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AI, ML, UX & Analytics will fuel the future of Banking

How these new generation technologies are transforming the world of business and banking in particular

Our world is becoming increasingly digital today, if not already completely Digital. Look around us and try doing something, it is very likely that you would either pick up your phone or get onto your laptop to complete your work. Even the task that earlier required physical presence, such as depositing documents, signing it and even interacting at the counter have gone digital.

The pursuit to expand the role of Digital Services in all aspects of our life is awe inspiring and it shows the resolve of humankind to attain better and better efficiencies.

Even Government entities have truly understood the potential of Digital Economies and have initiated massive projects to turn their services to Digital platforms. Denmark and Estonia, both in Europe are considered two of the most Digitalized Nations in the world. Nations like UAE have adapted BlockChain for entire governance and businesses. That’s the power of new age technology.

Technologies like Digitization, NLP, BlockChain, Mobility, backend accelerators like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), powered by superior UI and UX (User Interface & User eXperience) have made transacting, interacting and conversing for commercial and personal usage a breeze.

Social Media Fueled Digitalization in Financial Services and elsewhere?

I run the risk of being trolled, as one is for a bad tweet now a days, if I were to handover credit of Digitalization of Financial Services or Banking to learning from Social Media. Staying non-committal, though with good amount of conviction on this theory, I feel the Social Media experience surely raised the bar on expectations for a better Digital Experience by users in all facets of life, in particular Financial Services.

Financial Services, such as Banking, Insurance, Trading, eCommerce, booking of tickets or slots for services, scheduling an appointment with doc, a dinner table, ordering food online etc have become an extension of Social Media interaction. There is an intense integration already happening and level of services expected for providers is reaching the one scaled by Netflix or Amazon; “Check your cart before you leave”

So what are the elements that make Social Media interaction a benchmark?

Answer is, ‘Plenty”! Social media applications or platforms have large user base that continuously challenges the platform maker with adverse feedback and suggestions in form of staying on platform or quitting it. There are not many incentives for a user to stay on a platform unless he sees a value, even though most of the SM platforms are free.

A ‘Tiktok’ has been successful for two reasons, first being the uniqueness of offering and second being the ease with which user can make use of it. The same goes for FB, Instagram, Twitter, WeChat, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Amazon eCommerce, FlipKart and so on. The higher usage, which obviously had the starting point with the product or service offered itself, has also ensured the makers invest on enormous research and efforts to make platform highly user friendly.

Engaging and ensuring a ‘self-starter’ has no dependency on platform makers, has been the winning shot. Register, Login and get going!!

Some more examples of good platforms that offer extremely good interaction and need no support from makers are PayTM, Uber, Grab, Ola, Zomato, Swiggy and many more out there that make you a lifetime user of their ecosystem.

Now how is Banking and Finance any different? ‘Hey Siri, send 1000 rupees to Granth Shekhar towards last evening dinner contribution!’ is completely valid ask !!

Integration of services is a buzz word

I would like to take the example of WeChat here! Created by Tencent, WeChat is complete package for Banking activity and Social Media integrated. Added to it, the interaction and sharing of content such as TikTok videos on chatting services, WeChat hogged 30% of China internet bandwidth. It means users stayed hooked on to the platform for variety of SM interactions. WeChat is one of the biggest Wallets in Mainland China and other ASEAN nations. Dominance of platform is so high that in one of the countries a senior from Banking Services confided with me that users are happy transacting on WeChat without bothering to explore banking payment products. “Please Pay My Electricity Bill & Send a message home, I will be late!”

Two success factors that made WeChat case a good study is Integration based on user needs and ‘Most Likely” high degree of User eXperience (UX).

AI, ML, AR, VR, IoT, UI, UX – Convenience is the key

People who looked at this product also looked at the following’, ‘You may also like these movies since you saw Independence Day’, ‘People you may like’, ‘Profile similar to Tom Cruise’, we all are so used to following suggestions and program induced conversations with us on Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Instagram. These results are a combination of multiple algorithms in the background.

The results are essentially the results of expectations user has from the platform. System looks at different attributes of user such as Preferences, Age, Gender, Usage Pattern, Shopping History, Social Media History, Phone Book Data, Neural Network driven information such as cross-referencing on products purchases or friends made. Engine in the background, in pre decided criterion, churns out the information that seems specifically designed to user needs. Voila!!

“Your office to home route?” “It is showing busier than usual”, says Google Map moment you switch on your car as it suggests an alternate route. Damn, isn’t that easy?

Talking of AI, ML & IoT (Internet of Things), hardly there is a better example of massive potential of the technology suit than the Face Recognition Technology deployed by China. The country identified a fugitive in 70,000 strong crowd enjoying the music at a concert. You read it right!!

Even during the COVID related period in China, the country used the Application Platform, Geo Location, Movement and Network of people who come in contact for suspected cases of infection. Talk collaboration!!

