The banking world is adopting chatbots at pace, particularly in Asia where huge consumer numbers mean banks have to filter out queries that require the use of a service agent. But, with new banks and products leveraging FinTech, bots will play a wider role in all manner of banking services. 

FinTech is one of the hottest market segments globally, with billions of dollars invested in startups and development by the major investment and commercial banking bands. In the race to “smarter and faster”, from payment services to disruptive credit providers, and the inevitable rise of blockchain, chatbots are along for the ride as part of the move to AI, natural language processing and predictive analytics.

With Accenture claiming, only a year ago, that “three-quarters believe that within three years, banks will deploy AI as their primary method for interacting with customers.” there isn’t long left for banks and those that partner with them to get their acts together.

Banks & Bots Working Together

The theory goes that if a startup, or overloaded major bank, can offload the majority of their customer service queries to a chatbot, then they save on costs. Also, they can better use the data gathered to refine future products and better understand their customers. As such, it is no surprise that financial, insurtech and legal services combined to make it into the top five adopters of SnatchBot’s cloud chatbot service.

Banks are well aware that chatbots are better tools when it comes to acquiring and retaining customers than traditional engagement. Conversations and an ability to find a wide range of information in one place make them uniquely suited to the finance sector. That’s why bots are appearing on the websites and apps of growing numbers of banks. From Wells Fargo to Hang Seng, global banks are adopting bots to provide personalised experiences and insight into products without the need for complex forms or other features that may put customers off.

With AI driving the conversation and generating new data, these are interesting times for banks. Even so, despite the interest and growth, in a recent interview with Cyril Cottu of BNP Paribas, he notes that “AI will provide speed and capacity to detect patterns and trends, make decisions and send out messages to other machines or humans. In global market operations, this has barely started.” To that end, in 2017 the French bank acquired Gambit, a robo-advisor service among others.

In Sweden, banks SEB, Swedbank and Nordea have recently rolled out a range of chatbots, for both customers and workers to help them improve automation and IT support. Note the years of testing it took to get these bots fit for purpose, demonstrating that banks can’t afford a negative customer experience.

Helping The Bank & The Consumer

It is not only banks that are involved in the chatbots, Cleo is an independent personal finance chatbot to help people who are bad with money. More than just a chatbot, it can link to US or UK bank accounts and scan for ways to help improve finances. On the way are the likes of Amy from HSBC and many more help customers.

With lots of consumers still taking a head-in-the-sand approach to their money worries, bots like these could help people start to make positive changes to their lives, without the need to discuss potentially embarrassing issues, and most consumer banks would be wise to follow suit.

And, as we head into the future, the complexity of dealing with blockchain and cryptocurrencies could easily be resolved by a chatbot interface. One takes instructions directly, rather than users having to navigate complex transaction services would help demystify the technology to many. That would allow any app, bank or business to engage with altcoins, or many transactions, with no more knowledge need than an understanding of language.

Banks may still be in the experimental phase, but they, especially legacy banks, don’t have long to act. Gartner’s recent CIO agenda survey showed digital business/digital transformation is a top priority among banks. So, If they are aware that the “old business models and existing value propositions will not be sustainable in the future” change will happen fast.