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How Wells Fargo is Approaching Estate Settlement with Empathy & Efficiency – Six Five On the Road

How Wells Fargo is Approaching Estate Settlement with Empathy & Efficiency - Six Five On the Road

On this episode of the Six Five On the Road, host Keith Kirkpatrick is at PegaWorld 2024, joined by Wells Fargo‘s Sangeeta Doss, Operations Executive – Estate Care Center at Wells Fargo, for a conversation on how Wells Fargo is transforming the approach to estate settlement through the integration of empathy and efficiency.

Their discussion covers:

  • The challenges faced by individuals and families during the estate settlement process
  • How Wells Fargo’s Estate Care Center is leveraging technology to improve the overall experience
  • The role of empathy in financial services and its impact on customer satisfaction
  • Strategies for balancing technological efficiency with personal touch in sensitive situations
  • Future directions for Wells Fargo in enhancing customer care in estate settlements

Learn more at Wells Fargo’s Estate Care Center.

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Disclaimer: The Six Five Webcast is created by The Futurum Group for information and entertainment purposes only. The Futurum Group partnered with Pega to bring you this webcast from PegaWorld iNspire. Wells Fargo is a client of Pega and neither Wells Fargo nor Sangeeta Doss has been compensated for their participation in this webcast.

Transcript:

Keith Kirkpatrick: Hi, I’m Keith Kirkpatrick, Research Director with The Futurum Group and Welcome to Six Five On the Road. Today I am really happy to have a guest with me today, Sangeeta Doss, head of the Estate Care Center at Wells Fargo. Sangeeta, welcome.

Sangeeta Doss: Thank you, Keith.

Keith Kirkpatrick: So I wanted to talk to you today about a topic that honestly, there are a lot of people just try to tend to avoid and that’s really estate care. Could you talk to me a little bit about what it is and why it’s important?

Sangeeta Doss: Yeah, absolutely. So in the U.S we have about a little over 1% of the population that dies annually. And at Wells Fargo that translates to about a half a million customers each year. And we really found that it’s such a difficult time for people and that by setting up this estate care center, we were able to give families the gift of grieving so that we can assist them with navigating what they need to do in order to settle the estate of their loved one.

And so my team helps them through all of the steps, understanding the state laws, what it’ll take to get disbursed their assets, if they owe debt, what that process looks like, if they want to assume the home, we’ll help with that. So we really do the full suite of products and services that they have with us. And it’s just a service we offer for free to the families so that we can assist them during this difficult time in their lives.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Yeah, that sounds great. I mean, I remember when my father passed, we had a lot of questions in terms of, first of all, what if the process after somebody passes, what are the steps we need? What are the documents? So is that how this whole process works, that they can contact Wells Fargo and say, “Hey, this happened,” if it’s something sudden or even if they anticipate a loved one’s passing?

Sangeeta Doss: Yeah. So yes, absolutely. So the clients could reach us directly, so the family members of the loved one, and we will help them through everything. Understanding all the terminology, if they need to go to court to go through probate, if we have named beneficiaries on the account, how they can claim the funds, if there’s investment accounts, we help them to make sure they understand their options to do that. If there’s retirement accounts, we’ll walk them through that. So we walk them through every step. What they need based on the resident of the decedent.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right. So talk to me a little bit about what are some of the pitfalls that people run into, particularly if they don’t have a company like Wells Fargo helping them along this process.

Sangeeta Doss: So a lot of times people don’t know where to even start. So it could take, for complex estates, 12 to 18 months. People sometimes don’t even have a will in place, so there’s no beneficiaries named on their accounts, and a lot of times we see that people never even claim the funds and it goes into escheatment and becomes unclaimed property. So we really are trying to proactively let beneficiaries know that they have an IRA account with us, you can claim your funds. We are trying to help them make sure that they can save their home from foreclosure. Because sometimes the payments go into default. So there’s just a lot of stuff that can happen and can go wrong. My team is really there to help guide them, what is their responsibility, what’s the responsibility of the estate, and then what are the steps that they could take to be able to get those funds.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right. Now there are obviously a lot of resources online to handle this, but it sounds like what you’re offering is a much more personalized approach based on the individual customer, their loved one and whatever family members or beneficiaries may be involved in the process.

Sangeeta Doss: That’s right. It is very caring, my team is deeply trained on empathy skills and so we help them. We have customers that are crying on the phone with us and we are just really there to provide this level of service. It’s a moment of truth for them and it helps us to allow us to help them with that process. And it’s a free service that we offer and it’s really just that, it’s just a service that we offer. And we help them with all of their relationships.

