Bank of America Chatbot is About to Get Help From Unusual Source

Technology driven by artificial intelligence needs a human touch, the bank says.

In October, Bank of America  (BAC) – Get Free Report announced that its virtual financial assistant, Erica, had surpassed 1 billion interactions with its clients.

The artificial intelligence (AI) technology was initially launched in May 2018. The company said the assistant would help users search for past transactions, connect them to information about their credit scores and money management, access key information such as routing numbers and nearby ATMs, schedule in-person meetings and use Zelle for transferring money.

The AI was designed to learn from user behavior and adjust to the bank’s clients’ needs and patterns, Bank of America says.

“Erica’s knowledge of banking and financial services increases with every client interaction,” Aditya Bhasin, then the head of consumer and wealth management technology at Bank of America, had said. “In time, Erica will have the insights to not only help pay a friend or list your transactions at a specific merchant, but also help you make better financial decisions by analyzing your habits and providing guidance.”

How Erica is Evolving Over Time

Since its launch, Erica has added some new functionality, including weekly spending snapshots and proactive notifications about duplicate charges.

“Everything we do is based on what we hear from our clients: how they want to interact with us and how we can make their financial lives better,” said Michelle Moore in a press release at the time, when she was head of digital banking at Bank of America. 

“Erica delivers on this in many ways, from making it easy for clients to find what they are looking for to providing new and interactive ways to do their banking using voice, text or gesture,” she continued. “Through Erica, we are also delivering personalized solutions at scale by providing insights, such as how you can improve your credit score or create a budget.”

Now, Bank of America says, Erica will begin connecting clients to banking agents when that is the best course of action. And these human beings will have the ability to funnel the customer back to AI conversations as problems get solved.

“We realized, at some point, people go, ‘I’m done with that chat, I need to talk to a human,'” Hari Gopalkrishnan, Bank of America’s CIO of retail, preferred, small business and wealth technology said last week at Tearsheet’s virtual fintech conference. His remarks were reported by BankingDive.

“What if we could just introduce the human agent right along with a chatbot, pick up from where you left the chat, and then step back and let the chatbot take over again?” he continued.

Bank of America Tries to Personalize Digital Help

During the coronavirus pandemic, an increasing number of Bank of America’s customers took to using its digital services. The bank, in response, is looking for ways to include more personalized advice about online banking, investing, credit and retirement planning.

“This idea of reaching out to you proactively and telling you what your financial state is, almost like an adviser in your pocket,” said Gopalkrishnan.

Bank of America says it has invested about $3 billion on new technology every year for more than a decade, including for AI.

“Our continued investment in Erica’s AI-powered capabilities enables us to quickly respond to voice, text chat or on-screen interactions from clients who need assistance with financial transactions, and to proactively deliver personalized insights and advice at key moments,” said Chief Technology & Information Officer Aditya Bhasin in a press release.

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