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From left to right, Ajit Chawla (Birlasoft), Kristin Deegan (Wells Fargo), Kader Sakkaria (BMO Harris Bank) and Neha Aggarwal (Birlasoft) participate on an AI session at annual BCX Summit.

The banking industry lately has pointed to Bank of America’s virtual financial assistant Erica as a prime example of how financial institutions can introduce AI concepts to everyday consumers through digital banking experiences.

The concept of virtual assistants has become more commonplace thanks to the proliferation of Amazon Echo devices in households across the U.S. and banks stand to benefit from this growing trend.

BofA introduced Erica at a time when their customers were likely already familiar with an AI-driven virtual assistant, which probably bolstered interaction in the first few months of its availability. The bank earlier this month revealed more than 3 million mobile banking users interact with Erica, up a lofty 200 percent (or 2 million users) since the end of June.

But going forward, bank AI deployments won’t be confined to just virtual assistants. Bank executives believe the data gained from difference AI efforts will be crucial to how banks go about improving the customer experience.

For example, how can banks offer a better voice banking service based on the data they receive on how customers interact with assistants such as Alexa or Erica.

That idea was an overriding theme at this year’s Bank Customer Experience Summit, which took place two weeks ago in Chicago.

One particular summit panel discussion focused on what impact AI will have on both financial institutions and their customers.

Kader Sakkaria, director of technology, business and portfolio management for BMO Harris Bank, shared how BMO is attempting to get a “360 view” of their customers to offer the best products.

“A major initiative we’ve been doing is consolidating data. We’re making a huge investment in the analytics,” Sakkaria said. “We are trying to pilot some things to see how we can leverage the data. How can we cross sell or up sell [the customer with different products] with that data.”

He also noted how BMO is relying on AI to help the bank become more “agile.”

For example, Sakkaria said BMO’s current auto loan process takes some three weeks for customers to complete thanks to the paperwork. BMO wants to use AI to make instant decisions on an application to bypass today’s tedious process.

That’s where this concept of “agility” comes into play for BMO.

“The cultural change of being more agile is going to be significant for us,” Sakkaria said.

Kristin Deegan, senior vice president of digital product management for Wells Fargo, also participated on the panel and shared with the audience some areas within the bank where she believes AI can be an asset.

Earlier this year, Wells added a feature called “predictive banking” to its mobile banking app.

The features analyzes a customer’s account information and provides them with personalized account insights and guidance.

For example, the app alerts customers to transfer funds to checking from savings if an overdraft fee is imminent.

“It’s proactive,” Deegan said about the feature. “When we tested [predictive banking], we got some great feedback from users. We did the same with the [Facebook] Messenger chatbot.”

AI chatter was not limited to this particular panel as the topic came up repeatedly throughout the summit.

Phil Leininger, general manager of omnichannel sales and service of USAA Bank, talked about the importance of how banks use the data gleaned from AI initiatives.

“Banks are either not using the data at all, or not using it to its full potential,” Interlining said during a rapid-fire roundtable about various issues affecting the banking industry.

Ajit Chawla, vice president of Birlasoft, chimed in about AI during the session with Deegan and Sakkaria. He believes it’s still early days for how banks will weave AI into the customer experience.

“In the next two to three years, we’ll see a lot of mainstream adoption of AI,” he said. “Right now, we’re still at the beginning stage. Eventually, AI will help bring some standardization to user experiences.”

Photo credit/Jon Cullen/Networld Media Group


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