So they don’t know if there’s a car involved. What are my options with the car? What are my options with the house? How do I get this, how do I avoid taxes? Those are all different types of things that we can help them to understand if they have to take automatic distribution on taxes that there’s a federal tax or state tax when it comes to the IRA account. So we help them navigate and understand what those rules are.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right. Now, will you also work with designated third parties? For example, if I have a family attorney that we’d like to involve in the process, is that something that also works.

Sangeeta Doss: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. We work with lots of attorneys and so as long as they’re named as the personal representative or person with authority, we definitely work with the attorneys. Especially attorneys often when we have probate as well. And so we’ll work with them on settlement, if there’s debt and we need to negotiate the settlement amount, then we’ll do all of that based on what the estate can afford and where their funds are.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right. Now Sangeeta, one of the things that you’ve mentioned that I think is really important is you talked about how the folks in your division are really trained to demonstrate empathy, real empathy, and that’s something that I think is especially important in a situation like this. But I’m curious, we’ve heard a lot about AI and how AI may replace things. In your view, is that something where at least at this point, we’re not going to be replacing people in that role with AI or even, or whatever you might want to call it, that sort of automated technology?

Sangeeta Doss: Yeah. I think where we could use AI is really in the knowledge buddy to help the agents to be able to help them guide that conversation and provide the right information. They have a ton of procedures that they have to review and follow. And so the ability to use AI to help the agent get the right answers, give the right information the first time, those would be the ways I would see AI doing. But I don’t see that the customer would do it. We do have Fargo, and that’s our Wells, Fargo AI, and if you call Fargo and you say, Fargo, I have someone passed away, Fargo will tell you to call the Estate Care Center or go visit our website to get started.

Keith Kirkpatrick: So it automatically will escalate to an appropriate human as opposed to trying to figure out how to have an appropriate human-like response.

Sangeeta Doss: That’s right. Yeah. So all it says is, “We’re sorry for your loss contact, the Estate Care Center. We’re here to help.”

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right. Now the other thing you mentioned that’s really interesting is, so for your agents who are actually working in the center, it sounds like they’re actually being served up relevant information so they can help customers, as opposed to perhaps in the old days where it was they would have to go out and find relevant information. Maybe it was correct, maybe it wasn’t, maybe it wasn’t appropriate for that particular person. Is that what’s going on now?

Sangeeta Doss: So we haven’t put that in yet with AI. So they’re still on the traditional look-up their procedures and all of that. But that’s definitely something that we’re looking to incorporate. Absolutely. Because every State has different laws and then it changes by product, how the accounts title, the balance in the account. So it’s highly complicated. So even for an agent to know all 50 states and the rules for that, they have really complex procedures to have to try to navigate and figure out what the right situation is and what documents we need in order to settle that.

Keith Kirkpatrick: It seems like that would be a great use case for generative AI as long as you can ground the responses in the appropriate corpora of data that is relevant for let’s say someone living in Alabama versus California.

Sangeeta Doss: That’s right. That’s absolutely right. So being able to have AI to help guide that based on the state of residence, because sometimes the family member lives in one state that’s trying to claim, but that’s not where the decedent lives. It’s based on the state of the resident where the customer lived that passed away. So we need to make sure that they understand that it’s different if they lived in California, but their loved one lived in Florida, the Florida laws are very different than what you might experience in California.

Keith Kirkpatrick: I would also imagine that you’d be able to develop some sort of an AI assistant to determine the persona to whom you’re speaking. Because in some cases you might have a power of attorney. Sometimes it might just be the spouse of the deceased decedent, and other times it might be someone who is well-meaning, but may not actually have a legal right to be getting certain pieces of information.

Sangeeta Doss: That’s right. So one of the big steps we take is to authorize the person that we have on the phone and make sure that they’re the person with authority for us to be able to give the information. And you’re absolutely right. Sometimes we have a spouse who they lost their husband or wife, they’ve been married for 50, 60 years, they never maybe even took care of the finances in their home. They don’t know what bills were getting paid, how they got paid. So we could have that or you could have an attorney who’s just on the clock and needs to get stuff done. So yeah, absolutely. The team is well-trained to know who they’re working with. And when we do have someone who’s not authorized that’s calling, we could give them generic information, but we don’t give them any information on the actual accounts.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Okay. How do you see the space evolving, particularly with the advent of generative AI in terms of providing more personalization or more relevant information?

Sangeeta Doss: Yeah, I think that we could get much more proactive in helping in the planning piece of it. So people will know they’re going to pay taxes and they’re going to die, but they don’t prepare for death as well as they should. So we’re really working this, be able to use custom decisioning and things like that so we can prompt people, “Hey, you have a solo loan account. You have no beneficiaries named on this. Have you thought about naming beneficiaries?” And prompting them to check their beneficiary status.

