Truist Financial’s workplace financial wellness division is expanding the capabilities of its artificial intelligence-driven chatbot this month, launching phase two of the specialized virtual assistant, which so far is running an 80% correct response rate.

The chatbot, nicknamed Mo, was launched in July to support Truist Momentum, the nonprofit financial wellness division of the nearly $522 billion Truist, Susanna Chesney, head of product development for workplace financial wellness at the bank, said at Wednesday’s Conversational Banking Conference. Phase two of the bot includes expanding Mo’s AI chat responses.

Mo supports the 300 companies and 150,000 employees that use Truist Momentum, Chesney said. Furniture retailer Havertys and 22Squared are among the companies that use the financial wellness and education program, which is offered at cost and does not promote the bank’s own products. Truist was formed in 2019 when BB&T and Sun Trust merged.

Truist President and Chief Operating Officer Bill Rogers, the former Sun Trust CEO, developed Truist Momentum because he “understood the detrimental effect that financial stress has on people’s lives,” Chesney said. However, Rogers predicted that the bank’s own employees would be more financially savvy and thus less stressed than most — until he tested his theory in the bank’s annual employee engagement survey.

Rogers learned the bank’s employees were not better prepared financially than the general public, Chesney said.

“In fact, our results were slightly worse,” Chesney added. “Sixty percent said that they lacked financial confidence.”

To address the problem, the bank launched a financial literacy program and paid $1,000 to fund an emergency account for any employee who completed the program. Press information shows Truist now provides $750 to employees who complete the program.

Since 2014, the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank has paid out $21 million to more than 48,000 employees for the purpose of funding an emergency savings account, Chesney said.

“A light bulb kind of went off for Bill Rogers and he thought, if we could do this for our own teammates, there’s no reason other companies couldn’t provide this to their employees,” Chesney said. “So we packaged Truist Momentum and delivered it to companies in really a turnkey fashion.”

Employees spend an average of 28 hours per month worrying about their finances at work, costing companies $5,000 per employee in lost productivity each year, according to Truist.

Truist Momentum focuses on people’s values and helps them align their finances around those values through primarily web-based curriculum and resources. However, users didn’t always know what to do if they had a specific question and could not find an answer on the site, and the financial wellness division did not have the staff resources to resolve this.

“We are a very small but mighty team and we knew that users sometimes needed help, but we didn’t have the resources to have an actual person take a user’s call or answer an email,” Chesney said. “So we thought: How do we leverage technology to solve for this inability of our users to connect with an actual person?”

Banking chatbot vendor Finn AI, which sponsored the Conversational Banking Conference, helped Truist Momentum develop an AI-driven chatbot that could answer questions directly or guide the user to content within the site, Chesney said. The use case was different than the vendor’s typical banking deployments in that the questions users ask are specific to Truist Momentum’s curriculum, so it took “a good amount of work,” she noted. Plus, Mo did not have the fallback option of sending users to a live person.

Truist’s use of Mo to drive financial health and literacy is “one of the later stage use cases beyond frequently asked questions and making tasks,” said Kirk Drake, CEO of IT consultancy and credit union solution provider Ongoing Operations, and author of “CU 2.0: A Guide for Credit Unions Competing in the Digital Age.”

Mo remains in development, but since its launch three months ago it has understood and responded correctly to more than 80% of the questions users have asked, Chesney said. The second phase will expand its response from seventy eight new user goals and chat responses, she added.

“We’ve done a pretty good job anticipating the types of questions we would be getting,” Chesney said. “We look forward to seeing how Mo is going to continue to help our Truist Momentum users on their journey to financial confidence.”