Nontawat Poomchusri, country managing director of Accenture in Thailand.
Nontawat Poomchusri, country managing director of Accenture in Thailand.

Banks mull AI interaction with clients within 3 years

Economy September 19, 2017 01:00

By SPECIAL TO THE NATION

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IN THE NEXT stage of artificial intelligence (AI) adoption, banks will use AI to help understand the intentions and emotions of customers and enable better interactions.



A recent survey of 600 bankers that we at Accenture undertook revealed that more than three-quarters of bankers believed that AI would enable simpler user interfaces to help banks create a more human-like customer experience. In addition, four out of five bankers believed AI would revolutionise how banks gather information and interact with customers, and three-quarters believed that within three years, banks would deploy AI as their primary method for interacting with customers.

The diverse needs and priorities of consumers are forcing financial services firms to redefine how they interact with them to determine the best products and services to meet needs of individual customers. AI-enabled tools can help banks identify consumer preferences and empower their workforces to react with greater insight, which is essential for the development of meaningful consumer relationships. The challenge will be how quickly banks can implement these new technologies, many of which are not compatible with their existing IT infrastructure. 

One of the main challenges for banking executives is to design technology to help align their products and services with what consumers want in near real-time. In traditional banks, basic transactions continue to migrate from physical to digital channels, leading to major changes as banks redesign their branch networks and enhance their digital footprint. Four out of five bankers surveyed expect AI to accelerate technology adoption throughout their organisations, providing their employees with the tools and resources to better serve consumers.

When asked to identify the top three reasons for embedding AI into user interfaces, respondents most often cited “to gain data analysis and insights,” “increase in productivity” and “cost benefit savings”.

At the same time, the bankers acknowledged challenges to implementing AI, citing privacy issues, compatibility issues with the current IT structure and the fact that users often prefer human interactions.

The “design for humans” trend indicates that the key to increasing the quality of the customer experience lies in the ability to adapt for unique customer behaviours. The report finds that as human contact continues to diminish in terms of volume, the quality and importance of human touch points will increase. 

For instance, one-third of the bankers surveyed said they plan to use a detailed understanding of human behaviour to guide new customer experiences. And while nearly nine in 10 bankers said they believe that their customers are satisfied with their bank’s use of personalisation, two-thirds claim they struggle to understand their customers’ needs and goals. 

While bankers believe that participating in ecosystems (involving symbiotic relationships with customers, suppliers and even competitors) will provide a variety of benefits, they will also need to develop a strategy to protect their brand positioning and to deepen their own relationships with customers. More than one-third of the bankers surveyed believed that participating in ecosystems would also increase their exposure to cyber security threats.

As reported in the “Ecosystem Power Plays” trend, banks are increasingly integrating their core functions with digital ecosystem platforms in an effort to manage more broad-based consumer relationships. Nearly all bankers surveyed said they believe that it is “somewhat” or “very” critical to adopt a platform-based business model and engage in ecosystems with digital partners, with one-quarter of respondents saying that their organisations are already taking aggressive steps to participate in ecosystems. 

To benefit customers, many banks are already giving authorised third parties access to account data and aggregated card profiles. While banks recognise that it is critical to participate in these ecosystems, it can come at a cost. 

Three-quarters of respondents said that participating in these ecosystems would require giving up control in favour of an overall better outcome – such as speed, agility and access to new customers. The same number believed that the partners and ecosystems they choose would help determine their bank’s competitive advantage moving forward.

While still in the early stages, the future is set – and clearly points to an era for financial services where AI will be front and centre.

NONTAWAT POOMCHUSRI is country managing director, Accenture in Thailand.