How Wells Fargo sped up onboarding process for commercial clients

When Wells Fargo technologists spoke recently with the bank’s commercial customers to find out what their biggest banking pain points were, a common sticking point was periodic customer reviews. During such reviews, the bank is required to obtain information about beneficial ownership. In many cases, one owner has multiple companies, sometimes 40 or 50.

“The process was, we would send documents by email for all 50 legal entities,” said Sachin Rege, digital transformation leader for the wholesale bank at Wells Fargo. “The customer would fill out and sign 50 forms. That was really painful for the customer.”

Rege’s team developed a knowledge graph of beneficial ownership using a program written in the R language that mines internal databases for clues to ownership. The results are displayed in Tableau software.

In the new process, the customer logs in to the CEO portal and all the legal entities that person owns are grouped together. The customer just has to sign once.

This is one example of a broader digital transformation Rege has been leading for the wholesale side of the bank for the past year.

The effort has centered on streamlining and automating processes or “customer journeys” such as new client onboarding. A customer journey is a path of sequential steps and interactions a customer goes through to accomplish something with a company. That something might be signing up as a customer, applying for and receiving a loan, or the ongoing servicing of a loan.

So far, a team led by Rege has redesigned and rendered paperless four such processes: new customer onboarding, periodic customer reviews, managing digital Small Business Administration loans and loan servicing.

Wells Fargo is not alone in trying to digitally transform its commercial banking. “Wells Fargo joins a handful of other forward-looking banks realizing that their legacy technology doesn’t support their digital engagement ambitions,” said Patti Hines, head of corporate banking at Celent. “Several are modernizing their corporate digital customer experiences.”

At Wells Fargo, the goal was “to elevate the customer experience and make it easy for our customers to achieve their financials goals, drive operational efficiency and reduce risk,” Rege said. “Digital transformation was not only a nice thing to do but also the right thing to do for our customers and team members so that we can provide them with better control, simplicity, convenience, and transparency.”

Redesigning processes

Wells Fargo has long offered a web portal for business clients called Commercial Electronic Office, which processes transactions but requires the separate emailing of documents for some.

The digital transformation Rege’s team is conducting is intended to give commercial banking customers and employees a better, more efficient experience.

When a commercial banking business unit comes to Rege asking to digitize a process, he applies the acronym SADE: “S” for simplify, “A” for automation, “D” for digitization, “E” for elimination.

“You look at each and every process, and first thing you do is try to eliminate the processes that we don’t need and then automate and streamline,” Rege said. “Then you digitize the process. You don’t want to digitize an analog process.”

The team talks with customers to understand the processes they find cumbersome. Then it builds a prototype of the new process in two weeks and starts showing it to customers and team members to get their feedback.

New commercial customer onboarding was formerly a process of documents such as tax returns being requested and sent over email. Often customers didn’t hear back unless there was a problem or the application was approved, typically in 60 to 90 days.

“There was a lot of frustration around it,” Rege said.

To streamline, the team built a document management solution using Documentum software. It also created a workflow in which the customer receives a document checklist and starts uploading the documents. As soon as the documents are provided, they’re available to a team member for review and approval. Throughout the process, the customer is informed in real time of the status of the application.

Customer onboarding now takes a few weeks to a month or so based on the complexity of the deal and the legal entity structure of the customer, Rege said.

Once customers are onboarded, they can log into the portal and click on the products they want. They can look at the loans they have and their maturity dates and change options. They can draw down on a loan, move money over to a demand deposit account, or make a payment online.

The new SBA customer journey starts with a customer talking to a banker, who then sends an invitation to the customer to self-register and complete a loan application digitally. It is self-service for the customer. The banker reviews and approves the documents online instead of through emails or manual processes.

About 89% of small business bankers at Wells Fargo are now using the SBA customer journey to enroll customers digitally. The bank has seen a 16-day reduction in time spent on loan approval.

“This is not for the Paycheck Protection Program,” Rege said. “This is digitizing the whole SBA platform end to end. We have enabled more than 500 deals on it in six months.” This represents a significant portion of the bank’s total SBA loan volume, he said.

All the new processes are being built in a reusable form Rege refers to at times as “digital journey as a service” and at other times “Lego blocks.” The idea is that this work can be picked up and used throughout the organization.

The four new customer journeys run on enterprise technology platforms that are based on Java and React (a JavaScript library for building user interfaces).

The group began working on all of this last September. Today the digital processes for periodic customer review, SBA loans and non-SBA loans are all live.

The digital customer onboarding is expected to go live in January.

Results so far

Commercial banking customers have electronically signed more than 6,000 documents this year. More than 800 periodic customer reviews have been completed digitally.

Digital loan servicing has been rolled out to 20 customers so far. The plan is to have more than 400 more customers using it within the next few months.

The progress of the digital onboarding project at this point is measured in number of processes. It used to take more than ten line of business processes to capture onboarding data. It now takes one.

This year, Rege said, his team laid the foundation for the improved customer and employee experience he is after.

“In 2021 we are hoping to wow customers with our digital experiences,” he said.

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