E-Bank, a CRM software company that had been backed by Huntington Bank, has landed Wells Fargo as its first marquee customer. Wells Fargo will deploy the software incrementally as part of a five-year agreement.
"e-Bank offers Wells the opportunity to seamlessly integrate and deliver our customer information in a measured, incremental fashion while allowing us to directly link investment with results," said Webb Edwards, president of Wells Fargo Services Company in a statement. The bank declined to comment further about the pilot phase of the implementation, citing proprietary details of the relationship.
The deal is a milestone for Columbus, Ohio-based e-Bank.
"It's huge for e-Bank in that Wells Fargo has really provided the Good Housekeeping seal of approval upon their architecture and technology that they've been looking for since they launched," said Virginia Philipp, an analyst at TowerGroup.
The e-Bank software maintains a repository of customer information that can be accessed or updated, real-time, from any of a bank's customer channels or core platforms. As a result, information gathered at one customer channel can be used immediately at another channel. "A customer can go to an ATM, take out $100, and go right home and look at the Internet site and see that balance," said Philipp. "They're taking channel integration from a concept to reality."
That's what e-Bank has already accomplished for Huntington Bank, a regional bank in Columbus, Ohio. Huntington was one of the original partners in the e-Bank venture, along with Compaq, Corillian, SAIC, and Microsoft. In December, Huntington sold its e-Bank stake to WMR e-Ventures LLC, a new technology venture capital firm headed by former Huntington executive vice president William Randle.
But the $290 billion Wells Fargo is a completely different animal from the $28 billion Huntington. "There are not that many companies out there that go from being installed in a mid-tier institution to getting Wells Fargo to sign on," said Philipp. "It'll be extremely important for e-Bank to deliver on every service level that they possibly can."
Along with the magnitude of the implementation challenge, the potential rewards are also larger for a big bank-particularly one like Wells Fargo, which merged with Norwest in 1998.
"The more complicated and the more diverse a financial institution's infrastructure is, the larger the impact we have," said Paul Jameson, chief executive officer at e-Bank. "A customer-centric architecture is difficult to bring to reality because of the complexity of today's financial services and the complexity of being not only a national bank, but an international bank."
"We help simplify the overall environment pretty dramatically," he added.
In order to capitalize on its expanded customer service capabilities, however, Wells Fargo will have to make customers aware they exist.
"People have grown accustomed to batch processing," said Philipp. "The immediate results are questionable because we simply don't know what customer demand is going to be."
Even so, the potential exists for Wells to gain a competitive advantage. "It's a valuable thing for Wells to lead with in the industry," said Philipp. "It will be a differentiator."