Wells Fargo, Bank of America and U.S. Bancorp all highlighted their digital growth and use of the payment platform Zelle in today’s earnings calls.

Wells Fargo & Co.

At Wells Fargo, automation helped reduce costs in fraud management, card collection and other areas during the third quarter, according to Chief Financial Officer Mike Santomassimo. He credited automation, along with “strategic enhancement,” as driving process improvements while reducing costs during the bank’s third-quarter earnings call today.

The $1.9 trillion bank also implemented a number of other cost-savings measures, including branch and headcount reduction, vendor consolidation and eliminating consultants, he said. The measures led to an overall 13% decrease in non-interest expenses this quarter compared with a year ago, according to Santomassimo, contributing to Wells Fargo reported earnings of $5.1 billion. Revenue was $18.83 billion, and overall, technology, telecommunications and equipment spending was down 6% year over year, to $741 million.

“We’ve also been working on additional opportunities through technology enablement that have longer lead times but should result in benefits that we expect will reduce operations-related expenses over time,” Santomassimo added.

This news comes on the heels of a pronouncement by Wells Fargo analysts that technology improvements and automation will allow the banking industry to cut 100,000 jobs over the next five years.

The bank is also making significant enhancements to its payment capabilities, added CEO Charlie Scharf, with Zelle usage up by 50% YOY. The bank has 24% more users and 56% more volume than a year ago, he reported. Zelle is a digital payments network owned by Early Warning Services, a fintech owned by the $3.1 trillion Bank of America, BB&T (now the $522 billion Truist), the 425.2 billion Capital One, the $3.7 trillion JPMorgan Chase, the 554.2 billion PNC Bank, the $558.9 billion U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo.

Scharf also made note of its “overdraft rewind,” an automation that reevaluates transactions from the prior business day that have incurred an overdraft fee for any retail account with ACH direct deposit. “This feature has helped over 1.3 million customers avoid overdraft-related fees on two and a half million transactions in the third quarter,” Scharf said.

The recent $250 million fine over mortgage practices by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) was a reminder that “significant deficiencies that existed when I arrived must remain a priority,” Scharf said. The OCC, at least in part, noted that technology had played a role in its ruling against Wells Fargo, saying “The bank’s loss mitigation decisioning tools (applications and end-user computing tools) and operational deficiencies have caused errors in the bank’s loss mitigation processes and controls that negatively affected borrowers.”

“We are a different company today and the operational and cultural changes we’ve made are enabling us to execute with significantly greater discipline than we have in the past,” Scharf said. “The investments we’re making in risk and regulatory-related work come alongside investments we’re making in customer experience.”

Specifically, he said, Wells Fargo is investing in new digital and mobile capabilities, a new digital infrastructure strategy, and new products, Scharf added.

Overall, digital customers were up 2% from last year, at 32.7 million. Mobile users increased 4% YOY to 27 million users, according to the earnings supplement.

Bank of America

Bank of America reported net income of $7.7 billion for the third quarter, up from $4.9 billion at the same time last year, noting the “pre-pandemic organic growth machine has kicked back in.” Digital banking and automation also played a role.

“Digital progress has occurred across every business,” said Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan. “And that’s increased sales of products and high use of digital platforms. This bodes well for future sales levels and for future efficiency.”

The $3.03 trillion bank had total revenue of $22.8 billion for the most recent quarter, a 12% increase from $20.3 billion in Q3 2020. Chief Financial Officer Paul Donofrio said on the earnings call that digitalization helped offset higher revenue costs.

Donofrio also pointed to improvements in digital engagement and digital sales growth. “As all of you know, enrollment is important, but usage is key,” he said. “We now have nearly 41 million customers actively using our industry-leading digital platform.”

In Q3, the bank saw 70% of its customers use some part of its digital platform, with more than 2.6 billion logins. “And while Erica and Zelle use has been tremendous, what I would draw your attention to is the digital sales growth, which is up 27% year over year,” Donofrio said.

Zelle was a high point in Q3, with the bank reporting 15.1 million active users, which now include small businesses, in the digital payments network. All told, users in Q3 sent 202 million transfers with Zelle worth $60 billion, which included 44% more transfers sent and 53% more transfers received YoY.

Going forward, Donofrio noted the bank continues to see investment in technology and people “at a high rate across the businesses.”

U.S. Bancorp

U.S. Bancorp reported net income for Q3 of $2.03 billion, up from $1.59 billion for the same period a year ago.

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Andrew Cecere noted that the $558.9 billion bank released $310 million of loan loss reserves this quarter, and that digital banking capabilities are contributing to earnings growth.

“We’re excited about the many organic growth opportunities we see across the franchise, supported by our continued investment in people, digital technology and data analytics,” he said, also pointing to U.S. Bancorp’s recently announced acquisition of $133.2 billion MUFG Union Bank.

The acquisition will allow U.S. Bancorp to “expand our distribution network in demographically attractive West Coast markets and leverage our broad product set and leading digital capabilities across a loyal but underpenetrated customer base,” Cecere said, and will help “accelerate revenue and earnings growth.”

The bank reported that 43% of its active customers engaged in online banking, down from 51% a year ago. But 62% of active customers used mobile banking in Q3, a 56% YoY increase. Most of the bank’s transactions are digital: 80% of the total for Q3, up slightly from 76% of total transactions for the same period in 2020.

U.S. Bancorp’s technology and communications noninterest expense for Q3 was $361 million, up 8.1% from $334 million in the third quarter of 2020. Total net revenue for Q3 was $5.89 billion, compared with $5.96 billion for the third quarter of 2020.


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