A Conversation with Shelley Freeman, Executive Vice President and Head of Wells Fargo’s Consumer Credit Solutions

Navigator Edition: March 2015

Shelley Freeman_portraitWe had the opportunity to touch base with Shelley Freeman of Wells Fargo. In this Q&A format, we cover several topics specific to Wells Fargo’s approach to card partnerships.

Shelley Freeman is Executive Vice President and head of Wells Fargo’s Consumer Credit Solutions. The group comprises Wells Fargo’s non real estate consumer credit businesses including Direct Auto Lending, Consumer Credit Card (General Purpose and Private Label), Personal Lines and Loans, and Student Lending. Freeman also leads the group’s collections and servicing, marketing and strategy functions.

1.  Wells Fargo has a long legacy in sales finance. Does the Dillard’s relationship reflect a desire to secure more traditional, national scale retail customers?

For most of our 52 years in the private label credit card industry, the focus of our Retail Services business has been on developing and maintaining long-term relationships with local and regional retail merchants. As a result, we currently provide customized credit programs for the following retail markets: home furnishings; home improvement; jewelry; outdoor improvement (spa, landscaping, fencing, etc.); appliances and electronics; flooring; recreation; specialty/apparel; and auto. In addition, we launched our Wells Fargo Health Advantage credit program in 2008 to support the dentistry, Lasik, audiology, and veterinary segments of the healthcare industry.

Several years ago, we realized there was a competitive gap in our product set: the absence of a multi-product offering for national retailers. So we made the strategic decision to secure the necessary capabilities and product enhancements to support multi-product (private label and co- brand) credit programs for regional and national retailers. As a result of those enhancements, we were able to earn the Dillard’s business last year. We are extremely proud to be teaming up with Dillard’s and are excited to demonstrate to others our abilities to develop and execute a successful multi-product credit program. Wells Fargo is committed to growing its credit card business, and these recent investments in the business are evidence of that commitment.

2.  What is your message to other potential customers in terms of what Wells can bring to a relationship given the size and reach of the Wells Fargo franchise?

With $1.7 trillion in assets, 90+ distinct business units and approximately 265,000 talented and engaged team members, the Wells Fargo franchise is certainly large and diversified. We believe our size, strength, and reliability provide considerable value to our customers and we are fully prepared to leverage these franchise resources whenever possible to support our customers’ needs.

For example, we have leveraged enterprise risk management resources to develop customized credit underwriting strategies. We have also leveraged enterprise resources to develop unique cross-sell, research, marketing, and digital opportunities. Our message to potential merchant customers is straightforward: we are committed to helping you and your customers succeed financially and can utilize all of our considerable franchise resources to support our commitment.

3.  What characteristics do you look for in a card relationship whether it be size, sector, structure, etc.?

At Wells Fargo, we consider building mutually beneficial relationships to be a core competency and we bring a highly collaborative, relationship-driven approach to each one. We believe the key ingredient of any successful relationship is the effective collaboration of the respective management teams, which includes aligned interests and a passionate commitment to constantly improve. Both management teams should have a commitment to sales integrity, to providing excellent customer service, and to helping our mutual customers succeed financially. We generally do not focus on specific size, sector, or structure characteristics in identifying and pursuing desirable card relationship opportunities. Instead, we seek aligned values, philosophies, and culture.

4.  Mobile (and digital) is a high priority. How can your digital investments and learnings be helpful in your business?

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 90% of American adults have a cell phone and 58% of these devices are smartphones. Whether in retail, non-profit, or travel and entertainment segments, the prevalence of these internet-enabled smartphones is influencing customer interactions when purchasing products and services. As such, we are investing heavily in the mobile space to enhance the card relationship and consumer experience, as evidenced by Wells Fargo’s early adoption of Apple Pay.

We see mobile technology as an opportunity for our retail merchants and healthcare providers to grow their top line while also streamlining their processes. This includes, for example, minimizing or eliminating the paper credit card application completed by the customer to purchase goods and services from a retailer. A paperless process reduces complexity for the retailer and improves the customer experience. Our retail merchant customers who have chosen to use tablets in their sales process instead of a paper credit application share very positive feedback with us.

In addition to improving the customer acquisition process, we are also investing in technology that benefits retail merchants, healthcare providers, and customers at multiple touch points throughout the lifecycle. This includes mobile wallet and tokenization, marketing offers, rewards, and expanding our existing digital customer service capabilities. We see tremendous benefits from this work, including a better overall customer experience and improved information security.

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