AI’s Greatest Promise Is Simplicity, Experts Say

Innovation is all well and good, so long as it keeps banking simple.

Most financial institutions are now at the stage where “anticipating the customer’s need” is a critical step towards creating that simplicity, whether it’s for mobile banking, payments, or other daily banking tasks, according to Andy Hernandez, executive vice president and head of e-business for Regions Bank.

“We’re trying to [anticipate] through personalization, through behavioral analytics…respecting the customer’s privacy, but trying to address a need at the point where [the customer] has a need,” Hernandez told Bank Innovation.

If there’s one technology that sounds uniquely suited to that task, it’s artificial intelligence—something that is drumming up more and more interest in the financial world.

But how are banks using the technology today?

According to Henry Agusti, digital banking executive for Bank of America, banks are all “jumping in the water at the same time” when it comes to actually utilizing customer interaction with AI—but that doesn’t mean banks aren’t trying to put their own spin on how the technology will be used in the future.

This includes creating “non-native” bots and services outside of the bank’s purview (like a chatbot on Facebook Messenger), as well as (like BofA has been working on for the past year) creating a “native” service, like the bank’s Erica bot.

“I think the benefit of having that native financial assistant that’s inside the app—you can just have a much richer body of functionality,” Agusti told Bank Innovation. “For us, this isn’t a hobby farm, this is a center-post of the way we think about interacting with customers…I think of Erica and conversational banking as a third channel for our customers.”

This third channel, however, needs to remain simplistic—because the days where the consumer will come to an FI just for a digital product are long, long over.

“I’m just so bullish on simplicity—simplicity in the user experience, I really think that instead of the next widget, or shiny object, that’s what the customer is looking for—just give me something simple and intuitive,” said Hernandez.