Technology

Banks need more personality in chatbots to survive digital future: study

Adoption of digital banking tools like chatbots accelerated this year as the pandemic made customers weary of visiting branches, but the transition caught some institutions flatfooted, says Accenture

Brazil is the 5th largest global destination for investments in fintechs. Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock
  • The shift to digital means cost savings for banks which can rely on fewer branches and tellers for day-to-day services;
  • Banks are still playing catch up while tech giants are increasingly pushing into financial services.

Banks need to invest more in developing digital personalities to avoid losing trust and relevance among consumers, a new report by consulting firm Accenture found.

Adoption of digital banking tools like chatbots accelerated this year as the coronavirus pandemic made customers weary of visiting  branches, but the transition caught some institutions flatfooted, managing director of Accenture’s banking practice Alan McIntyre said in an interview.

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“There’s a lot of scrambling going on to adjust,” he said. “Part of the problem is that banks are really focused on the chatbots  being functionally correct and compliant, but haven’t really defined personalities.”

The shift to digital means cost savings for banks which can rely on fewer branches and tellers for day-to-day services. But it also risks weakening customers’ emotional connections to banks at a time when trust in major financial institutions has plummeted.

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Trust in major financial institutions fell to 29% from 43% two years ago, the report said.

COVID-19 concerns have pushed the volume of in-branch transactions down approximately 40% making it harder for banks to rely on friendly interactions at local branches to engender trust and loyalty among customers.

Banks have already been investing to address the issue. Bank of America Corp hired talent from Walt Disney Co to work on its AI chatbot Erica. Capital One Financial Corp recruited an anthropologist, a journalist, and a filmmaker from Pixar to help bring its chatbot Eno to life.

But banks are still playing catch up while tech giants are increasingly pushing into financial services, McIntyre said pointing to Google’s push into checking accounts.

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“The danger for the banks is that they lose the opportunity to build these efficient, empathetic, funny chatbots because all ends up on another platform, which is Google or Apple or Amazon or someone else,” he said.

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