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The chatbot opportunities for banks

Marco Arce


February 20th, 2019

Despite most bots today having limited capabilities, there are huge opportunities to evolve chatbots into “virtual assistants” which have conversational power. This new generation of bots will use real time data analysis to create contextual conversations. They will leverage previous interactions, just as people do in their everyday discussions, to provide services to customers in their moment of need. In this article, I want to explore the potential of such next generation bots for the financial services sector and highlight the areas where we see their greatest potential.

Here at Belatrix, we believe that intelligent conversational capabilities will become the third pillar of financial institutions, after mobile banking and physical branches. These chatbots will enable a new type of engagement between the bank and its customers – characterized by a high level of personalization, and ultimately representing a transition from “transactions” to “interactions”. This is in line with how many banks are seeking to rapidly transform how they engage with their customers – to try and create customer experiences on a par with those of Apple and Google.

The ultimate goal is to move more interactions to voice, supporting sales, and advanced customer care and advice. They will enable greater personalization, a better UI, less friction and more automation. This represents a major shift to how many banks think of chatbots today – which is that they are a vehicle for reducing costs. Unfortunately, when the primary objective of using a chatbot is to reduce costs, rather than enhance the customer experience, customers are often left dissatisfied.

The opportunities for financial institutions are vast. They can cover any one of numerous functional areas:

  • Customer service. Banks can improve productivity and offer better service by offloading call loads for recurrent requests, such as locking lost credit cards, or locating the nearest branch/ATM. For example, the BBVA bank highlighted how one bot for the Royal Bank of Scotland is already answering 60% of basic questions that in the past had to be addressed by humans.
  • Product sales. Financial institutions can support customers to select the products that fit better to their needs while having a smooth onboarding.
    Retail banking. Already one of the most popular usages for chatbots among banks that have implemented them, are customer requests for day-to-day banking activities like checking their bank balance, and making transfers or payments. Perfect examples here include Bank of America’s “Erika” or Capital One’s “Eno” bot.
  • Personal financial management. Chatbots can help support customers on savings goals, and providing advice with customized options for saving. Reflective of the demand for virtual assistants to help people with their financial management, the JD Power 2019 US Retail Banking survey found that 78% of US retail customers are “interested in receiving financial advice or guidance from their bank” – such advice ranges from retirement advice, investment strategies, to tips on improving their financial situation. We’re seeing the emergence of dedicated bots that help people manage their finances across different financial services – products include “Cleo”, which is unaffiliated with banks.
  • Wealth management. Bots will be able to suggest the best portfolio for investment based on the market risk. BNP Paribas for example has developed a virtual assistant that updates its users with stock and market information.

Chatbots and virtual assistants have the potential to fundamentally change the interactions that banks and financial institutions have with their customers- and not just in the retail sphere. The challenge however, is building effective bots, which really address specific customer needs. As a result, here at Belatrix, we have just published a detailed whitepaper exploring the key success factors for chatbots when implementing them. I recommend reading it.

Meanwhile, to find out more about how Belatrix can help you and your organization, review our dedicated chatbot and virtual assistant services.

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