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With the advent of Artificial Intelligence driving change across many industries, are Financial Services firms harnessing this technology? And do their customers benefit?

The Challenge

Historically, businesses have been in control of the customer journey, dictating the point of contact, level of interaction, and the length of the full transaction. However, in recent years we have seen a shift with the customer rapidly taking back control. Increased customer demands have forced the financial services firms to develop customer led initiatives, such as the Current Account Switching Service (CASS), allowing customers to easily switch their current account provider; Nationwide’s “Nationwide Now” proposition that allows customers to speak to an advisor (in branch) when they want, and Metro Bank’s determination to open their stores beyond the 9-to-5 standard. Potentially, this behavioural change will have a transformative effect on how businesses engage their customers and prospects – after all, it is becoming much easier to switch providers.

If we look at those businesses who are adapting their services to be more customer centric, it is the businesses born in the post-digital world who are paving the way. With the increasing demand on time, it is a challenge for firms to stay relevant to their customers.

The most significant challenge facing Financial Services firms is regulation and compliance; it is the fastest growth area in recent years of jobs and human capital spend. This drive to greater focus on compliance has undoubtedly impacted on the customer journey, diverting resource away from developing customer-centric services. To address this, there is now a renewed focus on new technologies to enable automated repeatable processes, allowing for enhanced compliance audit trails without impacting customer experience, and even making interactions between staff internally, and staff to customers, smoother by providing responses to queries without direct human intervention.

Solutions

April 2017 saw the UK Secretary of State for Business and Innovation, Greg Clark MP, announce the Government’s new Industrial Strategy. Part of this included a strategy fund, of which the government will provide £93m (out of the £1bn fund) specifically to robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has seen huge commercial success with technology such as Siri, Bixby, and Alexa, but how does this technology transfer into the Financial Services industry?

Attempts at bringing AI to life date back to the mid-1950’s, but technology has not allowed for its serious development, until now. Today’s technology provides AI with the platform to move at a serious pace, with advances including the development of solutions such as “cognitive reasoning”. Rainbird, an Artificial Intelligence platform, has developed a solution that you can model human-like cognitive reasoning processes, and deploy them at scale. This programme can remember every interaction with the client and use this information to infer insights about the customer that were previously not possible with traditional technologies. One of the key advantages of this technology, is that it provides a clear audit trail – specifically, in how it has arrived at the key decisions. This means that the customer journey can have a renewed focus on it, as deploying AI at key points in highly regulated processes mean that critical requirements for regulatory compliance can be fulfilled accurately and confidently by removing the (human) margin for error.

Whilst industries such as Automotive have adopted robotics and AI into the manufacturing process, Financial Services is now beginning to follow suit. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is beginning to automate the multitude of repeatable processes across banking, for example, a customer requests a change of address – due to the many legacy systems traditionally found within a firm, this change request often results in the required update of 6 or more records from the CRM system, with a lengthy process ensuing for the customer. The automation of this process would contribute to significant savings of time and effort for both the firm and the customer, ultimately leading to an improved customer experience.

So how can the Financial Services industry harness AI?

When looking directly at the customer interface, one of the obvious areas to introduce AI to Financial Services firms is through “chat bots”, instant messaging solutions on a firm’s website. To meet the increasing customer needs, these chat bots are often available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with individuals working on shifts to ensure they are fully staffed. By introducing machine learning to these chat bots, not only is the customer interaction and conversation fully tracked, and decisions/information automated, but it allows for existing resource to be deployed more effectively.

Looking further within a firm, the opportunities to introduce AI to existing systems and solutions become endless. The capability is now here to deploy AI into complex and highly regulated processes, taking, for example, the mortgage advisory process, or even wealth advisory. By combining the cumulated knowledge of advisors into an AI solution, you can begin to build a smooth, and easily navigatable customer journey. Furthermore, due to the machine learning capability of these solutions, scenarios that are deemed too complex for the AI are deferred to a human.

So what next for AI within the Financial Services industry? When considered alongside other technologies such as video-conferencing or RPA, solutions and systems can be enhanced and streamlined, and ultimately transform the level of interactions with customers, allowing firms to create highly tailored and personalised customer journeys – giving the customer what they want.