Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mobile connectivity at top of Wells Fargo’s ATM strategy; ATM AI remains opaque

Intrigued by the growing power and proficiency of the Wells Fargo ATMs I frequent (they are using machine learning and predictive analytics to offer me the options I’m most likely to want, given my interactive ATM history), I reached out to the bank’s Corporate Communications office with a list of ten questions about the AI in their ATMs.  I got a prompt response from corporate spokesperson Hilary O’Bryne, who e-mailed me, saying:

“Thank you for reaching out! While we can’t comment on your questions below,  there are actually a couple of different cardless ATM features we’re planning to roll out in the next year or so that you’ll likely be interested in. First, later this spring, Wells Fargo customers will be able to use NFC [Near Field Communication] technology to conduct ATM transactions without using a debit or ATM card, instead using a mobile wallet. A customer initiates an ATM transaction by authenticating through a thumbprint or passcode on their smartphone, and holding the phone near an NFC-enabled ATM terminal. Once authenticated, the ATM will proceed to the main menu, allowing the customer to input his/her PIN and proceed to complete a transaction. Right now the wallet that we support is Android Pay, and we’ll continue to evaluate additional wallets.

”Additionally, in late 2016, Wells Fargo will pilot a feature that allows customers to withdraw cash from an ATM using a mobile app instead of an ATM card. First, customers log into the Wells Fargo mobile app, select an account and request an access code. When the customer arrives at the ATM, he or she simply types in the 8-digit code and their ATM pin, and proceeds to the main menu to perform a transaction.

“These new functionalities give customers another option to access their accounts in ways that are most convenient to them, and they exemplify Wells Fargo’s commitment to innovation that helps our customers succeed financially. Wells Fargo customers use all of our channels – everything from mobile to phone to stores to ATMs – to manage their finances. But mobile continues to be critically important, and it’s become the primary way in which millions of our customers interact with us daily and 20 or more times per month. We’re excited to provide our customers with another way to conveniently and securely make ATM transactions how and where they are – and for many that’s on a mobile device.”

Here are the unanswered questions I posed to the bank:

1.    Does the software in the ATM network that learns about a user’s habits and offers options based on their interactive history with it have a name?
2.    How long has it been in operation?
3.    Was it developed in-house by Wells Fargo or was it developed by an outside vendor?
4.    What unique deep learning and predictive analytics algorithms does it employ to reach its conclusions about what a user may want next when they access an ATM?
5.    How much time and money does the ATM’s AI save for Wells Fargo and its customers?
6.    Does Wells Fargo contemplate licensing the underlying software capabilities of its ATM systems to third parties for further modification, extension and use in other venues?
7.    Are the predictive algorithms being used to present useful options to ATM users closely related to other algorithms used by Wells Fargo to predict if a given transaction may be fraudulent?
8.    How do Wells Fargo’s predictive algorithms for ATMs compare with the systems in use by other banks?
9.    How have these enhanced capabilities been received by Wells Fargo’s ATM users? 
10.  Do you consider your ATM’s predictive capabilities to be a factor in enhancing user loyalty and retention rates?

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