Humanizing the digital banking experience

Bianca Ho, COO & Co-founder,

Part of the allure of going to a bank branch is the ability to speak to someone to make an inquiry or conduct a transaction. The problem, however, is that in the digital era, where time is the new currency, consumers don’t want to go to a bank branch during banking hours and wait in line to speak to a bank teller. Rather they want to do their banking at their convenience – at any time, from any place, and on any channel.

While banks have responded to changing customer engagement preferences by remodeling their website to be more consumer friendly, and introducing mobile apps to offer on-the-go banking services, there will always be points in the engagement process where the consumer will need to or want to interact with the bank – virtually or physically – preferably through a digital channel.

According to Aspect’s 2016 Consumer Experience Index, 44% of survey respondents prefer to use a chatbot or some AI assistant to solve customer service issues.

In the 1950s computer scientists Alan Turing and Joseph Weizenbaum conjured the idea of computers talking like humans. The Turing Test was developed to test a computer’s ability to mimic intelligent behavior that is indistinguishable from human.

One outcome of such effort is the chatbot. Early versions of chatbots were mechanical, tedious and frustrating to banking customers to have to go through. And while banks have been working to humanize the chatbot experience, issues like semantics have limited success. Things may be changing, however, with advances in artificial intelligence, big data and natural language processing.

Chris Messina of Uber coined the term conversational commerce where to the convergence of messaging apps and shopping, or the trend toward interacting with businesses through messaging and chat apps, or voice technologies such as Amazon’s Echo.

Fintech Innovation spoke to Bianca Ho, co-founder of, to discuss the concept of chatbot and how new technologies may finally herald the age of the chatbot in the context of humanized digital banking.

Chris Skinner, an independent commentator on financial markets and Fintech and author of Digital Bank, see chatbots as a good answer for financial institutions to manage the millions of one-to-one conversations with their customers.

In his blogpost, he wrote that that “Chatbots and Natural Language Generation with advanced Artificial Intelligence are bringing back the B2C dialogue where it’s been missing most: online.” However, he cautions that chatbots have not yet evolved to the point where these can completely pass for a human.

Watch the video below of Bank of America's Erica, an intelligent chatbot solution that combines artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and cognitive messaging and to deliver a near human-like voice and chat feature for mobile banking. Erica is available to 45 million Bank of America households.

How cool is that?