for most entrepreneurs. However, we believe that creating a formal business plan is an important step for a successful business — which is why we recently launched Wells Fargo’s Business Plan Center as the latest Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM offering.

The primary purpose of a business plan, in addition to defining what your business is and where you’re headed, is also to clarify what needs to be done to move ahead. A business plan is a living document that should be updated as goals are met and needs change. It doesn’t last forever, so modifying your plan is an important annual or quarterly exercise to help you focus on the future as well as the day-to-day.

In looking back at my experience as a small business owner, I wish my two partners and I had created a formal plan. We ran a successful operation and the constant demands of steady work created its own positive momentum. But with a plan on paper, we could have built a more-sustainable business model to prepare for changes and challenges. Experience and instinct guided our decisions along the way, but had we gone through a planning process that included scenarios, outcomes, and potential next steps, we’d have had more clarity and been better aligned about where we were taking the business.

What we’re doing to help

Our new Business Plan Center is a free online resource available on WellsFargoWorks.com. It features a Business Plan Tool that guides you step by step through the process of developing a written business plan. It also offers a Competitive Intelligence Tool you can use to gain insights about your competition, such as maps and lists of competitors or how they compare to your business in areas like revenue, annual average worker salary, number of employees, and more.

The Business Plan Center recommends that each of these components are part of your plan to ensure long-term success:

  1. Company Overview: A description of the business, products, or services you’re selling today and enhanced offerings you’d like to bring to market.
  2. Analysis: A thorough analysis of the market and competition.
  3. Marketing Plan: A strategic plan to set your business apart from competitors and reach your prospective audience.
  4. Financial Data: Your starting balances, plans for generating revenue, and sales forecasts. Our Business Plan Tool allows you to generate financial statements – such as a detailed cash flow statement, profit and loss statement, and balance sheet.
  5. Executive Summary: A business recap – who you are, what you sell, who you sell to, and financial summary.

As I reflect on my former business, having access to an online tool like this would have made a huge difference. With a better view of the future, we might have expanded into new markets, differentiated our business model, and established formal succession plans to help with the evolution of the business. Of course in hindsight, it’s easy to identify steps we could have taken, but the message is clear: Creating a business plan is an important step for any business.

About Doug

Case is Wells Fargo’s Small Business Segment manager responsible for the strategic direction of Wells Fargo’s focus on small business, which includes the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business initiative, and the online resource WellsFargoWorks.com. Today, Wells Fargo serves approximately 3 million small business customers across the United States and loans more money to America’s small businesses than any other bank (2002-2013 CRA government data).

Tagged , , | Be the first to comment

Six tips to teach your children how to save

Child puts coin in piggy bank This Friday, April 24, Wells Fargo joins community banks around the U.S. to mark Teach Children to Save® Day, which focuses on the importance of developing lifelong saving habits.

To teach your kids how to save, consider these six tips I used to help my own children (now 19 and 21) start early:

  • Set up a savings account. While piggy banks are great for young children saving small amounts of money, savings accounts are a safer place for your children to keep their money. Wells Fargo’s Way2Save® Savings account has no monthly service fees for primary account holders under 18 (19 in Alabama), and can be opened with a deposit of as little as $25. Whether you open a savings account with Wells Fargo or with another bank, consider having your child participate in the Junior Agent® Savers Club, which has fun games and educational tools to help children ages 5 to 12 learn about savings.
  • Save a specific part of each allowance or paycheck. When my kids were 7 or 8, I started giving them a weekly allowance (for chores around the house) and required that they save a specific amount each week. When they were in their teens and got jobs, we continued that habit, and they deposited a portion of each paycheck into a savings account.
  • Automate savings. If you have an account with Wells Fargo, you can automatically transfer part of your child’s allowance to their savings account, or even create a matching savings program to encourage your child to save more. And when your child is ready for a job, she will likely be able to set up direct deposit, and automatically direct a certain amount of each paycheck to a savings account. Their money will start to add up before they know it.
  • Make children accountable for decisions involving their money. While long-term savings are important, it’s also important for children to understand the value of saving for a purchase. When my kids were younger, they wanted to pick out a toy every time we went shopping. If those purchase decisions were made instead with their own spending money — their saved allowance, birthday money, or money specifically intended for the shopping trip — they often decided to keep their money to save for something more significant. If it was using my money, they simply couldn’t live without that new item!
  • Make sure kids’ accounts keep up with their lives. Most kids ages 3-12 don’t have complex spending habits, so a savings account is probably all they need. But as your kids become teenagers, get jobs, and have their own expenses, you should consider opening a checking account to help them manage their money. The Wells Fargo Teen Checking account comes with a debit card and no monthly service fee with online-only statements. Parents can set spending and ATM withdrawal limits, so I think of it as a checking account with “training wheels.”
  • Personalize your approach. Some kids are interested in saving their money from the moment they earn their first dollar, but some will need more encouragement and guidance. You know your kids better than anyone else. Talk to them about strategies that worked for you – and ones that didn’t – and don’t necessarily expect all of your kids to have the same rules. Managing money and building good savings habits are lifelong skills — finding a personalized approach that can work for their personality is a good way to set them up for success.

Of course, these tips are only a starting point, and you may find other ways to help your children learn healthy financial skills. For more tools that will help you and your children as you learn to save, please visit our Hands on Banking® website.

Teaching Children to Save Early Infographic

About Erin
Constantine is head of Consumer Checking and Saving for Wells Fargo’s Deposit Products Group.

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC.

Tagged , | Be the first to comment