I always enjoy talking to CIOs, to get real-world perspectives on how they are dealing with the opportunities and challenges I write about here in this space. I got a little more geeked up than usual when I interviewed the EVP and CIO of Wells Fargo's Internet Services Group, because my last writing gig involved covering financial services technology full-time. I couldn't wait to spring questions on CIO George Tumas that employed at least some of the knowledge I had acquired during that tenure.
A particular challenge for most banks, especially large institutions like Wells Fargo, is offering their customers a consistent experience across multiple channels, including brick-and-mortar branches, websites, ATMs and now mobile devices. It's compounded by the fact that legacy technology such as mainframes remains a fixture at most banks. Keeping the experience consistent across channels is important, Tumas said, because "the customer is less confused and can more readily adopt new channels."
Wells Fargo is certainly seeing strong adoption of its new mobile channel. The bank has gained four million mobile customers over the last three-and-a-half years, a more rapid pace of adoption than it saw with online banking, he told me.
When I asked how Wells Fargo dealt with this challenge, Tumas told me it has focused for several years on service-level architecture, which allows his development team to build services that can be consumed by multiple channels. He said:
Most of the calls that are made by those channels go through the same middleware and hit the same back ends. We try to reuse as much as we can. We've also done that on our alerts platform. It's a platform for all of the alerts other than wholesales and is consumed by multiple business lines.
Creating these reusable services helps keep costs in check and makes it simpler to work with both legacy and newer technologies, which Tumas said is a challenge now and will remain so for many years to come for financial institutions. He said:
We're not like Google. We have to deal with new, sexy stuff as well as legacy technologies. It's certainly a challenge, but one I think Wells Fargo has done a great job in managing. We've done a great job putting it all together and building capabilities for our customers.
It's little wonder, then, that Forrester Research is predicting a bullish future for service-oriented architecture in the financial services sector. According to Forrester's recent survey of global financial services firms, 80 percent of them already use SOA in some way and 71 percent of them will increase services in anywhere from a third to a majority of their applications.