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This is how Naresh Vyas, Head of Solutions at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), presented the chatbot his bank has developed: “Friday night. England. You have lost your bank card in a bar and you realize that, with it, you have also lost the telephone number you were to call to warn the bank of a loss or theft. What should you do? Use your cell phone to contact a chatbot.”
Artificial intelligence allows the bank’s online chatbot – which was originally called “Luvo”, and has now been renamed “Assist” – to answer routine questions regarding matters such as address changes or credit card activations. Vyas, who practices what he preaches, stated that, prior to coming to Madrid – where he participated in the Revolution Banking event – he used the chatbot to learn about his bank’s presence abroad.
He also provided some figures: “In the month of February, 20% of the questions we were asked were answered by the chatbot, and 80%, by humans. A month later, the percentage answered by the chatbot was 30%, two months later it was 50%, and now it is 60%. It has convinced our customers.”
Vyas also emphasised the importance of the visual appearance of the online artificial intelligence in achieving these percentages: “It must make clear with a variety of welcome messages that customers are speaking with a bot.”
According to Vyas, another aspect that RBS concentrated on was language, to increase “comprehension of idiomatic and rare expressions that are understood by humans but not by chatbots”.
The language of the bot, Vyas said, is English, but he emphasised that the online tool would in the future also speak Spanish, French, and Italian, the languages of the countries in which RBS is present. However, prior to learning to speak other languages, the bot was to be rolled out to bank customers’ mobile devices this month.
Vyas added that artificial intelligence is not only a service for customers: “It also is an tool for our own personnel internally. It increases their effectiveness since they no longer need to lose time answering questions that can be handled by a robot mobile application.” The ability of artificial intelligence to resolve routine issues frees up employees to work on more difficult issues, which increases their motivation.
Vyas went on to say that robots also “promote investment”. “Today”, he explained, “if you want a personal advisor, you have to invest at least a million pounds. However, with the automated advisor, you can invest as little as 500 pounds. This means that we can offer financial products to 90% of our customers and make sophisticated transactions available to a broader spectrum of the population.”
The “cognitive” abilities of Assist – which is based on the IBM Watson platform – allow the bot to handle more complex tasks. The plan is to teach it to read customers’ minds in the future so that it can understand how they feel – dissatisfied, frustrated, happy – and change its tone of voice and methods accordingly. It will even be able to calm customers down when their credit cards have been lost or stolen.
At the Money Conf held in Madrid on 5-6 June Derek White, BBVA Global Head of Customer Solutions, also emphasised the importance of artificial intelligence in the area of financial services. According to White, artificial intelligence applications such as the chatbot MIA, developed by Garanti Bank in Turkey, will help change the way people handle their money. MIA allows Garanti’s customers to use their mobile phones to execute transactions with the bank via a conversation in natural language.