While AI technology has become a fixture in the retail world, it’s now gaining considerable speed in the financial technology (fintech) realm. Fintech is undergoing its own transformation, as customers are shifting toward using emerging AI-powered applications for financial services and advice. Now banks have ‘bots, too.
The recent rise of AI is the result of data storage getting cheaper all the time, combined with massive computing power, resulting in the ability to analyze and retrieve big data fast – much faster than humans. AI apps turn data into consumer insights, offering the best of both worlds: machine-like efficiency with human-like interpretation. This technology has opened the door to a new level of personalized service and efficiency for the customer experience, in the form of chatbots, automated processes, and everyday help from Siri or Watson.
A widely used development in fintech are AI-powered financial advisors called robo-advisors. The website Investopedia estimates there are 200 robo-advisors in the US alone, with more launching every year. Consumers are choosing robo-advisors over humans for the simple but compelling reasons of convenience and easy access, not to mention substantial cost savings. Need a question answered at midnight? Robo-advisors are available 24/7 – and they don’t care how much money you have. Human advisors prefer to work with wealthy people, and require a certain amount of investable assets to get started, sometimes as much as $100,000 USD. By contrast, robo-advisors often require little or no account balance, and offer a range of services to anyone. Planning for retirement anytime soon? A robo-advisor can help with that. A third of US retirees are using digital resources to manage their finances, with the number expected to grow.
Everyone likes efficiency, and robo-advisors offer a new level of cutting through red tape. Say a customer decides to do a trade. In the old days, they would have to call an advisor during regular business hours, or meet up in person. Then there would be paperwork to fill out, followed by a waiting period. With robo-advisors, the process is automated; a customer can skip those steps and do it all at home by clicking on a few buttons.
Because AI apps can process big data more efficiently than humans, as well as recognize speech, images and text, banks are using their own versions of chatbots to improve customer service and offer a more efficient customer experience. According to bankingtech.com, Swedish Swedbank’s web assistant Nina handles an average of 30,000 customer conversations per month. Nina knows over 350 different customer service questions and answers, and reportedly had a first-contact resolution rate of 78% in the first three months. The same pattern-matching capabilities and ability to monitor online behavior also make AI apps ideal detectives for fraudulent activities.
As in retail, a fintech ‘bot can offer advice to consumers while they’re out shopping. The new field of Personalized Financial Management (PFM) is emerging with startups like San Francisco-based Wallet.AI. This app works by gathering information from a consumer’s smartphone, such as where they checked in, how much they spent, and what they bought. It combines the data trail with the spending habits to offer financial advice, even while shopping. Besides controlling impulse purchases, the app also offers practical reminders about everyday habits, like daily coffee runs. It also lets a consumer know how much they saved by using less services over a month’s time, like Uber, which is the example the company uses on its homepage.
With the recent and ongoing developments in fintech, the days of recruiting a shopping buddy, or a financial advisor, may be gone. All you need is your smartphone in your pocket.