According to analysis by IHS Markit, Artificial Intelligence (AI) delivered $41.1 billion in cost savings for the banking sector last year, a figure that is predicted to swell to $300 billion by 2030. While many of these efficiencies take place “under the hood” in the form of intelligent digital infrastructure and automated back-end processes, new cognitive technologies such as Amelia are able to execute complex financial management processes on the front-end as well.

The growing potential of various technologies (including AI, mobile, IoT and digital payments) has grown alongside banking customers’ evolving expectations for on-demand, on-the-go services. Indeed, a new class of “neo-banks” have been built on a business model which emphasizes state-of-the-art digital experiences in lieu of a traditional brick-and-mortar presence. This new virtual breed of financial institutions is becoming increasingly accessed by younger, digitally-native consumers, and that has not gone unnoticed by traditional institutions that, in turn, are now tapping new technologies to enhance their customer services.

AI-based cognitive assistants allow every customer to have their own personal banking concierge who is available whenever and wherever needed. In this post, we will explore some of the ways that AI allows customers to bank on their own terms.

Moving to On-Demand Banking Services

We should begin by highlighting the differences between Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) and low-level chatbots. Both technologies may allow customers to have “conversations” with banking systems – but comparing the two is more akin to judging the ability of a moped to a Ferrari. Chatbots are built to recognize keywords and specific phrases, while advanced cognitive IVAs like Amelia are built to do that and much more, particularly discern users’ intent from a wide spectrum of utterances.

If providing customers with their own personal on-demand concierge is the goal, then cognitive AI’s versatility is key to emulate the behavior of a human teller, who would be able to understand a customer’s questions regardless of phraseology: “How much money is in my checking account?” versus “Do I have at least $2,800 in my checking account?” versus “How much money do I have in checking?”

Unlike chatbots, which are often little more than providers of semi-intelligent FAQs, IVAs have secure back-end integrations into banking systems which allow them to not only offer personalized information, but execute complex banking needs just by asking. For example:

Customer: I’d like to schedule a recurring payment of $100 to my brother Jake Smith for the next five months.
IVA: I would be happy to help you with that. When would you like to begin payments and to what account?

Switching Contexts While Maintaining Transactions

In addition, unlike chatbots, advanced IVAs offer context switching, which means they can understand when a conversation moves from one subject to another and back again. This functionality is key for longer, multi-turn engagements (e.g., opening a new bank account or applying for a mortgage) because they allow users to back up to previous parts of a conversation without starting over. With context switching, a customer could be near the end of the lengthy process of for example applying a mortgage and suddenly interject:

Customer: Actually, before we move on, can I change my primary email to [email protected]?
IVA: Of course. I’ve made that change to your primary email. Would you like to continue with the application process?

This may seem like a relatively simple feature, but it’s one where many AI-based conversational solutions fall short. A human agent would easily be able to handle jumping around in an extended process, and modern-day AI-enabled bankers should have the same functionality with their IVAs.

Improving Access to Banking Services

IVAs can not only handle multi-topic conversations, but can also open up access to banks like never before. For example, when contacting banking call centers, most customers are forced to wait until official working hours or wait in long phone queues, only to find that a service agent may or may not have all the information required once they connect. With IVAs, users can engage with their banks any time of day from multiple devices (including voice, web, mobile, smart speaker or whatever mediums and platforms may appear in the future).

This all-hours accessibility is increasingly important among banking customers: Consider this recent Gallup survey, which found that only 66% of millennials had visited a brick-and-mortar bank branch in the past six months compared to 81% of baby boomers. These sort of trends will only accelerate moving forward as the even more plugged-in members of Generation Z enter adulthood.

So the questions now for financial decision makers is this: Does your bank allow your customers to manage their finances on their terms – or are you forcing them to handle their finances the same way their grandparents did? And will that model ensure sustainability – or result in obsolescence? Let IVAs and more advanced conversational AI solutions guide you to the better answer.

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