5 questions with… Wells Fargo Chief Treasurer John Hunter

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Wells Fargo Head of Payments and Financial Transaction Services for the Global Treasury Department John Hunter Focuses on simplifying bank experiences with cloud, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

Head Shot By John Hunter, Wells Fargo
John Hunter, President, Global Treasury Management Payments and Transaction Services, Wells Fargo

The San Francisco-based bank invested $9.4 billion in technology in the first quarter, launched the Wells Fargo Vantage digital banking platform and continues to look for opportunities within the bank in artificial intelligence.

Hunter discussed Wells Fargo’s recent $1.8 trillion effort on payments strategy, a digital banking platform solution, and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning within its core systems. The following is in an edited transcript of the conversation:

Bank automation news: What technology is Wells Fargo working on in treasury management?

John Hunter: We think a lot about creating new solutions that simplify overly complex banking experiences while drawing on emerging technologies like cloud, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to modernize our payment platforms. We want to help customers make payments simpler, faster and easier. Helping clients transform at their own pace has always been one of my priorities – it’s great that we can provide a banking platform with the same goals.

It’s also been exciting to see our customers start using Wells Fargo’s Vantage, which is a digital banking platform for our wholesale customers that brings together all of their banking needs – even out of the closet – in one solution. The system’s AI system will be able to provide recommendations tailored to each customer’s specific needs while ML is constantly learning the best way to deliver personalized experiences that help customers grow their business.

Ban: How did you bring the Wells Fargo’s Treasury Management and Global Payment Solutions product teams together? What did that entail?

JH: It starts at the top with Wells Fargo’s head of global treasury management, Paul Camp. Paul brought me on to lead Payment Products relatively shortly after his start at Wells Fargo, in the fall of 2021. He was combining the legacy Treasury group with the Global Payment Solutions (GPS) business which was a separate line of business, focused on providing payment and liquidity services to financial institutions.

What we’ve done with the GPS business is the same as what we’ve done with areas like commercial real estate, healthcare, and technology. It starts with traditional product management systems that increase returns and efficiency. Specifically, you need people who have a deep understanding of the business sectors they support and can work with partners across the company to develop the payment solutions our customers need to grow and transform their businesses.

Ban: What innovations in treasury management, or the payments field, are you excited about?

JH: Technology moves very quickly, and even from within the world of payments, we can’t always predict where things are headed. For example, see how quickly AI is becoming part of the conversation across industries. We need to be able to support our customers by providing end-to-end solutions that will not only support them where they are today, but where they want to go forward.

I mentioned how we use artificial intelligence and machine learning in our digital banking platform to create personalized banking experiences. We also believe that automation will go a long way in solving the challenges we face in the payments business. The system has a lot of disagreements from different payment types and different channels, which creates manual work of reconciling payments. ML and AI can be used to address these issues and help generate significant operational cost savings for our customers.

Looking far into the future, I’m excited about open banking and invisible event banking. I see a future where banking is behind the scenes, and an integral part of day-to-day activities. Even phones as payment channels may become obsolete as emerging technology enables seamless automatic payments – what you might call an invisible experience.

Ban: What are your plans for the Treasury Department Payments Product team for the rest of 2023?

JH: We have a lot going on! We are participating in two promising POCs. one about our services. These are payments where we are the bank on both sides of the transaction. POC helps us learn how to make better use of our scope around 24/7 settlements. We’re also working on a distributed ledger (DLT) pilot program, to explore how we can streamline reconciliations and reduce risk.

ISO 20022 [an open global standard for sending digital payment messages and data between financial institutions] It is also a focus for the rest of the year. We always try to unlock the value for customers. And I think the way we use data can be a real differentiator. There is a huge opportunity to unlock the potential of the rich data that will be shared as the industry transitions to ISO 20022. It can be a key data layer that powers new products and provides new insights to customers.

Finally, we are working on a new drive engine for our core products that will be able to offer specific value-added services to customers in a broad range of market segments. It is an exciting business that we hope will generate huge profits for our clients in the future.

Ban: What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

JH: I was once told, as a leader, that you should always give your team credit for successes but take the blame for mistakes. It’s important to celebrate wins and acknowledge the team that helped get you there, while providing cover and understanding that “the responsibility is here” when things go wrong.

I always try to remember that as a leader. Nobody can do it alone, but in the end, it’s my responsibility to make sure everything goes right. I think this instills trust with your team and helps them feel supported to do their best.

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