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Conversational Banking Innovators and Challengers

Following on from my post on a conversational interface framework and the road to conversational interfaces, here's a quick overview of some of the innovators that have taken early advantage of conversational interfaces in banking.

Note this isn't just about chatbots, but pretty much the full breadth of conversational interfaces. I tried to cover a broad a spectrum as possible, but if you more interesting and differentiated examples please do let me know about them in the comments.

 

Conversational Challengers

With the immense global popularity of chat apps and consistenly-rising adoption of voice assistant services, customer appetite for conversational interfaces is undeniable. Traditional banks, challengers, neo-banks and fintechs have all explored conversational interface capabilities across almost every mainstream segment of banking. Confidence in user appeal and the quality of customer experience when engaging with conversational interfaces has resulted in the introduction of interfaces that are purely conversational, where no web or mobile service alternative is provided. Some examples of challenger banks with conversational interfaces include: 

Cleo: Money Management             

Cleo is a money management chatbot exclusive to Facebook messenger. Cleo aggregates users’ existing bank accounts and provides money management features such as spend analysis, budgets and goals. The chatbot has a fun, informal persona and makes effective use of emojis, animated gifs, smart screens and menus. The service effectively drives engagement and doesn’t wait for users to initiate service requests.

Ava: Financial Advice        

Ava is a financial advice chatbot, developed to aid customers with financial planning needs beyond basic banking services, offering (support) for more personalised services such as pension management. The goal for Ava is to improve each user’s financial wellness, by not only providing highly personalised advice but pairing this guidance with access to education services within the platform, intended to improve financial literacy. 

Anna: SME Banking           

Anna is a chatbot service designed to support small to medium sized enterprises. Alongside basic banking services Anna also issues invoices, provides proactive notifications of unpaid invoices, assists with expense management and provides personalised reports. The scope of services offered through Anna intends to save the business owner time and reduce the stress of business admin. 

TD Ameridtrade: Investment Banking         

Established investment bank TD Ameritrade has also ventured into the conversational interface space with the introduction of its own chatbot. Clients can use the chatbot, available in Facebook Messenger, to view and manage their portfolio, conduct market research and watch educational videos. A similar chatbot service is available within WeChat in certain markets, and the bank also offers a voice service, the TD Ameritrade skill for Amazon Alexa, for receiving quotes and trading stocks.

 

Traditional banks innovating in conversational banking

As seen with TD Ameritrade’s exemplary chatbot experience, the implementation of innovative conversational interfaces is not limited to challengers and fintechs. Many established banks have not shied away from taking advantage of the numerous benefits to both bank and customer that conversational interfaces afford. Instead, these banks have been at the forefront of leveraging conversational banking, introducing both chatbots and voice-based services. The following is a brief overview of the breadth of conversational interfaces implemented by banks: 

 

Bank of America – Erica

Bank of America launched their AI interface, Erica, within their mobile banking app in April 2018. The multi-modal app supports both voice and chat-based conversational banking, and its capabilities include proactive initiation of customer engagement based using rich insights derived from their account data. Erica proved an almost immediate success for the bank, used by over one million customers in the first three months alone.

 

DBS – Digibank Virtual Assistant

Digibank, DBS Bank’s mobile-only digital bank, offers customers use of a conversational chat interface, known as Digibank Virtual Assistant, powered by vendor platform Kai, from Kasisto. Digibank Virtual Assistant can be accessed by bank customers through either Facebook Messenger or the bank’s own mobile app, offering greater choice and convenience. The capabilities of Digibank Virtual Assistant extend beyond the self-service banking experiences expected of a chatbot, as the virtual assistant excels at handling customer service requests. Digibank claims 82% of all customer enquiries are handled by the chatbot.

Digibank was an early mover in the chatbot-based digital banking space, having launched in India in 2016.  Since then DBS has continued to innovate using this technology, expanding its range of chatbots to include JIM, a recruitment bot, and Foodster, a bot for ordering food and drink.

 

Capital One – Amazon Alexa

Bank development of voice-based conversational interfaces is seeing continual growth. This area of conversational banking was pioneered by Capital One, as their Amazon Alexa banking skill was the first of its kind. The voice banking Alexa skill was developed in-house and launched during March 2016. Once the skill is downloaded by Capital One customers, customers are then authenticated and can decide which accounts to link to the service. A 4 digit pin verifies the user thereafter. Capital One remains a strong presence in the conversational interfaces space, developing its Eno chatbot service in 2017.

 

City Union Bank – Lakshmi 

Conversational interfaces need not be limited solely to personal digital devices, as they are able to offer a valuable customer experience through less conventional channels too. Use of robots in banking has been attempted as early as 2010, when Santander implemented them to escort customers through the branch. Today, robots can be found in branches of City Union Bank under the name of Lakshmi. Lakshmi is a conversational AI based on SoftBank’s Nao, a mobile physical robot that can be programmed. Lakshmi is well suited to banking, featuring a screen to display sensitive information, such as bank balances, to avoid any personal data being accidently overheard and divulged. The bank developed 125 intents, also known as queries and actions, for Lakshmi in just six months. When launched around 25 bots were deployed into different branches, aiming to shorten the queues for human tellers.

 

HSBC and SEB

Both HSBC and SEB opted to feature Avatars in their chatbots services. SEB deploys IPsoft’s Amelia which claims to have very strong cognitive skills, achieving a 90% accuracy rate in understanding and completing tasks8. Amelia’s features include rapid problem-solving, natural language processing (NLP) capabilities and detection of emotions.

HSBC’s service focuses on Corporate Banking, and joins a growing trend of banks supporting SME’s through conversational banking, such as the Anna chatbot referenced above. HSBC’s iteration of this service is known as Amy, and is available to customers through both desktop and mobile channels.

 

 

Conversational banking innovators
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