Wells Fargo: Doubling down on card-free ATM access

Wells Fargo has made a habit of rolling out ATM firsts in the U.S.— the bank’s pioneering innovations over the years have included on-screen advertising, envelope-free deposits, postage stamp dispensing, customized transaction menus, email and SMS receipts, cash redemption of credit card points, and probably a few others not on this list.

Alas, Wells Fargo cannot claim a first with cardless ATM transactions, but it can claim credit for all-in implementation, with a simultaneous rollout of both NFC- and code-based programs (starting in the second quarter and the second half of 2016, respectively) for card-free access at Wells Fargo ATMs.

ATM Marketplace spoke about the project with Jonathan Velline, Wells Fargo executive vice president of ATM banking and store strategy.


In brief, what is Wells Fargo’s plan for rolling out cardless ATM access?

JV: There’s two ways we’re allowing our customers to access the ATM with their mobile phone. One is NFC; that’s where we would connect the mobile wallet with the ATM. For that to work, you have to have a supported wallet and you have to have an NFC reader on the ATM.

From a numbers perspective, we have about 1,700 ATMs today that have NFC readers. We expect that to be about 5,000 by the end of this year — that’s against our total fleet of 13,000.

Right now we support Android wallet. But we also wanted to find a way to allow all customers to use the [cardless] feature.

That’s where the passcodes come in. What we’re building is the ability for a customer on their mobile device to go to their Wells Fargo mobile app and request a one-time passcode that gives them access to the ATM. That works on virtually all mobile phones and it would work on all 13,000 ATMs.

How does the wallet work with the ATM interface?

JV: The customer traditionally puts their card into the ATM and then the PIN screen will display. The wallet is the same flow. I would hold my phone close to the ATM and it asks me to authenticate either with a thumbprint or a passcode on the phone itself. Once I’m authenticated with the wallet, then the PIN screen appears on the ATM just as if I had put my card in.

How do you let people know how to use the program?

JV: We envision using the ATM as the primary vehicle to let customers know. If I know that you have a registered wallet with Wells Fargo and you’re using the wallet at merchants, then I might target you with a message that encourages you to try it at the ATM.

What’s the rationale for adding card-free service now?

JV: What we’re seeing in mobile and in mobile wallets is that it’s one of these continuously evolving, continuously growing opportunities … If our customers are beginning to use their mobile phone for most of their payments, we don’t want to be the one channel that they have to pull their card out for. We want to be able to support them in the way that they want to use their cards. And we expect that over time, more and more will be coming through these mobile wallets.

Is WF looking at adding a payment feature within its own wallet to maintain a direct customer relationship?

JV: We don’t have anything more than the Android Pay announced or eligible for the ATM at this point. We know that our customers are going to be using a variety of different wallets, whether those are closed-loop or third-party or their bank’s own wallet, and we want to figure out the right way to support our customers and ensure that we’re providing them the convenience they need, and the security they need.

What about interoperability; do we eventually get to the point of complete networking with these mobile features?

JV: I think eventually it will look very much like the card networks are today. And in fact our NFC feature wallet will be initially launched with Wells Fargo cards and will eventually support acquiring non-Wells Fargo cards.

And the transactions look very similar to what a network transaction looks like today, the difference being that I’m sending that token through the switch, not the actual card data through the switch.

Do you see mobile ultimately diminishing the importance of the ATM?

JV: No. Even with the rise of mobile payments and the rise of debit payments, cash continues to be a big part of our customer’s wallet.

You still need an on ramp and an off ramp for these digital payment devices. You still need some way to get cash into that system and take cash out of that system and that’s a lot of the role that banks and ATMs play.

(Jonathan Velline will give a talk about branch transformation at the Bank Customer Experience Summit this September in Chicago. The executive-level event is jointly coordinated by Networld Media Group, publisher of ATM Marketplace and Mobile Payments Today, and the Electronic Funds Transfer Network.)

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