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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Medlin, May 24, 1999. Interview I-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

New banking technologies

In this excerpt, Medlin describes how Wachovia embraced new banking technologies such as the ATM.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Medlin, May 24, 1999. Interview I-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Tell me a little bit about, it would be interesting to have your sense of how you in your CEOs desk over the years have had to watch the whole technology issue unfold and make probably at times some really important and in cost terms consequential choices about technology systems you're going to employ.
The big, the first big dilemma I think on that was back when we developed our retail accounts information systems, RAIS they call it. To say, here you're going to spend all this money and all you're going to get out of it is just a little more knowledge about your customers. You're not sure where the revenue is coming from to pay that back or pay for it. Then the automated teller machine is not long after that, automated banking machines. Some of our competitors were in the market place very early on with a thing you'd put a card into and it would pop out twenty-five dollars, and it was not on line, and it was not really much more than getting a Coke type machine service. We were a little late and our surveys told us that people wanted more than that. You weren't going to get much advantage other than short-term PR advantage in having those kinds of machines. So we took the time to work with the manufacturer and develop a machine that was a much more comprehensive banking machine. So when we came to market a couple of years later, we really had something that made sense for us and the customer. We were displacing cost. We were adding value other than a twenty-five-dollar pop on a quick card. Those kinds of decisions, you want to be on the leading edge but not the bleeding edge when the technology is [unclear] . I kind of recognized very early on in my administration that it was very important to have someone in charge of technology that had the mental ability to do this but also the practical sense of what you can afford. We don't just have things that you get awards for at the IBM trade show or something because they're going to sell you a lot of equipment and a lot of software and you're not going to quite ever see where you get the payoff from. Walter Leonard was that kind of person, a person of real strength and creativity and came up through our systems and programming area and when, for example when we had the, when they said, 'We think we've got the automated teller machine now for the future.' I said, 'What sort of customer testing?' 'We haven't'- I said, 'Go out and find a representative group of customers and let them tell you what they think about it before I sign off on it.' So we always try to have at least during my administration, things that work for people that are supposed to benefit them, not something that suits the techies that designed them.