Originally developed for retail banking, chatbots are beginning to be adopted in wealth management. Robin Arnfield talks to key developers that are testing chatbots for wealth management in North America to find out their unique plans
Chatbots are increasingly being seen and heard in private banking. The virtual agents use chat-based AI software to simulate human conversation, helping consumers complete tasks and answering their questions. They can run on digital banking channels, and common platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
Daniel Latimore, senior vice-president, banking practice, Celent, says it is still early days for chatbots. “They’ll start out by performing basic tasks – such as balance enquiries or status of holdings – and, as they demonstrate proficiency, will expand to more complicated endeavours such as moving money, rebalancing portfolios and executing orders.”
Chatbots can save advisers time by acting as digital assistants, and provide a streamlined user experience. PBI looks at vendors in North America that are using chatbots for multiple purposes.
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Abe’s chatbot is available for free download, and tracks all of a user’s financial accounts, including retirement plans and investments “to help them grow their net worth”, says Abe COO Keith Armstrong.
“We offer integration with 15,000 financial institutions (FIs), including a wide range of investment firms. Abe helps users budget for and plan wealth-management targets. For complicated requests, it can put users in touch with a Certified Financial Planner.”
Several FIs have approached Abe about its services. “We’re currently in talks to implement pilot projects with these FIs in the next three to six months,” Armstrong says.
Beerud Sheth, CEO of Silicon Valley bot-building platform Gupshup, says chatbots require no download, and their conversational interface makes communication by text or voice easy.
“They can automate many tasks requiring little human supervision. This will have a substantial impact on the investment industry, as chatbots will dramatically improve the decision-making and advisory processes,” he says.
Sheth adds that chatbots will impact most decision-making elements of investing, such as trading decisions, portfolio allocation and rebalancing. “Investors can use chatbots to track news, discover investments, track prices and execute transactions, managing the information overload by escalating only information they want to see,” he says.
“To automate the advisory element, chatbots mimic the human elements of financial interactions and can leverage cues from the best fund managers and analysts to create customised strategies for individual clients.”
IBM Watson, the cloud-based AI technology that processes vast amounts of information and learns from each interaction, is popular in the bot space. It allows banks to more profitably serve customer segments with lower amounts of assets under management, where personal fact-finding interviews with relationship managers might not be profitable.
In addition, “Watson can be used to capture a customer’s transaction requests, such as buying or selling stocks, and execute them on the bank’s core wealth management platform,” says David Robson, IBM’s European director for Watson Financial Services.
“Watson can also be used as a virtual assistant by a bank’s call centre agents or relationship managers, helping them when clients ask questions. Also, it offers robo-advisory capabilities such as balancing the client’s portfolio.”
Personetics uses predictive analytics based on data streams including real-time transactions, location, and customer profile data to generate timely, relevant recommendations or offers for banking customers.
“Our predictive analytics platform on the back end analyses customer transaction data in real time, and, based on this data, the chatbot gives them the personalised information they want – such as information about transactions,” says Eran Livneh, Personetics’ VP of marketing.
Chatbots make compliance easier, Livneh says, as it is “easier to train a chatbot to be compliant than a human being, and everything is recorded in a format that is easy to analyse.”
Personetics’ chatbot works with any messaging platform, along with Amazon Alexa and banks’ digital channels.
“It also needs to connect to the bank’s core systems so the customer can perform transactions. We index a bank’s entire FAQs and website articles so we can deliver this to customers via the chatbot when they ask questions.”
Livneh says Personetics’ chatbot is the front-end user interface which interacts with a bank’s transaction systems. “Our open API layer can connect to any bank system,” he explains.
“Asia is a good market for chatbots, as messaging applications are prominent there,” Livneh adds.
Personalised interactive investment technology provider Polly Portfolio’s core market is investment managers, but it offers a chatbot for use on Facebook Messenger.
“Polly Portfolio’s chatbot allows you to tap into our knowledge engine that combines financial data, expert views and your own opinions to create custom trade ideas,” says Jasen Yang, Polly Portfolio’s CEO.
“Currently, chatbots are most relevant when deployed on existing platforms like Facebook Messenger. One reason is that user registration and identification is effortlessly handled by Facebook Messenger, and the lower barrier to engagement is a massive advantage for chatbots.
“But it will rapidly make sense for the same chatbot interface to be accessible via a bank’s website or mobile app, as well as via voice-activated systems like Amazon Alexa,” adds Yang.
Solution provider Kore currently works with two of the top four US banks to provide solutions for customer support, transaction and account information, fraud alerts and transfers.
A Kore spokesperson says: “We’re personalising any service that banks extend to their customers via an AI-powered chatbot that uses natural language processing.”
As AI capabilities develop, more use cases built on making unstructured data instantly useful or actionable will emerge, according to the Kore spokesperson.
The other obvious chatbot use cases involve buying, selling, and trading, along with providing instant market and portfolio updates, insights, and personalised alerts