Conversational AI for banking – by its very nature – is a constantly-evolving technology. Based on simple human conversations, this amazing science continually refines and optimizes itself each time it interacts with a user. We call this “training the bot”, an ongoing process that relies on plenty of data and user interaction to deliver consistently accurate responses from the Finn AI virtual assistant.

With such cutting-edge technology, the question I get asked most often is: what’s next? At Finn AI, we’ve recently partnered with Visa to explore what’s next. For several months now, we’ve been working together to create conceptual use cases to understand how conversational AI can innovate and improve the cardholder experience.

The Shift From Physical Cash to Digital Cash

The work we’re doing with Visa will address a global shift that’s currently underway, one where money transactions are rapidly converting from physical cash to digital cash.

All of our bank customers issue cards and these are widely used by consumers, often multiple times in a day.  Cards are critical to our financial lives, allowing us to transact online and fund our lives while we’re out there living them.

But even though cards have been in use for many years, consumers (and banks) still encounter significant pain points when using them. This is an area where the Finn AI and Visa partnership can really make a difference.

Cards Can Be Hard

Cards represent access to digital money and people should be able to quickly manage and control this part of their financial toolkit in the same way they handle their physical money – in the moment. But this often isn’t the case. Today, most card management is handled via call center or by logging onto a website. These methods are typically not very convenient to the customer and they are definitely not “in the moment.”

When things are too hard, people procrastinate. They don’t want the hassle so they skip the diligence. As a result, they don’t notify their bank when they’re traveling. Or they’re pretty sure their card is missing, not stolen – so they do nothing. Then they must deal with a declined card part-way through their trip. Or they need to clean up the mess after fraudulent activity occurs.

It’s not a cakewalk for the bank either. Based on what we’ve learned from our customers, on average, card-related inquiries are top of the list, representing up to 50% of a bank’s monthly call center traffic. This means that up to 50% of their call center budget is used to help people manage and control their cards. This is a significant amount of money. At most tier one banks, this subset of call center drivers represents millions of dollars each month.

But it doesn’t have to be this hard. Working with Visa, we’ve uncovered some intriguing opportunities where we can apply conversational AI to reinvent the card experience for the consumer and for the bank.

The Upside for Consumers

Of all the use cases we’re investigating, these are the ones that resonate most with me as a consumer:

Travel: I travel a lot and every time I’m about to jump on a plane, I have to go through the painful process of notifying my bank so none of my cards are refused while I’m away. In our partnership with Visa, the virtual assistant will handle all of this for me. It will also connect my card to my smartphone location as verification that I am physically present when a transaction occurs. Plus it will provide me with immediate access to foreign exchange rates and the location of ATMs that will accept my card.

Card on File: I use my cards to sign up for a lot of services in this digital world, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you exactly which vendors have my cards on file. With Visa, the virtual assistant will quickly provide me with a list of vendors where my card is on file and help me remove unwanted vendors from the list.

Card Control: I have a variety of cards and it’s safe to say I will occasionally lose track of one. A scenario we’re exploring with Visa will allow me to temporarily disable or freeze my card while I locate it. No need to cancel, no need to contact the dozens of approved vendors that use my card for regular payments!

I think it’s pretty amazing that I’ll be able to do all of this in seconds using simple human conversation.

The Upside for Banks

This is big news for banks as well. Regardless of who’s at fault, when issues arise with a card, banks will always feel it on their bottom line. For example:

  • Travel is a major spending category for consumers. But if a traveler has their card declined while abroad, their annual card spend declines on average by 44%![1] This is a big hit for the bank.
  • Card replacements are expensive. The banks that do business with Finn AI spend an average of $15 every time they replace a card and this doesn’t include the loss of revenue to the bank while the customer is without a card. However, a large portion of cards reported as stolen are simply misplaced. In fact, 55%[2] of missing cards are found in less than 48 hours! But once a card is cancelled, the only option is for the bank to replace it.

Innovating on the Customer Experience

Today people expect the same personalized service from their bank as they receive from Amazon, Netflix, and other digital platforms…a curated experience where they are presented with recommendations and suggestions that align with their personal profiles.

Since so many people use their Visa cards, we are able to leverage a large store of transactional and other data using the Visa Developer API platform. Access to these data allow us to determine things like spending habits, payment behavior, debt, and other digital money metrics so the virtual assistant can provide useful advice, suggestions for savings, and assistance with things like making regular payments.

None of this would be possible using physical cash. As with Visa, Finn AI excels in the digital space and this is where our combined expertise can really make a positive impact for banks and their customers.

[1] Visa Analytics, 2017

[2] Metrobank, 2014

As originally published on Payments Journal.

Jake Tyler
Jake Tyler is Co-founder and CEO at Finn AI. He can regularly can be found featured in the likes of USA Today, VentureBeat and Bloomberg, or on stage at Money20/20, Finovate and VivaTech Paris. Originally from Australia, he has worked and lived in five countries in the last decade. Prior to founding Finn AI, Jake was a Director at Brook Intelligence, as well as an M&A Strategy Consultant at PMSI Consulting (London). MBA at IE Business School.