LAS VEGAS — Bank of America announced its new chatbot, erica, yesterday at Money20/20 here. Erica should roll out for BofA digital and mobile banking users “late next year,” according to a spokeswoman from the bank.
At an event where chatbots were one of the main topics of interest for many of the 10,000 attendees, BofA’s erica stood out. One simple reason for that could be that so far, this is the only bank-branded chatbot that we’ve seen. Chatbots for mobile banking have existed for some time now, both on mobile apps and in other services like Facebook Messenger.
“I want [erica] to feel like what consumers are getting used to in their lives,” says Michelle Moore, the bank’s head of digital banking, of the app’s user experience. Think Siri or Alexa, except with the added value that the consumer is the one who decides when the conversation ends. “With erica, it’s question, answer, insight.”
As shown in the video below, a user can interact with erica both through text and through voice; one of the primary differences between this and other chatbot we might have seen is that the bot interacts with you first. This is a key shift in approach, according to Bob Graham, head of banking and financial services at the financial technology company VirtusaPolaris.
“[Erica] is using your information to push insights to you, which is a big differentiator from other chatbots that have been more pull,” says Graham, adding that this appears to be part of a wider trend–the digital assistant “over the user’s shoulder.”
However, Graham added that one of the most crucial components to the success of any of these “digital assistants,” especially the voice, is the user experience–it only takes one misstep to end up as a Cortana instead of a Siri.
“Is the voice component reliable?” says Graham. “It’s something to watch for.”
Mastercard also announced a future chatbot backed by AI at Money20/20 but didn’t name it yet — #marketingfail.