Bank of America Turns to Electronification of Cash to Reduce Operational Costs

EXCLUSIVE – Bank of America seeks electronification of cash not only as way to better serve its banking customers but also as an excellent way to reduce costs: according to Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, this digitization of cash can save the bank billions of dollars.

“That’s why Zelle is so importance to us,” Moynihan said at the Goldman Sachs U.S. Financial Services Conference earlier this week.

While Moynihan admits that cash movement on the P2P payment app Zelle is “still small,” compared to cash movement via credit cards (10 times more than Zelle) and cash over tellers (five times more than Zelle), the long-term impact of electronification of cash through technology will be huge, he said.

The bank currently incurs up to $5 billion in expenses just to move cash around from the institutional side to the retail side. The solution for reducing this cost is technology, he said.

Aside from Zelle, Bank of America is focusing on other technology innovations to make this possible. The bank currently has a strategy of investing about 1-2% of annual expenses (about $500 million) in innovation and technology.

The bank is interested in a few major areas, he said. The first area of interest, Moynihan said, is voice recognition aka Erica – which will roll out next year. The others are artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and data distribution networks.

When it comes to robotics and AI, one of the primary use case is internal testing and automating internal workings to reduce operational costs, he said.

“We are down 6,000 managers since the later part of 2015… and that’s just been by letting the managers retire and not replacing them,” he said at the conference. “…that is enabled by technology, frees people to get things automated….”

As for Zelle, Bank of America declared Q3 its most successful quarter yet for the app. Last month alone, the bank had five million transactions through Zelle, 35% higher than the average 3.7 million transactions per month the bank reported in September. During that month, BofA said it processed $1.5 billion dollars through the app.

Nevertheless, spending via digital channels does not account for as high a percent as one would thing. In fact, for Thanksgiving weekend, 80% of consumer spending was non-digital, however that 20% of digital spending represented a 15% increase from the same period last year, while non-digital growth was only 4-5%. Over all the bank saw a 6% increase in consumer spending over the Thanksgiving weekend compared to last year.

To learn more about the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence and digital banking, join us on March 5-6, 2018 at the Parc 55 in San Francisco for Bank Innovation 2018. Click here to register.

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