As we enter an age of service enhanced by artificial intelligence, financial institutions in particular must look to capitalize on the opportunities presented to offer better experiences. The good news is that banks and credit unions are well positioned to do so because of the wealth of personal data they have access to, which serves as the fuel to drive the AI engine. Consumers today rely on service providers of all kinds to simplify their lives through automation, and have come to expect the same level of “do it for me” streamlined experiences in their banking interactions. Again and again, consumers have demonstrated that experience matters, and AI is one way that financial institutions can use to improve those experiences. AI’s potential for personalizing services is one important way financial institutions can differentiate themselves from the competition in the fintech industry. By using the rich data at their fingertips, banks and credit unions can create a more personalized experience, ranging from smarter recommendations to automated alerts and services. In order to take advantage of the strides in AI, financial institutions need to explore AI’s practical applications when it comes to areas such as voice interaction or voice intelligence, chatbots and other wearables, and in automating personalized recommendations and alerts.
Data-driven AI has the potential to enhance financial institutions’ abilities to create both a more personalized and smarter experience. With permission, financial institutions can use AI to access account holder data, including card spending, direct deposit information and bill payments, to make predictions about consumers’ behavior and even market applicable products and services to them. For example, if a consumer experiences cash flow issues due to an unusual income stream structure, such as monthly or quarterly paychecks, the AI engine could recommend setting up a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or savings account with auto transfers that ensure the consumer has funds on hand to pay important bills on time and avoid potential late payments or overdrafts. Consumers value intelligent suggestions for new products and services, as long as those recommendations are timely and relevant.
Many consumers already use voice recognition software in their everyday lives, and are familiar with virtual assistants such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant. These assistants use a combination of voice recognition software, which translates human speech into data, and voice interaction, which is powered by AI applications. Voice interaction specifically differs in how it uses the information to respond intelligently. These assistants have become more lifelike, and are beginning to become indistinguishable from real humans over the phone. This was recently illustrated in a Google Assistant demo: (https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/05/08/googles-assistant-can-place-phone-calls-and-fool-humans.html ) where Google Assistant is used to set up appointments and reservations. Many banks and credit unions are exploring simplified integrations into smart-home speakers, such as Amazon Echo, where consumers can check account balances and request simple account-to-account transfers. To take this experience even further, FIs should be exploring how to leverage AI with voice interaction to add more value during these interactions. As an example, having the assistant provide the balance, then proactively making a personalized suggestion, such as offering to make a transfer to a high-interest savings account if there is an excess in the account. Voice-based assistants can also help remind consumers about upcoming payments in order to manage their finances more effectively. Soon, consumers should be able to ask an assistant a simple question, such as “how are my finances?” and engage in a nuanced conversation similar to an in-person discussion with a banker. With voice interaction, AI can act as a personal banker or a financial assistant, fulfilling consumers’ need for AI to “do it for me.”
Chatbots, Wearables and More
In addition to voice interaction, AI can also be deployed in the form of intelligent chatbot technology. Currently many major brands are helping consumers find flattering clothing with intelligent recommendations, order their “usual” or even learn a second language, all in real-time (https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/brands-already-using-chatbots-in-their-marketing). However, financial institutions have yet to take advantage of the full potential of this powerful technology. Now is the time for them to consider the advantages chatbots can offer in the role of a financial personal assistant, answering questions in real-time through a number of text-based devices. Consumers could easily interface with a chatbot assistant to check account balances and upcoming payments, or even ask harder questions in real-time, such as “how can I save better?”
Financial institutions should also keep a close eye on the automotive industry as cars become smarter and integrate with payments. In the near future, smart or self-driving cars will become commonplace, and will quickly become a new channel for consumers to interact with their banks. A self-driving car could easily order, pick up and pay for groceries, before chauffeuring a consumer home from work. Similarly, by integrating with a mobile wallet, these autonomous vehicles could run errands and pay for services, such as picking up lunch or dry cleaning. On a commute home from work, consumers could carry on an intelligent conversation with a smart car’s voice assistant about their monthly spending and schedule payments.
Currently in use, wearable technology has been introduced to the financial industry recently with a limited number of smartwatch applications. Financial institutions have an opportunity to explore the practical uses of this technology through the addition of AI. Wearables provide additional convenience and added fraud protection to consumers. For example, a consumer going for a run can use a smartwatch to conduct transactions without a wallet on hand or even receive alerts about fraudulent card activity in real-time. AI adds value to this emerging market by enabling a predictive, intelligent and convenient conversation or transactions through a wearable to cater to consumers’ financial needs.
As financial institutions look forward into the future, artificial intelligence will prove to be crucial in transforming the industry. Instead of trying to make these strides forward alone, or relying on legacy partners, financial institutions should be looking into innovative partners for help as they seek to build their future successes on investments in artificial intelligence. Because AI is data driven, its capabilities for personalization holds the solution for a range of FIs’ different pain points and challenges, and the key to achieving this vision of the future is collaboration with innovative fintech partners. These partners will enable FIs to leapfrog the competition and transform each interaction with consumers into a “do it for me” experience, no matter the device. Banks and credit unions must embrace fintech partners as the path to the age of artificial intelligence.
Fran Duggan is CEO of Payrailz, a digital payments company offering smarter more engaging bill payment and money movement experiences to banks and credit unions. For more information, please visit Payrailz.com