Wells Fargo: How Bigger Got Better
When Wells Fargo and CSC began working together as mutual clients nearly 25 years ago, both companies, and the industries they operated in, were considerably different.
Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco and essentially a regional U.S. bank at the time, focused on clients west of the Mississippi, while CSC, then headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., ran a business primarily fueled by large IT and business process outsourcing deals.
Fast-forward a couple of decades and almost none of that is true anymore. The banking and IT industries have been completely transformed. Economic recession and revival, disruptive technologies, and evolving consumer demands have all contributed to the change.
At CSC, an ongoing transformation is driving the company (now based in Falls Church, Va.) toward an emphasis on delivering client-focused next-generation technology, stored in the cloud, powered by big data and viewed in secure applications on mobile devices.
The $15 billion Wells Fargo Wachovia merger catapulted the 162-year-old bank into a new weight class, gaining a national retail banking network, more than doubling its total deposits and asset value, and expanding its capability of serving foreign clients.
But as a larger and stronger Wells Fargo surfaced from the Wachovia merger in 2011, a series of complex system integration projects challenged it on all fronts over the next few years. For the new Wells Fargo to thrive, groups, processes and workflows needed to be consolidated, integrated and updated.
Partnering during change
CSC’s long history with Wells Fargo put it in a unique position to help with the post-merger effort. Over the past decade, CSC and Wells Fargo had embarked on a series of consulting, systems integration, core banking, mobility, mortgage-loss mitigation and other strategic projects. Many of those projects took place within Wells Fargo’s Wholesale Banking division, which sells to large and midmarket commercial companies and consumers on a wholesale basis.
Peter Amendola, executive vice president and head of Wholesale Loan Services at Wells Fargo, leads a team of 600 professionals in the United States. Working alongside consultants from CSC, the team focuses on improving the delivery of credit services across the entire lending life cycle.
“Today, who we are as Wells Fargo is much different from when two companies came together as Wachovia and Wells Fargo,” Amendola says. “Things have changed significantly in terms of the size and the scale of the company, along with the complexity and regulatory environment.
“We realized that how we operated historically really needed to be revamped,” he adds. “Part of it is the regulatory element around data. The ability to access and control data is driving an end-to-end perspective. That is from the time it is a gleam in the eye of the customer through the booking of the loan and the eventual retirement of the debt. The other part is the global build-out, looking to expand globally, which is really to actually serve our domestic customers in the international arena.”
Since merging, Wells Fargo has converted more than 38 million Wachovia accounts, including mortgage, deposit, brokerage and credit card. And Wells Fargo now provides banking, insurance,investments and other financial services through more than 9,000 locations.
After the conversions were complete, the wholesale group’s biggest challenge was finding ways to efficiently process a much larger influx of loan transactions and internal requests from the bigger company.
“The focus was on how can Wells best standardize its back office functions but still provide distinctive service where needed in the markets at a reasonable cost,” says Ken Long, CSC’s account general manager for Wells Fargo. “That is really the business problem we set up to tackle, as the volume of transactions that this group is processing has more than doubled as a result of the merger.”
But while the transactions spiked, the number of staff allocated to process those transactions needed to stay relatively stable. Plus, the legacy Wells Fargo and the legacy Wachovia loan centers now needed a roadmap to operate as one entity, with consistent, integrated processes, tools and accountability.
Building a plan for success
CSC helped build a strategy and then a roadmap to implement that strategy and help Wells Fargo address the specific postmerger challenges for the Wholesale Loan Services group of the Wholesale Bank.
“I think of it as the whole life cycle of helping Wells Fargo create the strategy, develop the business, technical and organizational designs, and then help them build out the required solutions,” says Long, who has worked with Wells Fargo on various projects since 2003.
Leveraging the team’s extensive experience in the banking industry with several of the CSC team members’ relevant experience with high-tech clients, CSC worked closely with Amendola and his leadership team to lay out the target state and a roadmap for getting there.
“We really work with Wells Fargo in laying out the strategy,” says Tatyana Boone, a senior consultant in CSC’s Business Transformation group. “We don’t just come to them and say, ‘This is what should be done.’ We partner with them every step of the way to help design something that is a stretch but reachable.”
Identifying the root causes of pain points
Post-merger, Wells Fargo management needed a clear understanding of what and where their pain points were. CSC kicked off the process by surveying 3,000 employees across Wells Fargo’s lines of business over four weeks; gathering data about employee roles, responsibilities and technology; assessing which areas were the most urgent to address; and taking more than 100 identified pain points and focusing on the six root causes.
“We put together heat maps that really showed where the priority areas were, and then embarked on the first body of work to redesign our credit-spreading processes,” recalls Amendola, who joined Wells Fargo from Wachovia during the merger. “In that arena, we went from 250 different playbooks down to one standard credit dictionary.
“Historically, as a company, our mantra had always been, ‘Run it like you own it.’ Really, we began the synthesis of, ‘Run it like we own it’ and got multiple lines of business with the legal department to sit down and talk to each other about the end-to-end process and to come to an agreement on what is a standard process definition.”
But the improvement in communication and standardized definitions, which went live in March 2013, didn’t end there. The documentation process in the loan division needed an upgrade across the board, including processes such as checklists that loan officers follow when handling applications.
“One of the things we uncovered is that Wells Fargo has had more than two dozen different checklists in use,” says Boone, who works onsite at the Wells Fargo headquarters in San Francisco. “And so people could really pick and choose checklists. They weren’t standardized. Our goal is to get down to one checklist for specific functions.”
Improving quality, reducing anxiety
CSC also helped Wells Fargo identify additional standardization opportunities, including consolidating 30 different forms that loan managers were using to one single form. And in Wells Fargo’s board and disburse group, which is responsible for booking loans, processing fees and wire transfers, CSC helped to standardize 18 forms down to one.
The standardized playbooks, checklists and forms are driving great benefits for Wells Fargo. Booking cycle times are down 30 percent, and staff has more time to focus on productive work, rather than filling out dozens of forms.
“These are tangible, concrete results that by working with CSC we’ve delivered on,” Amendola says. “Also, I would say there’s an increased comfort from our lines of business around our ability to deliver. We had a lot of anxiety over some of the things we were going to embark upon, but at the end of the day, we delivered without issue.”
As the joint CSC and Wells Fargo projects move forward, the two groups are working to ensure that a seamless transition occurs after CSC leaves the building.
“We really do focus on knowledge transition,” Boone says. “We might lead the first project with their involvement, and then they lead the next one with our involvement. Now we’re in a phase where my team is taking a supporting role. We’re working with the client on their process redesign effort and helping to foster stakeholder alignment on recommendations.”
Once the groups agree on a stable process with clear roles and responsibilities and a governing structure to define how everyone works together, the next step will be for CSC to recommend technology Wells Fargo should adopt to automate and propel the process.
“You have to build the talent internally to take this forward, but that transition from consultant help to self-sufficiency is one of the strong suits that CSC does well, making sure that at the end of the engagement, we’re up on our own two feet,” Amendola says.
Chris Sapardanis is a senior editor for CSC’s digital marketing team.