Desktop Drop

Customers sign on for cheaper, faster deposits.

Wells Fargo & Co.’s business customers aren’t exactly laughing all the way to the bank, but they may be laughing in their offices. Steve Ellis wouldn’t have it any other way. The executive vice president of the company’s wholesale services group says that thanks to the bank’s evolving Desktop Deposit application, more customers than ever are skipping regular trips to local branches. Instead, they’re making deposits from their desktops by scanning paper checks through their PCs and uploading the images to the bank’s Web portal.

The application, integrated with Wells Fargo’s Commercial Electronic Office (CEO) portal, has been in operation for less than two years, but it already services 15% to 20% of all check deposits the bank receives. The process saves both Wells Fargo and its customers time and money. Desktop Deposit, says Ellis, is “the fastest single product ever adopted” by the bank’s customers.

It has also made the bank more competitive by allowing it to offer deposit services in more locations in the U.S. and abroad without having to build local branches.

“It’s enabled us todo borderless banking,” says Stephanie Sturgis-Griffin, senior vice president of wholesale Internet solutions at Wells Fargo. The bank can also handle deposits from more locations for its business customers.

“[Customers] are able to consolidate their banking relationships across all of their offices because they no longer need to have a local branch,” says Danny Peltz, executive vice president and head of wholesale Internet and treasury solutions.

The bank’s decision to switch gears after the application’s initial introduction could be another reason for the product’s success.

The first version required customers to install a “fat client” application and driver software for a scanner that plugged into a PC’s USB port. Desktop Deposit now relies on a single ActiveX control within the user’s browser that interfaces with the scanner. Customers use their browsers to access the application, which resides on the bank’s BEA WebLogic servers. Written in J2EE, it offers users the same familiar look and feel as the CEO portal’s other applications.

“It’s a time-saver, and it gets your money in quick. There are no cons to this,” says Julie Keegan, controller of Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo. The system, which required 10 minutes of phone support to set up, extends the window for making the deposits and receiving same-day credit. And Keegan says it saves her staff three hours per week.

The thin-client architecture has given Wells Fargo the flexibility to make five subsequent revisions to the application without disrupting customers’ configurations, and it should make upgrades to newer scanners easier as well.

“Thin client gives Wells total control over the remote-deposit capture application. This has typically been an issue with check [applications],” says Stessa Cohen, an analyst at Gartner Inc.

That flexibility has made it possible for the bank to quickly add several new features. It now allows businesses making deposits to associate other data, such as a customer ID, with each check. It also lets users scan in the remittance coupons that their customers send in with their payments.

Wells Fargo also added the ability to download and print receipts and PDF files containing the check images. Some customers use a downloadable Excel spreadsheet report feature — another improvement that customers requested — to directly update their receivables systems. That saves another step, says Sturgis-Griffin.

Wells Fargo’s approach differs from that of most of its rivals, which have purchased remote deposit applications. That approach typically doesn’t let banks integrate remote deposit tools tightly with their primary business banking portals or support thin clients.

This year, Wells Fargo plans to make the application available to its smaller business customers.

Sturgis-Griffin says she expects the same rapid uptake within that market, because “there’s a sexiness to it that attracts customers to use the service.”

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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