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PrimeTime Orlando CenterStage: Wells Fargo Consumer Financing

Written by Rob Stott

October 27, 2022

The pandemic has significantly changed the way people shop, buy and pay for products. Which prompted Wells Fargo Consumer Financing to change the way customers can apply for in-store credit. And the shift to paperless applications has seen a tremendous increase in the number of credit applications filed with Wells Fargo at NMG retailers’ stores in just three years. Steve Jermier stopped by CenterStage at PrimeTime in Orlando to talk more about the shift to digital financing applications like scan-to-apply and how these new technologies are changing the Independent retail landscape.

Watch the full slate of CenterStage interviews from Orlando over on the Nationwide Marketing Group YouTube channel.

Amy Croom: Hello and welcome back to Center Stage here at Primetime in Orlando. We are so excited to have you here with us today, and we are very excited to kick off our round of center stage interviews and starting us off, Steve Jeremiah from Wells Fargo.

Steve Jermier: Hey how are you doing?

Amy Croom: Thanks for joining us.

Steve Jermier: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Amy Croom: Good to see you.

Steve Jermier: Good See you. How you been?

Amy Croom: I’ve been great. How about you?

Steve Jermier: Good. Good.

Amy Croom: You having a good time in Orlando?

Steve Jermier: Yeah. Got here yesterday. It’s warm.

Amy Croom: Yeah, it really is. Try and stay within the conventions center complex as much as possible.

Steve Jermier: The fake sky is cooler than the real sky outside.

Amy Croom: That is very true. That is very true.

Steve Jermier: Yeah. Yeah.

Amy Croom: All right, so we are going to be talking about consumer financing here. So it has been a wild couple of years and it feels like we were just in Phoenix and a lot has happened even since February. So tell us what’s going on with Wells Fargo.

Steve Jermier: Yeah, it’s funny, as I was preparing some remarks for this, I was thinking back. So the first time I stood up on this stage, it was the spring of 2019.

Amy Croom: Okay.

Steve Jermier: So at that time, most of our business with you was customer comes in, they fill out some paperwork, merchant takes it over, they enter it into a system, they tear off a copy, they give it back to the customer, they got to mail us a copy. So since that time, our program with you has grown by 36%.

Amy Croom: Oh my goodness.

Steve Jermier: It’s not that long. It’s a little over three years. And if you think about why that happened, now remember at the time in 2019 saying, “We know if we make this process paperless, we know if we make it simpler, A, members are going to use it more, and B, we think more customers are going to gravitate towards it.” And I think that’s happened, and we’ll talk a little more about that in a little bit, digital and paperless and what we’ve done there, but been a lot since then.

Amy Croom: Yeah.

Steve Jermier: It’s been a lot. Yeah.

Amy Croom: And I think a lot has really changed. It really accelerated over the last two years of the pandemic and consumer’s shopping habits change, the way that they look for products, the way that they purchase products and the way they want to finance products has also changed. So how has that changed how Wells Fargo interacts with customers?

Steve Jermier: Yeah, absolutely. So I remember before the pandemic, we were talking about text to apply. And this is the funny part about text to apply. We actually contemplated using a QR code at the time, so take yourself back. And everybody in the room was like, “QR codes are going by the way say Right, They’re going the way of the dodo bird.”

Amy Croom: They had already peaked and they were done.

Steve Jermier: They’re gone. So we went text to apply. Now we order food with a QR code, right? So when you fast forward and you see where our process sits today, we’ve got over 200 members using what we call scan to apply. So I walk into your store, I hover my phone over a QR code that’s got a financing offer, It launches the credit application. We’re now integrated with a company called Prove, where I enter two pieces of information. It validates who I am, it pre fills the rest of the credit application.

Amy Croom: Oh my goodness.

Steve Jermier: And we’re off and running.

Amy Croom: So two pieces of information, and that’s all you have you have to do?

Steve Jermier: That’s it. I mean, you compare that to what we were just talking about in 2019, not that long ago. And I’m handwriting probably closer to 15 pieces of information on a credit app. So that has changed significantly. Our presence online through all of your member’s sites, specifically the integrations we’ve done with site on time, with RWS, we now have apply and buy. So we’ve got shopping cart checkout technology that’s all ready to go in full force. So it’s a different world today for sure.

Amy Croom: That’s amazing. And I remember going into stores and doing the credit applications and also walking out with all this paper. As a consumer, you don’t realize the security risk that is as well. So being able to keep everything in a digital format, not having to write things down, you don’t know where it’s going to go. Everything is in a secure portal. It really provides peace of mind as well.

Steve Jermier: And even in our world, I mean, look, I say paper and paper’s expensive, and we have to hire people to process paper, so that’s bad. But to your point, there’s also customer information on that paper. And when you’re having to send it via U.S. Postal Service to Des Moines, Iowa, so that we can log it away, I don’t want to do that either. And I don’t think your members want to do that. So where we’ve come today, over half of the business that we process with the nationwide marketing group is paperless.

Amy Croom: Oh my goodness.

Steve Jermier: And that was definitely not the case in 2019.

Amy Croom: And with only two pieces of information that you need to provide, it’s also super quick.

Steve Jermier: That’s exactly right.

Amy Croom: Which eliminates all barriers doing customer financing.

Steve Jermier: Yep.

