Wells Fargo’s CMO on Lifetime Customers, Mountains of Data, and Coming Back From a Scandal

Near the top of the homepage on Wells Fargo’s website, there’s a box that reads: “Working hard to earn your trust.” That trust has been put to the test over the last year, after news broke that thousands of employees had opened millions of unauthorized accounts, forcing customers to pay illegitimate fees.

Since then, Wells Fargo has been on the rebound, focusing on using technology to shape its customer service. That means investing in everything from artificial intelligence to video to virtual reality. At the core of all this investment is storytelling. As CMO Jamie Moldafsky said last month at Collision 2017, “We have to rebuild trust with our customers. We think we have a good story because a lot of our changes have been about making a better employee experience.”

During the conference, I interviewed Moldafsky to find out more about how Wells Fargo is tailoring the customer experience and why last year’s scandal has sparked a renewed focus on content.

How would you describe Wells Fargo’s approach to content?

Marketing serves as an air traffic controller to determine what content to focus on. Our job is to make sure that we make the content available that day, for that audience, at the right time. We invest a lot in the infrastructure to enable that. We focus on understanding the customer and where that customer is in their journey.

How have you focused more on delivering content at the right points in the customer journeys?

It’s about tailoring the experience. For example, we’ve always had student lending, student checking accounts, and student credit cards. Now, we’ve created more of a centralized hub for students that actually help them as their needs evolve over time. It’s much more needs-based. It’s much more customer-focused.

Why the focus on students?

When you form relationships early on, they are stickier. It’s all about an experience. If we deliver a great experience, we have a lifetime customer. I think one of the opportunities for full-service financial firms like Wells Fargo is that we have the products and services to help people in their journeys, from college graduation to home buying.

If we have a historical relationship with the customer, we’re better able to serve their needs. We also find that’s the stage in life when people most want this guidance, when they’re starting to break out on their own and actually establish these relationships.

Are you thinking at all about utility content, like calculators and the different tools for financial planning?

Absolutely. We just launched recently something called “My Credit Options Guide.” Part of what we realize is people come in and sometimes say, “I need a car loan.” Let’s step back. First of all, do you need to borrow money? Do you want to use a checking account or savings account? The answer is, “No, I haven’t thought of that.”

Every CMO in 2017 has access to a pile of data. How do you evaluate what’s actually relevant to your business?

I would call our’s a mountain versus a pile. We have 70 million customers and 6 billion transactions. It’s often much more important to look at the behavior associated with the data. What insights do we have about either their expressed or hypothesized behavior?

It’s all about an experience. If we deliver a great experience, we have a lifetime customer.

I’ll give you an example. Somebody gets a automatic deposit of $10,000, then all the sudden, one comes in that’s $50,000. What does that tell you? They probably have a different need. If that much money was deposited, it’s an opportunity to reach out and say, “Is this something you want to invest? Is this something you want to save? Is this something you want to use to pay off your loans?”

That’s where artificial intelligence for us is really exciting.


We’re dealing with very, very complex dimensions of inflows, outflows, time, and then access. All those are variables that have to come together to create an informed solution or suggestion. That’s why AI is so appealing. You have to take into account every channel over time, all the products and services, and then the third-party data.

What role does video play in your content strategy?

We shifted a lot of dollars from traditional channels to digital video. We’ve also seen a huge shift to shorter form video. It used to be 30 seconds, then it’s 15 seconds, now it’s eight seconds.

How-to videos from thought leaders have been really successful for us because these are things that you take for granted if you’re a novice investor. It’s really helpful to have somebody walk you through those things.

How are you determining ROI on video?

I’m exploring the video distribution sources. If you have a piece of content on the economy, and you get 25 CFOs to look at it, that’s probably good. On that flip side, if you’re putting out a how-to video, and you only got 25 customers, you’d be miserably depressed. Learning how to measure the video consumption and the video downstream impact is really challenging but something we’re really focused on.

Are you experimenting with augmented reality or virtual reality?

We’re exploring. Our philosophy is that we’re going to be everywhere our customer wants us to be, hopefully in an engaging way facilitates the process.

In financial services, it’s a little trickier. There’s one end of the spectrum, which is helping people visualize their retirement through VR. At the other end is “I want to move money from A to B.” We’re testing across that spectrum. We have always been a technology company. You have to make sure people understand how committed we are to innovation and technology and then it starts to get more interesting.

How is experiential a part of your strategy?

The other benefit of Wells Fargo is that we do actually have the ability to foster in-person relationships. Tools often start valuable conversations, but people often come to us and say “Now I get that the tool told me I need to do x, y, or z, but a calculator said I should be saving $1,000 a month. I don’t know how to do that.”

I was on a panel earlier and someone asked “Do people even go into banks anymore?” Actually they do. We constantly look at how to use those occasions and interactions. How do you make everything experiential?

Let’s talk a little bit about your strategy. How does your brand tell its story, and how does that relate to recruiting and hiring?

Obviously, we’ve had some reputation setbacks. Day by day we are introducing things that make it a better place to work. We raised our minimum wage. We changed our goals from product sales goals to more relationship- and service-type roles.

The story actually really becomes Wells Fargo helping people build better careers. Hiring is a challenge, especially where we are, headquartered in San Francisco, the heart of Silicon Valley. We’re competing for a lot of technology resources. The other piece would be training. We invest a lot in training and skill development.

We’re finding having people join a vision of helping customers be successful and giving them a path to do that is more and more important. Those are kinds of programs that a lot of people that join us really love, because it’s not a desk job. It doesn’t feel like a desk job.

Did last year’s scandal generate a renewed focus on content?

Absolutely. In fact, we just met with our recruiting team the last couple weeks to address that point. The message has to be different. We have to rebuild trust with our customers. We think we have a good story because a lot of our changes have been about making a better employee experience.

We’re a company that has deep pockets to actually fund those things, which, as you know, in this world, can be a really hard part of it. You can have the best vision in the world, but it won’t matter if you don’t have the means to bring it to life. We have the means to bring it to life. Thinking about accelerating, moving faster, bringing speed to market, into the culture.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

Image by Erhui1979 / Getty

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