How the banking industry can capitalise on conversational AI

Not a day has gone by this year, it seems, without a new headline about OpenAI’s ChatGPT or its equivalents. The world has been enthralled by stories about the novel ways these new tools are used, ranging from the impressive and imaginative to the downright bizarre. ChatGPT has helped make artificial intelligence (AI) real to many people who may have been unaware of its power.

Businesses, including financial institutions, have naturally viewed these developments with interest, wondering how to apply this technology to support their own digital strategies. There is good reason to be curious. The technologies underlying ChatGPT—generative AI and large language models (LLMs)—present a huge potential for banks to take their digital customer services and overall digital-transformation efforts to a new level.

It’s no secret that financial institutions of all kinds are racing to modernise digitally as quickly as possible to keep pace with their customers’ expectations and continue thriving in a more digital world. A host of challenges—a high-inflation, high-cost environment, the need to meet sustainability targets and the battle for scarce skilled talent—bring added impetus. Many firms have recognised the powerful role AI and automation technologies can play in helping them address these challenges, from removing costs by automating processes to using data-driven insights to track and reduce carbon emissions.

When it comes to using conversational AI, banks have already made brisk progress, particularly since the first COVID lockdowns rendered virtual customer-service assistants essential. Intelligent virtual agents, such as NatWest’s (National Westminster Bank’s) Cora1 and TSB Bank’s Smart Agent2, were deployed quickly to help bank staff handle the surging need for digital customer services, boosting the client experience and satisfaction in the process. More recently, IBM Consulting worked with Virgin Money to launch its digital host, Redi, to provide 24/7 support for the bank’s credit-card customers.


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