Lisa Frazier is the head of Wells Fargo’s Innovation Group, an enterprise-wide organization devoted to accelerating the bank’s delivery of next-generation technologies, products, and services. The Innovation Group leads programs in artificial intelligence, distributed ledger technology, R&D in new technologies, the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator, and Greenhouse by Wells Fargo, a mobile-first banking experience geared toward improving financial health and planning to customers who need it, like students or others who are new to banking, or those who are paid irregularly. Prior to Wells Fargo, Frazier was the Chief Digital Officer for Commonwealth Bank of Australia, worked as a partner at McKinsey and advised startup companies on growth. Frazier has a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Melbourne, and an M.B.A. from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Frazier, a speaker at the Paris Fintech Forum, spoke to The Innovator about Wells Fargo’s digital transformation.
Q: Where is Wells Fargo in its digital transformation — beginning, middle, nearing the end?
LF: Our digital transformation doesn’t have an end. It is just part of the DNA along with death and taxes and change. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the ATM, which automated what the teller did behind the window, then we moved to online banking which enabled people to do digitally what they did in the branch and currently people can do their banking on their phone. The services have been fundamentally digitized but haven’t fundamentally changed. Now some banking functions are shifting to super apps. We will continue to offer banking services where customers need them. We have to be prepared for various outcomes.
Q: How is Wells Fargo leveraging new tech tools?
LF: Data analytics and AI are here now and have opened up an amazing opportunity for banking to get personalized. Today banking is about transactions. In the future your bank will be a coach helping you to make the next decision to get financial outcomes based on your lifestyle.
Q: What about blockchain?
LF: We have been active in the distributed ledger technology space since 2016 and very active participants in banking consortia but these projects take a long time. Distributed ledger technology is already enabling Wells Fargo to move money across borders for our corporate clients in near real time. It takes away friction, take less time and improves liquidity management.
Q: What do you see as your biggest challenge?
LF: My role as head of innovation is to look beyond digital transformation. Digital is table stakes at this point. The biggest challenge is around understanding the evolution of banking services and the business models associated with that: the transforming of culture and mindsets and the capabilities necessary to be prepared to operate in that world. When we think about future employees our needs will include AI specialists, data scientists and behavioral psychologists who can help with experiences versus products. We need to digitize risk, risk management, compliance and operations but it is also about capability so we are bringing in people with different backgrounds. And, we are also looking at different types of partnerships. A new addition to our Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator is The Climate Service that offers financial risk modeling on top of climate change models. We are looking at things like how do we build affordable housing and make it climate change proof? How do we make corporate properties green? What is important is to lean into these areas and partner with companies that have deeper expertise and start to bring that into the dialogue we have with customers and help our corporate clients with their climate footprint and more broadly with social goals.
Q: What have you learned on the job that would be helpful to others in similar roles?
LF: Innovation is not about shiny toys. It is about having a strategic point of view on the future. It is about understanding and having an obsession about customer problems you are trying to solve. Ideas are cheap. It is all about the execution.
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