Feature
Innovation

​While digital solutions abound for dealing with daily spending, few have developed tools that put consumers’ minds at ease when it comes to their long-term finances and that one concern we all seem to share: Will I be all right? Conversational Banking, which allows customers to interact with their bank through a chatbot, could help banks address that gap, allowing them to nurture long-term relations with all customers, big and small.

Experts estimate that financial institutions could achieve a financial impact corresponding to a 14.2% revenue increase if they manage to address what keeps their customers up at night: whether they and their loved ones will be financially safe in the long run.

 

In a recent survey carried out in connection with the whitepaper 'The Future of Money', only 19 percent of consumers described their financial services provider as having a proper understanding of their financial needs and goals, and 42 percent of consumers described their financial services provider as 'wanting their money' versus 'helping them get more out of their money' (21 percent). This lack of trust is likely to make consumers see financial institutions as utilities, simply ensuring money comes out of the wall, rather than a trusted financial advisor.

 

Until now, digital innovation and fintechs have largely focused on solving problems related to people's daily spending (fast money). Instead, financial institutions ought to focus the next wave of digitisation on so-called 'slow money' (any future spending or saving) to build relationships with their customers in a more digital future, the authors of 'The Future of Money' argue.

 

Getting 'slow money' right – a digital imperative

Ways to resolve people's 'slow money' challenges include activating customer data from across the bank, perhaps even offering guidance and data interpretation at the front end of digital platforms. This way, the customer would be able to make the right financial decision at the very moment he or she is making it.

 

It could also be organising around the customer instead of in silos, with a shared point of view on what matters most to the customer. This would also force banks to evaluate performance based on the actual financial well-being of the customer, rather than through product or company satisfaction.

 

Private banking for the masses

Balancing customers' long-term needs and aspirations (slow money) with their daily spending (fast money) represents a significant opportunity for financial institutions, Jens Kaas Benner, Director, New Business Ventures, Smart Payments by Nets, suggests:

 

"When you talk to your bank, you may get the impression that they take a holistic view of your personal finances, but many banks are divided into self-contained entities with IT systems that don't always integrate well. This could mean that the financial advisor advising you on the right mortgage when buying a house may not necessarily be the most suitable investment or retirement adviser for you, as they may not have access to sufficient data," says Jens Kaas Benner.

 

While he agrees that it is important to be there for the customers during life events such as having your first child, buying a new car or retiring, Jens Kaas Benner believes a more long-term approach would be beneficial:

 

"I think many banks tend to focus on that particular point in time when the life event plays out. When you buy a house, for instance, you need help with sorting out the right mortgage and so on. But for 2-3 years prior to that, you may have had an on-going dialogue with your spouse, family and friends looking into your options, wishes and dreams. Assisting all its private customers throughout that journey is beyond reach for most banks today," explains Jens Kaas Benner.

 

He thinks many customers are underserved in terms of understanding the implications of various financial scenarios, with their family net worth being siloed into items such as 'house', 'pension',  'savings' and so on:

 

"Imagine if a bank were able to serve its customers digitally and advise them across their entire financial network and family unit – this would represent a significant untapped opportunity," says Jens Kaas Benner, gesturing with his hands.

 

In his view, future banking will be all about serving personal banking customers digitally with a private banking service model, answering those all-important questions of: 'Am I ok – will I be all right?'.

 

Technology megatrends to the rescue

Megatrends such as open APIs, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and conversational user interfaces (UI) open up a whole new way of interacting with customers, allowing banks to proactively offer them advice based on aggregated data.

 

Within Open Banking, for instance, a set of standardised APIs allows banks to aggregate data from other financial institutions to provide new services. Based on aggregated customer data, banks will be able to provide specific buying suggestions based on a thorough understanding of the customer as well as on purchasing algorithms.

