Helping CBA Bring Digital Banking to Millions of Underbanked Customers

Although South Africa boasts the largest economy on the African continent, the country’s banking industry faces a number of serious challenges. Massive income inequality, widespread fear of fraud, and an aversion to high fees are just a few of the barriers to financial inclusion. As a result of these and other issues, millions of South Africans are underbanked.

Not only that, low levels of financial literacy are also a serious issue. Of those South Africans with a credit score, for example, half have a bad one. In many cases, the reason for this is simply a lack of knowledge. People often don’t understand what their credit score is, let alone how it gets calculated or how their actions and behaviors can impact it.

It was against this backdrop that Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), decided to launch TymeCoach. TymeCoach is a financial wellness platform designed to help improve financial fitness within South Africa. CBA’s objective with TymeCoach was to differentiate itself with its unique value proposition of promoting financial wellness in order to build a large customer base out of previously underserved South Africans.

An important part of CBA’s plan has been the launch of a virtual financial health assistant named Max. The assistant is already playing a critical role in helping to raise financial literacy. Since messaging apps like Facebook Messenger are already incredibly popular in South Africa, launching the assistant in that channel was an obvious choice.

“With Finn AI’s help, we’re going to be able to realize every banker’s aspiration of providing highly personalized service at scale. While that’s a huge step forward in any market, in South Africa it means that these services will be available to everyone, not just the wealthy.”

John Smith
Customer Success Manager

CBA is so confident of the impact that a virtual financial assistant will have in South Africa, that it has set the lofty goal of acquiring hundreds of thousands of customers within months of launch.

When CBA decided to begin working towards its vision, it quickly determined that it would need to turn to a third-party for help. After weighing its options, the bank chose Finn AI, the award-winning, conversational banking technology provider. “We shopped around and ultimately selected Finn AI because of its banking domain expertise, the strength of its team and technology stack, and the fact that we found them to be incredibly fast, agile, and collaborative,” said [insert name and title of CBA spokesperson]. “They have been excellent partners since the moment we first met them.”

The Road to Building a Virtual Banking Assistant

With Finn AI on board, work quickly got underway to build a powerful virtual financial assistant. To do so, the Finn AI team sat down with CBA to fully understand its goals and objectives and then map out all of the different types of queries to which a successful conversational assistant would need to respond.

In CBA’s case, they wanted their assistant to be able to educate their customers about their credit. Not only that, it needed to do so in South African English, which is full of slang and linguistic idiosyncrasies that make it quite distinct.

Within a matter of months, Max was up and working in beta. It subsequently launched in June 2018 as part of a large-scale, highly publicized rollout across South Africa.


of the SA population have a bank account


of the SA population use mobile banking


of the SA population using Facebook access it through mobile (32% of those are using Facebook Messenger)

All Signs Point to Success

Although it’s still early days, CBA is confident that it will be a game changer for the South African market. “With Finn AI’s help, we’re realizing every banker’s aspiration of providing highly personalized service at scale,” says [insert CBA spokesperson last name].

Practically speaking, that means that customers will be able to ask Max important questions about their credit, how it works, and what they can do to improve it. This is fundamental to CBA’s overall strategy of putting financial coaching first, rather than banking, in everything that they’re doing in the South African market.

“CBA is a great early example of how AI and conversational technology can be used to reach customers in an extremely intuitive manner in the places they’re already spending time in,” says Tyler. “They’re helping to democratize financial services in South Africa by empowering people to improve their financial lives.”

While Max is still new to the market, the CBA virtual banking assistant has the potential to help millions of underbanked South Africans. The implications for their financial well-being will be unprecedented.


FinnLit™ Teaching & Tools:
Credit Coach includes an advanced set of coaching tools that provide bank customers with insights and recommendations, so they can proactively manage their financial wellness.


Finn AI is an award-winning, AI-powered virtual assistant built for personal banking and finance. We put a personal banker in every bank customer’s pocket, helping them to manage their money
wherever they are, whatever they need—via a simple, natural conversation.

The Finn AI team of data scientists, engineers, and financial industry experts helps banks and credit unions transform customer engagement and increase financial literacy, while delivering the convenience and savings of a digital-first experience.

For more information, please contact us.