Wells Fargo's 'Control Tower' Helps Customers Track Their Digital Footprints

October 1, 2018

By Tanaya Macheel

Wells Fargo has officially launched a new digital organizer "Control Tower" within its mobile banking app, so customers nationwide can track their increasingly complex and scattered financial footprints.

“Customers’ digital financial lives are getting really complicated, and they’re sharing their information in a lot of places,” Ben Soccorsy, head of digital payments for Wells Fargo Virtual Channels, told Cheddar.

Control Tower will give users a single view of their payments and the spread of their sensitive financial data — including automated bill payments, third party and mobile wallets holding debit or credit card information, and the different physical devices that have signed into their banking account ー and lets them turn sharing of their bank account information on or off as they see fit.

As an example, one customer who's been testing the product moved to a new a city and said Control Tower helped her visualize the many vendors, like her old gym, that still had her card information but no longer needed it. The app has been in pilot mode for the last year.

The individual elements of Control Tower may just be features, but they’re valuable in a digital age when many are sharing data more freely and easily with countless businesses and platforms — retailers, ride-sharing apps, the many video and music streaming services, mobile wallets, finance apps, delivery and table-booking apps, quick-service restaurant apps. On deck: social commerce — this year Instagram began to allow users to store payment information.

Giving customers the ability to visualize their data is powerful, because it could remove uncertainty around who is handling their information and when. Ideally, Wells Fargo ($WFC) will eventually be able to show customers an even more comprehensive view of their shared data, beyond their debit and credit card use, and other banks will likely have to replicate that feature.

“Customers want the ability to control their data and share it when and how they want to share it and pay things when and how they want to pay them,” Soccorsy said.

For the past two years Wells Fargo has been struggling to rebound from the phony accounts scandal of September 2016, as well as a seemingly endless string of subsequent controversies around the internal handling and misuse of customer data. Control Tower, which aims to give customers more control over their own data, may seem like an attempt to restore trust in the company and bring users back. But the San Francisco-based back was actually trying to position itself as a leader in a movement to improve the safety and security of the industry’s data-sharing and exchange practices since before the scandal broke.

It did so through various agreements with tech companies that allowed the bank to push relevant data to third parties (think budgeting apps like Mint or finance apps like Robinhood or Acorns) with customers’ permission. That way, customers wouldn’t have to give untrusted entities their bank usernames and passwords ー a practice that may sound crazy, but in fact used to be the most common data-sharing practice among big U.S. banks, and may still be among some of the smaller ones, giving these parties access to more data than they’re entitled.

“We’re open to the fact that customers want to interact with third-party applications and increasingly that people want to have different types of banking interactions,” Soccorsy said. "We think that Control Tower plays a central role in how customers can interact with us."

It also eliminates the need to call the bank and probably endure a lengthy verification process or try to contact third parties and ask to unsubscribe (which probably takes a week, at least).

Banking institutions generally see themselves as custodians of personal data and the identities of their customers, which they need access to in order to optimize services so people continue to use them and ultimately provide even more of their data.

But Soccorsy maintained that “customers own their data, period” and that banking, which historically has been something customers do on the banks’ terms, is changing.

“It’s becoming about helping our customers when and how they want to interact with us and asking them to come home to Wells Fargo when they want to have the control points for where they have those interactions,” he said.

For full interview click here.

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