Wells Fargo is America’s fourth-largest bank. Its consumer banking unit is one of the most significant revenue and profit drivers of the bank’s success. Today, Wells Fargo has 5,023 branches. AI and robotic technology will allow Wells Fargo to cut hundreds of these locations or eliminate most of the humans who work in them. Online banking has been a threat to physical locations for years. New trends are about to make the challenge to those locations worse. (These companies have the worst reputations.)
Most of the work done at bank branches does not have to happen at physical locations or locations with humans. AI-driven robots can already do most of what is done at teller windows. Banks are not alone in this. The process has begun at retailers and also will overwhelm the fast-food industry.
Part of what goes on in banks is loan applications evaluated by humans. Some of these are business loans. Others are mortgages or car loans. AI-assisted evaluations of loan risk, credit scores and the collection of information needed to evaluate loans will be handled by software programs driven by AI. The software can even evaluate collateral at physical locations, like factories and homes, using technology that includes drones.
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Yet another reason branches exist is to help rich customers. The marketing pitch for so-called personal banking services is that rich people need their hands held as they get advice about investing their assets and debt. AI can do a much better job based on a series of financial calculations that humans cannot do. Assets can be scanned, and their value set by optics that do not require humans.
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The period when a bank needs many retail locations is disappearing.
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