Bots Are Everywhere, But Are They Ready for Banking?

  • Philip Ryan
  • September 12, 2016
  • 1

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / davinciThe latest technology to entice bankers is the chatbot — that talky little application that can tell you how much you spent at Starbucks or guide you through your account setup.

But a report from Forrester’s Peter Wannemacher, released last week, suggests that chatbots are not ready to handle the high-stakes world of managing people’s money.

At least, today’s bots aren’t.

“We are bullish on the longterm prospects for bots,” Wannemacher told Bank Innovation Wednesday. “But we advise banks to invest in the technology that will make next-generation bots.”

In other words, there is work to be done on backend systems before a chatty front-end can truly make a better experience for customers.

But that hasn’t stopped technology companies from building bots specifically targeting financial services. Prominent examples include MyKAI from Kasisto, Dyme’s financial wellness tool for SMS and Facebook Messenger, and FI-centric bots from Nuance and Personetics.

Bots were on prominent display at Finovate last week, both as the focus of presentations and interestingly, as tools operating in the background. One appeared in passing in Backbase’s demo of 60-second onboarding, while Personetics showed off a savings-oriented bot with an AI backend. Fiserv also used a bot in its loan origination process, demoed Friday. Bank of America has a Facebook Messenger bot live now, but declined to comment on it when asked.

Kore, meanwhile, announced its bot-building platform for banking, Smart Bot. The platform is currently cloud-only, but it will roll out an on-premise solution this fall. The bots can be built, customized, and implemented within 60 days, and with a little training, can significantly cut down on support calls, said Amit Aghara, global head of solution management at Kore. “The ten most common support calls have simple solutions a bot is well-equipped to handle.”

Kore will advise the banks past the deployment process, to make sure the bot, as well as employees, are properly trained. Bots are ready to take on at least two roles for banks at present, Aghara said. The first is handling support calls and introducing cost-savings, and second is deepening engagement, increasing touches, and starting conversations. Kore’s bot works across multiple channels and remembers conversations in other channels.

But for Wannemacher, it is not enough. Bank standards are simply too high for today’s bots to “live” up to. “Are the majority of your bank’s [customer] experiences mediocre?” he asked. “Then go for a bot.”

Waiting for the technology to advance would be the smarter move, Wannemacher said, and what bank doesn’t have plenty of work to be done in its core and backend systems? Wannemacher warned would-be bot-builders not to frivolously deploy bots the way H&M or even Microsoft have done. “For banks, the stakes are higher and the risks are greater.”

To learn more about bots and banking, join us at Bank Innovation Israel in Tel Aviv, November 1-3. Register here

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism. He can be reached at

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