 

AI is a technology that makes sense of data, enabling better customer insights and experiences which again presents a significant cost-cutting potential. 60 percent of banks worldwide use AI for consumer analytics & insights, increasingly so for customer services as well, and, last but not least, for automation purposes, allowing branch staff to spend more time on those 20 percent of non-routine tasks that drive 80 percent of value creation, according to BCG.

 

Conversational UI will open new revenue streams

But conversational UI is possibly the biggest game changer of them all, as it allows users to write and speak to their device, telling it what to do:

 

"Conversational UI completely changes the way we use a computer. Before, the designer would decide which flow you would go through as a user. Now, you alone decide your flow. What you want the computer to do. It's a major change that enables new user experiences that would have been quite hard to develop for touch screen devices. Especially in financial services. We could easily have developed a tool for touch screen to handle your personal finances, but it would soon become a tool for experts. Conversational UI changes all that," says Jens Kaas Benner.

 

Conversational design will make computers accessible at any time or location, enabling consumers to interact with businesses, services and products through conversation. Although users will be interacting with computers, it will be on human terms. This represents a major shift from designers telling users what to do, to users telling computers what to do, according to Kaas Benner who expects the impact of the shift to conversational UI to be comparable to the effect it had when Apple introduced the iPhone back in 2007:

 

"I'm convinced conversational UI will be a paradigm shift, resulting in new types of education and job descriptions to create new types of interaction design. Combined with AI and access to aggregated data, it will open up new ways of using digital devices that simply wouldn't have been possible to design before, creating new revenue streams and business opportunities that are currently unimaginable."

 

If you can ask the question …

Based on AI, open APIs and conversational UI, Conversational Banking would enable banks to assist their customers with queries of a sort and to an extent that has never been seen before:

 

"Basically, if you can ask the question, Conversational Banking will be able to answer it. A bit like Siri, only on your own personal finances. It will empower consumers to handle their finances and spending with a lot more insight," says Kaas Benner, suggesting situations when Conversational Banking could become handy:

 

"During a transaction, you may want to ask: "what's my total balance right now, how much have I spent this month and last?". Or planning ahead, you could ask questions like: "how can I optimise my grocery shopping?" or "when can I afford to retire?". Perhaps you want to look after your pennies a bit more proactively, so you ask: "please ensure I keep my gas costs at a minimum going forward" or "could you only recommend investing in green stocks, please", " Kaas Benner says, stressing how the human brains will resist complexity and struggle to find the easiest way:

 

"Conversational Banking works with you as a customer, not against you, but it still bases all advice and information on substantial personal and external data."

 

But what about the bank's advisory liability if you've put all your money on red after having a digital conversation with your bank?

 

"Well, first of all, a good investment adviser would never advise you to put all your eggs in one basket, and this particular one would be very well informed. Secondly, the law protects consumers by ensuring that at certain stages, human interaction is required. Finally, you'll be able to access all historical data of your interaction with your bank through Conversational Banking at any time," Kaas Benner concludes, adamant that the conversational UI will help banks regain the role as a trusted adviser and reassure its customers that, yes, you'll be all right.


Read more: Money as a state of mind.

 

Sources:

'The Future of Money', Red Associates & Cognizant

'BANKING with artificial intelligence (Accenture)

'How chatbots can help reduce customer service costs by 30%' (IBM, 2017)

​“I’m convinced conversational UI will be a paradigm shift, resulting in new types of education and job descriptions to create new types of interaction design. Combined with AI and access to aggregated data, it will open up new ways of using digital devices that simply wouldn’t have been possible to design before, creating new revenue streams and business opportunities that are currently unimaginable,” says Jens Kaas Benner, Director, New Business Ventures, Smart Payments by Nets
In their report ‘’The Future of Money’, the authors refer to an anthropological study observing people in Germany, the U.S. and the UK in their real environment to understand how they made sense of money, investments, pensions, savings, credit and wealth preservation, as well as to a survey of 3,000 consumers and multiple interviews with academics, financial institution executives and fintech industry players.