Other things that we think that we could do is help them to set up a plan, like set up an estate plan. Do you have a will? Do you have a Trust? And just help them through the process before the end of life comes, I think is really where we have a huge opportunity.

Keith Kirkpatrick: So it sounds like you’re talking about reaching out to customers that currently have a relationship, and maybe they’re not thinking about this future because maybe they’re 30 or 40 years old not thinking about it, but obviously you can’t escape it.

Sangeeta Doss: Correct. And it really will. Every life event, they should be updating and reviewing their finances. When you first open your account, maybe you’re a college student and then you get married or you have kids or you have a health event. Those are all times where you really need to start reviewing and be thinking about, does anything need to change in my plan and how do I make sure I keep that all up to date?

Keith Kirkpatrick: Sure. So this sounds great in terms of really being able to serve your customers. I’m curious, as a customer of Pega, what has Pega brought to the table to help you in turn serve your customers?

Sangeeta Doss: Yeah, so I think one of the big things is this case management system because we are able to build a case at a customer level and then have a product for each of the products. But a case stays contained at the customer level. In the past, what used to happen was that let’s just say you had a car, an auto loan with Wells Fargo Mortgage, a credit card, and a bank account. You would have to go to each of those departments separately with its death certificate and tell your story over and over again. With Pega, it allows us to not only have the workflow, but it allows us to keep the case and the case notes contained. So we only collect documents one time. We apply them to every product that needs it to be able to settle, and we don’t have to have the family repeat their story over and over again. So we can just pick up where they left off the last time and follow right up without them needing to share again what happened.

Keith Kirkpatrick: It’s really, I think that’s an important point because when you’re talking about what sounds like you’re talking about is sort of the siloed approach to customer experience, and even in normal circumstances, that’s annoying to have to call my car loan department or mortgage. But particularly in a situation like this where the family’s under duress, it seems like it really will make a big difference in terms of improving their overall experience.

Sangeeta Doss: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s what we do. So Pega really helps us with that. In addition, because each one of our products sits on a different system of record, we use Pega and automation to bring that information up front to the agent so that they can see the holistic information. And then we have integrations with those different systems of records for us to be able to not have to swivel chairs that much.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right. What’s sort of on the horizon, or do you see in the future in terms of working with Pega or just your overall offering in general? How is that going to evolve over the coming months and years?

Sangeeta Doss: So we’re going to get much more proactive and do initial outreach. So as soon as we get death notification, we have been piloting and we’re going to be sending a letter or email out at the time of notification to the family. Because sometimes the families don’t even know where to start. Did they even have it? Where did they have their accounts? So this will allow us to proactively send a letter at the time of notification saying, “We’re sorry for your loss. We’re here to help you.”

We have a website that they could go to for checklists and uploading documents and stuff. And then they obviously have our phone number. They could walk into a branch and we’ll help the branch banker, or they could go into a financial advisor office and we’ll help them as well. So we have internal support as well.

And what I see happening is I really do think the knowledge buddy and the coach are going to be huge because the rules of the documents are really complex. And so that will assist us. And then I think what we’re doing is really, we see what goes wrong at the end of life and so now we’re really working with our advice and planning team to see what we could do to be more proactive and get to know the families beforehand and understand who’s going to be taking care of your estate afterwards, who are your beneficiaries? Let us get to know them. And so that we can help have that conversation now for what’s going to happen in the future.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right. Well, Sangeeta, thank you so much for sharing what your division does. I mean, it’s certainly not a topic that people want to think about, but really everyone needs to, and I know it’s a good prompt for me to make sure I check on my documents to make sure they’re up-to-date.

Sangeeta Doss: Yeah. Yep. So thank you, Keith. I really appreciate your time.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Thank you. And thanks to all of you for tuning into Six Five On the Road. I’m Keith Kirkpatrick, and we will see you again really soon.

Author Information

Keith has over 25 years of experience in research, marketing, and consulting-based fields.

He has authored in-depth reports and market forecast studies covering artificial intelligence, biometrics, data analytics, robotics, high performance computing, and quantum computing, with a specific focus on the use of these technologies within large enterprise organizations and SMBs. He has also established strong working relationships with the international technology vendor community and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events.

In his career as a financial and technology journalist he has written for national and trade publications, including BusinessWeek, CNBC.com, Investment Dealers’ Digest, The Red Herring, The Communications of the ACM, and Mobile Computing & Communications, among others.

He is a member of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP).

Keith holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Magazine Journalism and Sociology from Syracuse University.

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