EVP and CIO, Information Services
Wells Fargo & Company
As Executive Vice President, Information Services, for Wells Fargo and Company, Mekjian is responsible for guiding the effective use of information technology and managing IT resources to deliver technology solutions across the Wells Fargo enterprise. Under Mekjian's leadership, Information Services is responsible for all aspects of technology to Wells Fargo's business lines. This includes the computing infrastructure, systems software and hardware, application development, connectivity services and support functions, including project delivery and efficiency management. Mekjian oversees eight Chief Information Officers that each align to Wells Fargo's major business lines, including Community Banking (Phone Bank, ATMs, stores, internet services), Deposits and Customer Information Systems, Operations, Brokerage, Corporate Technology and Data, Wealth, Retirement and Family Office, Consumer Lending (personal lines/loans, debit/credit cards, auto finance) and Real Estate Lending. Mekjian got his start in banking in 1969, handling back-office functions for a small community bank in Massachusetts while attending community college. Mekjian has been at Wells Fargo and various predecessor banks since 1978. During those years, he has overseen several mergers and has helped revolutionize the bank's IT infrastructure.
Personal Attributes and Interests
- Mekjian was recognized by BS&T as an innovative CIO in 2005.
- He has been profiled in several national publications, including Financial Services Technology and Bank Systems & Technology.
- In 2008, the Information Services ATM group was recognized in InfoWorld's Top 100 Awards for its development of a next-generation ATM platform, increasing the value of self-service banking with state-of-the-art ATM development technologies.
- In 2009, Mekjian was named one of InfoWorld's Top 25 CTOs for his focus on innovation.
- His interests include woodworking and general carpentry, golfing and skiing.
- Mekjian said that after not playing baseball "in 40 years" he went to a Red Sox baseball camp "and I learned why I haven't done it in 40 years."
- "The first bank I worked for was small, so I was involved with everything," Mekjian recalled. "I had a lot of on-the-job education. I wired boards. That's what programmers did back then." After graduation, Mekjian continued working for Worcester County National, where his real-world education took off. "This was a bridge from my education to my career," he said. "Banking was just interesting to me. I had opportunities to go to other industries, but for me, there was nothing missing from financial services."
- Mekjian said he was involved with some pretty innovative - at the time - projects at Worcester County National, including the bank's initial automated clearinghouse (ACH) initiative, the design and build-out of its first home banking system, and work with Visa and Master Charge in their early days on setting up credit card transmissions. Still, Mekjian said, he wished to broaden his horizons, so he returned to school and earned his management degree at the ABA's (Washington, D.C.) Stonier Graduate School of Banking.
- "I learned a long time ago that the word 'boss' is really a bad thing to say," he said. "People don't like the word. No one I've ever met likes the word boss. They always say it in a derogatory sense. I like to see myself more as a coach, a mentor."
- About managing the pressures of his job, he said, "Do I stress out? Not anymore. I used to really get stressed. Most people stress out because of their work because they need the job, they've got to prove themselves. I'm past that. When you get past that, you actually can enjoy what you're doing. I believe that if I'm having a conversation with somebody, I like to have that conversation. I like to find some time. I like to be able to walk away from my desk without having that phone ring."
- Enhance Social Tools: In September 2012 Warc reported that Wells Fargo is leveraging a range of new social media tools. The Company has utilized systems developed by Salesforce.com to monitor buzz, respond to queries and distribute information about its wholesale banking products. "Social is no longer just for consumers, it's also for businesses," said the Company. "With social innovations from salesforce.com, we can bring the Wells Fargo brand to life for every customer in how we engage them."