Background work happening in information factory

Data generated by our interaction is being collected by application or platform constantly and is being transferred to ML engines which are creating a history or digital footprint. The AI engine takes over from here and runs the algorithms to churn out data that gives suitable information to the user at point of time he needs, “Continue watching movie from where you left?”, or “Korean Love Story based Web Series as per your previous selection” in Netflix, even across devices, is just another example of ML and AI working in perfect tandem.

If you also want to explore the power of AI using Neural Network, check capabilities of SPOTIFY, the Swedish App that stormed the music industry!!

Banking or Financing services will need similar wisdom

User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are two very basic ingredients for any application or platform that needs user interaction for information processing. A mobile application or Web Portal needs to have a requisite level of understanding of user needs for a meaningful engagement. Success of an application or platform is be determined by ease and pleasure with which a user can complete his transaction or interaction.

Imagine logging into your Mobile application and seeing last 5 transactions, as suggestion, showing balance alongside in case these happen to be payment obligations. Being greeted with a Good Morning or Good Evening moment you logged in; UX takes care of these aspects, ‘This is your mobile application, just wanted to remind you that I am waiting for you to complete your Electricity Bill Payment”, a message received like that is another potent example of UX driven service and strategy behind it.

I came across an example of Mobile Banking Platform of bank where I maintain account. I had to struggle to find the option to pay my credit card bill and even to initiate a simple payment. Compared that with the application from another bank, when you log in, the most commonly used options such as ‘Send RTGS, Send NEFT, Send UPI Payment, Bill Pay, Check Balance, Funds Transfer, Mini Statement’ are there right in front of you. Click, Click, Click and Voila! You are out.

Trust me, given a choice, I won’t go back to the former one, I am customer and I expect Social Media experience on Financial Platforms. Swipe Left, Swipe Right, bye bye!!

More Mobile less others

Platforms also have to be smart enough to offer information that is relevant to access channel that customer is using. Mobile applications surely need different type of interaction compared to Web Application, as interaction on smaller devices, while handy and convenient, needs to be very quick with minimal swipes and clicks.

  • More than 70% of all FB users are on Mobile

  • More than 85% of all Twitter users are on Mobile, more than 45% users actually tweet, others are either inactive or just check tweets

  • Almost all the smart phone users have 1 Chat App like Whatsapp, Facebook and minimum one more Social Media application

  • Mails, even personal accounts, are configured on Mobiles for 70%+ users

  • Most of the Smart Phone users are making usage of Payment Systems such as Wallet or UPI

  • Almost every smart phone user in some form or the other is making ecommerce purchase

  • Approximately 27% of all spends for users across age groups is happening for groceries. And estimated 70-80 of these purchases are made on Mobile Phones

Digital experience not for Retail alone

More and more organizations are making efforts to Step out of Comfort Zone and addressing needs for Digital Experience to customer segments beyond Retail.

In India, almost all top private sector banks have rolled out Mobile Banking Platform for Corporate and SME segments.

One bank has even rolled out Mobile Banking Application for Trade Finance as well. Wait, What??

In Wholesale Banking Customer Segment, the processing staff of organization may still work on Desktop and Laptops, some of the authorization and approval work has moved on to Mobile and Tablets to ensure management level staff is not required to be at their desk to complete transaction.

Complete Digital View of Customer, to Customer

A reasonably good example of ML and AI driven services and products is in ability to use information about customer to offer him customized solution, which are system driven. A smart customer, who may not maintain a good balance in his Savings accounts but might be the one with extensive usage of Credit Card facility, paying his bills diligently, uses bill payments of substantial amount and has a car loan that is regular; could be a candidate to offer Personal Loan at extremely competitive rate, or an additional card that gives him better point earning for his preferred swipes for clothing.

Now to offer these kind of, on the fly, products and offers, bank needs to ensure the information is used correctly and there is adequate understanding of customer needs. In addition, important aspect would be to determine the channel and space where such offers are given to him.

Digital strategy that keeps customer at the centre

To my mind, this is perhaps the most crucial aspect, to understand customer needs and how the same be fulfilled.

A bank in India, has integrated SIRI to its mobile banking application. Now imaging ‘the connect’ that it can have with younger population that is at ease with such new technological advancements.

Does your bank have the demographic details of the customer and can make use of the same to offer something different? Imagine this, ‘Bank wishes you on your 19th Birthday and is happy to offer you free subscription of Spotify for one complete year.’ Now, that is something that is going to stay with the customer forever. For that, however, bank has to have a “Customer Power” program in place and push him offers that are special to him.

Digital is new infinity

Digital is an immersive experience and it can often be in form of a Web Portal, Mobile App, Voice Interaction with Application, Intuitive Offers and Information related to relationship, Smart Loan Offers, Geo Tagged Messaging with offers (you are at KFC, please enjoy our offer at the outlet with Buy 1 Get 1 free), Birthday Greetings and so on and so forth.

Digital has limitless possibilities and will perhaps need a book as a blog may not be able to do justice. I will however like to cover some aspects of Digital in non Retail Segment in another blog sometime later.

There is much more to it than what I have been able to cover, because “Digital is the new infinity”, in the meanwhile check on your app where has your food delivery guy reached!!

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