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The Mobile Security Journey at Wells Fargo

Armin Ajami, vice president and senior product manager, shares how Wells is making mobile more secure for its customers.

Armin Ajami will be speaking about the threats and opportunities that banks face in mobile security at Bank Systems & Technology’s Mobile Disruption Forum next month.

“Mobile banking is the fastest growing thing in the history of our institution,” Armin Ajami, Wells Fargo’s vice president and senior product manager, digital channels group, says. With mobile adoption growing so fast and providing a constant touchpoint with customers (Wells’ mobile customers log in an average of 13 times each day), embedding security, without hurting the customer experience, is a top priority for the bank, Ajami shares.

Wells has taken a multi-pronged approach to achieving mobile security. That approach centers around the customer: the bank frequently tests new capabilities with customers to get their feedback, and also educates customers on best practices to keep their mobile interactions with the bank secure, according to Ajami.

Armin Ajami, Wells Fargo
Armin Ajami, Wells Fargo

[To Hear More from On Mobile Security from Other Speakers at the Mobile Disruption Forum, Check Out: Improving Security In the Fast-Paced World of Mobile]

“Customers want to know that you have their back; they want the comfort of a guarantee that they will be secure,” he notes.

Whenever the bank introduces a new mobile function or capability, they conduct usability tests with focus groups of about 20 customers. That goes for new security and authentication capabilities as well, Ajami shares. This way Wells can ensure that new security features don’t disrupt the customer experience that it aims to provide.

“It’s a balancing act [between security and convenience] in every channel. We need to make it secure without making it too difficult… The focus groups can give us feedback as they go through the function. Could they complete the task? Did they drop it? That way we know we are providing a customer experience that makes sense for the majority of our customers,” Ajami says.

That testing and feedback with customers also allows Wells to measure the right timing for releasing new technologies that can help with security, such as biometrics. The bank has been testing biometric authentication with customers, but has found that they aren’t quite yet comfortable enough with the emerging technology for the bank to start using it widely, Ajami reports.

“We test, listen and learn, and continue to enhance products and capabilities. If you’re not doing that now with some of these capabilities than you’re already behind the ball,” he adds.

Wells also develops and promotes educational materials to help customers protect themselves, according to Ajami. All of the bank’s marketing materials point back to a website where it offers security advice for customers using digital banking channels.

Some of that advice includes best practices such as putting a password lock on your mobile device, and logging out and closing apps when you’re finished with a session. The website also provides customers with information on how the bank is protecting them in the mobile channel by following best practices like not storing any sensitive data on the device.

In addition to looking into emerging authentication technologies like biometrics, the bank recently released new mobile alerts for customers and is also exploring ways that mobile can help secure other channels, Ajami shares.

“The phone goes with you everywhere as you interact with other channels, so we’re thinking about how can you link those channels for better security,” he adds.

Interested in learning more about bank strategies and challenges in mobile security? Armin Ajami and other experts will be sharing their views on Making Sense of Mobile Security at the Mobile Disruption Forum in New York City on May 14.

Jonathan Camhi has been an associate editor with Bank Systems & Technology since 2012. He previously worked as a freelance journalist in New York City covering politics, health and immigration, and has a master's degree from the City University of New York's Graduate School ... View Full Bio

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