Amy Croom: That’s fantastic. So what else are you all doing to support the independent retailer and the channel as a whole?

Steve Jermier: Yeah, and I’m going to brag on our team that’s right over there for just a second.

Amy Croom: You definitely should.

Steve Jermier: So to me, I mean, there’s only so many things you can do as a lender that are different and unique. I mean, we all chase each other with technology. We all chase each other with plans. We all chase each other with pricing. But when you talk about our people, and you talk about the tenure of the team, the tenure of this team is incredible between Carrie [inaudible 00:05:11], who I feel like is literally the prom queen at Primetime sometimes. Scott [inaudible 00:05:18], right? We’ve got Christie [inaudible 00:05:19] right here, Sarah Richmond, Alan Peters.

So what we do, and this is where I do think we differentiate ourselves. We are boots on the ground. And Chris Kirk knows this as well as anybody. If you call us and you go, “Hey, I want you out with this member, They need training. They need more information on how to actively offer financing and do it effectively.” We’ve got the best team in the industry and we’re doing it virtually. And yes, we are doing it in person. So if you’re watching this video and you want help, you want your team more empowered, you call us and we’ll make that happen.

Amy Croom: That’s fantastic.

Steve Jermier: Yeah.

Amy Croom: I love it. I love being able to meet the retailer wherever they are. Just like we always talk about meeting the customer where they are in their journey, meeting the retailer, providing solutions, whatever’s going to work best for their business. Awesome.

Steve Jermier: That’s exactly it.

Amy Croom: Fantastic.

Steve Jermier: Yeah.

Amy Croom: So what else is on the horizon? Is there anything that’s coming up as we look at the back half of 2022, start preparing for 2023? I know that we heard from Charlie Doctor yesterday during the general session talking about the economy and inflation and what’s going on. So as we look forward for consumers, what’s on the horizon?

Steve Jermier: So inflation, right?

Amy Croom: Yeah.

Steve Jermier: That’s real. I don’t want to say the word recession because nobody wants to hear that, but it’s the reality. And if you look across the economy right now, everyone’s savings accounts have dropped. Everyone’s revolving debt has started to creep back up, right? So what does that mean? Well, when we talk to retailers, we know foot traffic is down. What does that mean? Well, to me, there’s never been a more valuable time to proactively offer consumer financing. People want to hold onto their money when we’re in an environment like this. And the more attractive promotions you can offer them, the better off everybody’s going to be. We know financing provides a higher average ticket. If we know customers want it more now than they ever have, there’s not a better time to get actively involved with the program. The other thing I would point out is right around May of last year, we made a change, and I don’t want to get way into the technical weeds here, but we made a change in our inactive closure policy.

And what that means is, so pre-May of 2021, if a customer made their final purchase on a promotion, so they paid their balance down to zero, a clock would start and it runs for 18 months, and we would close the account after that for what we call inactivity. In May of last year, we extended that period to 36 months.

Amy Croom: Oh, wonderful.

Steve Jermier: Okay? So what does that mean for your members? Well, it means you’ve got literally 18 more months to get them back into your store to use that card again. And how do you do that? One of the big enhancements that we have coming later this year, it’s already through phase one. So some things have already changed is, your members can go to our portal, our online resource center, and they can request a list of open to buy customers.

Amy Croom: Fantastic.

Steve Jermier: When you’re having a hard time getting foot traffic in your stores anyways, get proactive. You know how valuable these private label customers are. Get that list. You set the criteria, you say, “Hey, I only want to see customers that have $3,000 or more available credit.” Great. Make an offer. Give them something that will get them into your store. You’ve already got that line of credit ready to use and you’re off and running.

Amy Croom: Exactly. And they don’t have to fill out anything. They are already approved. They’re ready to come in and start purchasing.

Steve Jermier: That’s exactly right.

Amy Croom: All right, so we have members here at Primetime who I know are going to be coming by your booth to learn about all of these awesome opportunities. For those who aren’t here at Primetime, who weren’t able to join us in Orlando, our next show, of course, is in March of 2023 in Dallas. Any advice to members who couldn’t make it to this show? It might be starting to think about where they’re going to go in 2023.

Steve Jermier: So let’s start with the ones that are here. I’m told we have a magician. I don’t know if we have a musician.

Amy Croom: It might a musical magician, I guess.

Steve Jermier: Could be. We could start a karaoke contest. We have a magician at our booth. I’m told if you come in and get a look at the work that he’s doing in there, he’s going to give you a $5 Starbucks gift card.

Amy Croom: Fantastic.

Steve Jermier: So tomorrow morning, if you want a cup of coffee, come watch a magic act. Come see some of our partners from distribution finance or the merchant services group, or our retail services team. Get your Starbucks gift card and enjoy. For those that aren’t here, look, all I would tell you is the same thing I said earlier about our team. Call us.

Amy Croom: Yeah.

Steve Jermier: We want to engage with you. We want to talk to you about how to grow your business. These are challenging times that we’re coming up on right now. Our team is prepared to help you. We’re prepared to come out, meet you in person. You want to do it virtually, we can do that too. But call us, engage us, and we’re going to help you grow.

Amy Croom: Wonderful. Well, Steve Jermier, thank you for very much for joining us here on Center Stage, and thank you for joining us here today. We can’t wait to see you again. Come back soon.

Steve Jermier: Thanks.

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