What Is Conversational Banking?

By Kevin Flanagan, Marketing Director, Micronotes

Whenever new technologies disrupt a market, there’s a period of “figuring things out” for both the technology providers and their clients.

The artificial intelligence (AI) software market for financial institutions is no exception.

Last month, I blogged about the trend of conversational banking. That’s a term that wasn’t commonly used just a short time ago. But it’s beginning to gain traction. And that’s a good thing, because when I think about the capabilities Micronotes provides to our banking clients, conversational marketing is a superb way to describe what we do, with all of the positive connotations of how people use conversations.

As the term conversational banking becomes more common, it’s beginning to appear in more media coverage.

This week, I watched a video interview on the Finextra websitewith Dharmesh Mistry, chief digital officer of Temenos, a European software company.

The title, “The Benefits of Conversational Banking,” caught my eye. The interviewer began by asking Mistry if conversational banking was “just chatbots?” I was waiting to see what he had to say, assuming he would talk capabilities far beyond chatbots. I was underwhelmed.

Mistry said “most people will experience conversational banking through chatbots initially.” He added that Capital One is “experimenting with things like Siri.” And I was still waiting for something a little more, shall we say, cutting edge. He went on to include text, voice, and even sign language in the litany of conversational banking capabilities.

What he never mentioned was a truly innovative method of engaging with the banking customers who rarely set foot in a branch, and who want to bank using mobile devices web browsers. Using those technologies to talk or sign with bankers doesn’t seem very practical. What bank has sufficient staff to handle incoming calls from phones and the internet?

I did like the way Mistry described conversational banking is a “two-way thing.” Micronotes’ clients and their digital banking customers can confirm that. And he made the point that conversational banking is not always about selling. Selling is, obviously, important to every business, but as Mistry added, it’s also about “retaining the customer, driving loyalty and creating advocacy.” All good points.

What was missing was the way conversational banking that’s built on AI machine learning can use a bank’s data to engage with digital users in many ways. Making the right offer to the right customer at the right time is just one example. It also means creating propensity scores from bank data to identify customers at risk of attrition or delinquency, so bankers can reach out to them before problems arise. And it means providing useful and even fun information about wealth management, cybersecurity or holiday trivia to engage with digital users.

That’s what Micronotes means by conversational banking.