- Big Data: In an interview with CIO Journal in September 2012, an executive at Wells Fargo said that armed with the latest technology and techniques, Big Data enables new ways of refining customer experiences, improving products and reducing expenses. He said for the Company, technology doesn't exist for its own sake but to make it easier for customers to work with them to meet their financial goals. He said, "...At Wells Fargo, we're building an R&D lab for our business partners to help them better understand the analytical possibilities, and for us to understand their demands. By working collaboratively with our R&D teams, business analysts and IT vendors, we can translate this new knowledge into solutions that add value to our businesses. One of the most important technology innovations in financial services as a result of Big Data is improvement in fraud and identity theft prevention. Improved data quality and the use of analytics is an opportunity to fundamentally change the way we serve customers. Now that we can bridge data silos to combine mortgage and brokerage data, or checking account and credit account information, we can give our customers the services they want most while identifying new customers meet the goals they've already told us matter most. This has been a game-changing opportunity for us to understand our customers as well as to drive additional revenue for the organization. We've only just started down the road to big data realizations. Gathering the data is no longer the challenge -- focusing on how to best use data to solve customer and business problems is the priority. The presence of big data tools won't be a competitive differentiator, but the ability to find creative ways of deriving insight from it will be."
- Mobile Website Launch: Wells Fargo Funds Management LLC announced the launch of the mobile version of the Wells Fargo Advantage Funds website in 2012. Visitors can access the mobile website on all smartphones, including iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android devices, at wfaf.com. "The trend of utilizing mobile devices to access the Internet continues to grow, with some industry experts even predicting that smartphone sales will outpace personal computer and laptop sales in 2012," said Karla Rabusch, President of Wells Fargo Advantage Funds. "We want to ensure that our clients are able to easily access the information needed to make timely and informed investment decisions, and this additional resource further strengthens our commitment to putting our clients first. It also complements existing resources, including our full-service website and 24-hour call center." Visitors who use their smartphones to access the Wells Fargo Advantage Funds website will be automatically redirected to the mobile version.
- Mobile Payments: In the latest development in Internet banking, Wells Fargo and two other major U.S. banks have teamed up to create a service that lets bank customers transfer funds over their mobile phones. The service, aimed at competing with PayPal, launched in early 2012. It lets people use their checking accounts to send each other money with an email address or cellphone number. Wells Fargo partnered with Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase to form a joint venture called ClearXchange to create the product. The ClearXchange service, said to be the first bank-owned offering of its kind, was initially made available to partner businesses in May 2011. There are plans to expand it over time to include other financial institutions and endpoints.
- Kindle App: In its attempts to make mobile banking available on every platform, Wells Fargo unveiled a Kindle Fire application in 2012. The Wells Fargo app, which was released in 2010 for Android devices, has been optimized to fit the Kindle Fire screen. The app joins Well Fargo's other mobile services, which include apps for the iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Palm devices. "Our goal is to provide services that are relevant to our customers, and Wells Fargo customers are enthusiastic about anytime, anywhere mobile banking," said Brian Pearce, Senior Vice President and Head of Retail Mobile at Wells Fargo. "As we considered making our app available on the Amazon Appstore for Android, the key was looking at our customers and new ways to reach them."
- Embracing Virtualization: Wells Fargo is focused on driving density and computing power within its data centers, through what CTO Scott Dillon calls "thoughtful virtualization efforts." These efforts are helping the bank reduce its hardware requirements and capacity needs, network wide. As a byproduct of this investment, Wells Fargo has been able to reduce space requirements and costs in terms of power consumption and cooling; provision servers faster to help speed up response times to the business; and gain future cost savings through technical advances like cloud services. "Virtualizing our data centers will continue to be a journey at Wells Fargo and we will maximize this effort where it makes sense," Dillon said.
- Outsourcing: Despite the federal anti-outsourcing bill, Wells Fargo has started to transfer some of its non-core, business support activities to the Philippines. Wells Fargo has recently established a Philippine solutions center, reinforcing Manila's reputation as a global hub for labor-intensive and IT-enabled outsourcing services, former Senator Ernesto Herrera, President of labor group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), announced in early 2012. "We welcome Wells Fargo's launch of an in-house business support center in Manila, following the footsteps of JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc.," Herrara said. "We are counting on Wells Fargo's new center to help provide gainful employment to our college-educated, fluent English-speaking professionals, many of whom remain idle." Wells Fargo Philippine Solutions Inc. deals with a variety of functions, including customer service and back-office support. The American bank's decision to shift more jobs offshore comes amid worries over a US anti-outsourcing bill. The proposed U.S. Call Center and Consumer Protection Act, introduced by New York Representative Tim Bishop, would require the U.S. Department of Labor to track firms that shift contact center jobs overseas. The firms would then be ineligible for any direct or indirect US federal loans or loan guarantees for five years. The bill would also require contact center staff to disclose their location to U.S. consumers, who would be given the right to be routed to a U.S.-based call hub upon request. Herrera, however, does not expect Congress to pass the bill, which he said is being opposed by American corporations that are benefitting from outsourcing.
- Skeptical About the Cloud: For some companies, cloud computing would be the answer for consolidation, but not for Wells Fargo. "I don't know what a cloud is, and so I don't want to go there," said Mekjian in 2011, noting that cloud computing is still poorly defined by the IT industry. "I'm not going to put my customer data into somebody else's cloud. It's not going to happen, not until I'm guaranteed beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's secure. The cloud should scare everybody. Why would anybody want to put their data in a cloud?" In a September 2012 interview with Bank Tech, Scott Dillon, EVP, CTO and Head of Technology Services provided an update on the Company’s cloud strategy. For Wells Fargo, cloud computing is part of the ongoing process of virtualization and convergence of infrastructure, he said. Dillon acknowledges that the bank uses a private cloud to run a "service-based" infrastructure, one that he says allows multiple services to be "wrapped around it." "We're committed to having a robust infrastructure, and cloud is just one part of that," he explains. He emphasized security concerns as well. "Regardless of your size, the security concern is the same when it comes to the cloud," he stresses. "It is front and center." Ultimately, Dillon says, using the cloud will become commonplace as banks continue to pursue virtualization to a greater degree. "It's an overused buzzword," he agrees. "But the cloud is here to stay."
- Cutting Costs: As part of Wells Fargo's ambitious cost-control initiative, called "Project Compass," Mekjian and the other members of the Company's IT team are working hard to streamline operations, boost efficiencies and save money. Project Compass began in mid-2010 and is a "bottom-up initiative," in which ideas for cutting expenses will come directly from the bank's employees rather than senior management. The goal of Project Compass is to trim $1.5 billion in quarterly expenses. When the ambitious project was launched, the IT team vowed to cut Wells Fargo's application footprint from 4,000 applications to 3,200. The Company also boosted use of VMware to improve utilization of servers and created an internal app store to simplify the process of deploying small apps and business services.
- More Integration Challenges Ahead?: Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf said the bank is looking to make more acquisitions. Because U.S. rules prevent any bank from taking on more than 10% of the nation's deposits, Wells Fargo is focusing on brokerage, retirement-services firms and insurance companies to buy, Stumpf said. More acquisitions will mean more on Mekjian's plate. He has been grappling with the technology implications of the Wachovia merger for several years, the full integration of which was finally completed late last year. Integration happens on top of everything else going on. "The world doesn't stop because we're in the midst of an acquisition. Sometimes I wish it would," he said. If there is another acquisition, Mekjian has a deep and experienced bench of talent to support another integration. He said the Wachovia merger has made Wells Fargo's IT organization a lot stronger, staff-wise, with more database managers, more COBOL programmers, and more mainframe administrators than before.
- Good Help is Hard to Find: When asked if he leverages the talent of external integration experts, he said, "We did try that once before and it doesn't work. They don't know your organization. Anyone can create a cookbook. We could create one and sell it, but when someone went to use it wouldn't work because everyone's different. Unless they're exactly the same company, on the same systems and the same people, it won't work."
- Behind the Times?: Mekjian is staunchly opposed to the burgeoning BYOC trend (Bring Your Own Computing) and consequently, corporate policy prohibits employees from using their own mobile devices for work. "They can't connect them to our networks," he says. "We won't let them in." The "just say no" policy applies to Apple iPads, Android tablets and smartphones owned by employees. The Company also has strict policies regarding use of Twitter and Facebook, making the sites off-limits to many. Wells Fargo does, however, supply employees with corporate-approved smartphones, and a limited deployment of iPads that can connect to e-mail and other corporate systems. "It still is a huge deal with Wachovia and Wells Fargo merging, because at Wachovia it was OK to have personal devices attached," Mekjian said. "Now we're going back to all those guys and saying, 'You've got to take them off.'" For smartphones issued by the corporation, employees can choose among iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys. Wells Fargo has also issued 200 iPads to employees and connected them to Microsoft Exchange, in a pilot program. All the data on those devices can be erased when they connect to the network. "If I leave my BlackBerry here in your offices, and I'm back in Charlotte, I'll just call the team and say, 'Wipe it,'" Davis says. Wells Fargo uses Cisco TelePresence, instant messaging, SharePoint and other tools to collaborate. The company also, of course, has its own Twitter and Facebook pages, so at least some employees can access sites that are blocked for the general population. And Wells Fargo is considering allowing more access. "We're wrestling with that right now," Mekjian said. "Should you give access, and if you do, how do you get there [securely] as opposed to just turning it on and letting people do it." In an April 2013 interview with CITE World, Jim Spicer, EVP and CIO of the Corporate Technology and Data group indicated that the Company is running its first forays into employee-owned devices accessing corporate technology, albeit slowly. “Our culture at Wells Fargo is one of a 'test, learn, evolve' environment," says Spicer. "It's always been part of our strategy to test and evaluate products before bringing them to the enterprise. We do this with our ATMs for customers as an example, so BYOD [bring your own device] for our own team is no different." Spicer began a BYOD pilot program in late 2012. However, "We do not currently support an enterprise wide BYOD policy. Over the past year, we felt it was the right time to work with some of our business partners on a pilot program given the security enhancements that have been incorporated in several solutions available now," he says. "I've seen the industry and vendor solutions mature to help us better balance our security needs." Spicer continued, “The consumerization of IT and our own team members' preferences definitely has an influence on our internal IT product and services offerings. We have ongoing pilots to examine the latest technologies -- from tablets to smartphones -- based on what's happening on the consumer front and how we can enable our team members to better serve our customers."
- Regulatory Challenges: In the highly regulated industries in which Wells Fargo operates, compliance is a major concern. The Company has to make sure it has appropriate guidelines in place to ensure that employees--all of whom are working with mobile devices--follow requirements of regulators. "For brokers, we have to block certain kinds of communication and have to limit their capabilities to get to things that other users might be allowed to get to," said one technology and operations executive. Another challenge is managing the devices themselves, as well as all the apps on those devices. Regulatory compliance and information security are two of the metrics that help gauge whether a solution provides business value.
- Mekjian earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from the University of Redlands.
- He also is a graduate of the American Bankers Association's Stonier Graduate School of Banking.
- Mekjian began his banking career in 1969 with Worcester County National Bank, a community bank in Massachusetts. It started as a night job while he was attending Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester and working on his Associate's Degree in Electronic Data Processing.
- Mekjian held several senior management positions in bank operations, systems development, project management and data processing with First Interstate Bank.
- From 1995 to 1998, he was Executive Vice President and Head of the Technology division at Norwest Bank.
- After Norwest merged with Wells Fargo in 1998, Mekjian joined the combined company and over the ensuing years has held the following positions:
- EVP and Chief Information Officer, Retail Banking (1998)
- Chief Technology Officer, Operations
- CIO, Operations (he led Loan Operations and Check Processing for the Southwest region)
- CIO, Home and Consumer Finance group (he managed technology for the Consumer Credit Group, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and Wells Fargo Financial)
- EVP, Information Services (July 2004 - Present)