I was surprised to see Mr. Fintech Snarktank (aka Ron Shevlin) predict that 2023 will be “the year of the chatbot in banking” (and I believe the prediction was not made ironically, though with Ron it can be difficult to tell).
While not everyone was on board (namely former Cornerstone colleague Alex Johnson), I’m with Ron. Play with ChatGPT (or its visual sibling Wall-E) for a few minutes and you can feel the power of this so-called generative AI. It reminds me of using Yahoo (in 1995) or Google (in 1999) for the first time. I think this should be Web3 (if we could somehow reclaim that title from the crypto
BankChatGPT will be an easy-to-use AND highly effective front-end to the vast stacks of knowledge locked up at any large company. It’s easily 10x better than today’s anemic site-search results. For example, just last month I tried to look up CD rates at a top-5 bank and there were ZERO relevant results. How can that be? Perhaps the bank is deliberately suppressing CD info to keep from cannibalizing its own deposits. It wouldn’t be the first time. But that seems even more short-sighted than broken search.
Now, with a ChatGPT-powered front end, customers (and employees) will be able to find relevant info from the bank’s website (and internal knowledge base) instantly and with little effort by the bank (not counting installation and training the system). And customers can ask context-sensitive followups right from the same interface. Not only will customer experience improve dramatically, but there will be a material reduction in customer service costs.
Banking, for consumers anyway, is a simple service but one that causes much angst. Customers put money in (and worry that it’s properly accounted for), take money out (and worry that no one else does) and check their ledger balance (and worry whether it’s correct). That concern leads to a LOT of questions. But they are the same ones over and over again. Basically some version of “what is this charge/fee/debit for and what are you going to do about it?” ChatGPT can handle those queries quickly and with customer service savvy that few humans can match. And the answers can be served almost instantly. AI-generated answers can be written, voice-synthesized or delivered proactively before the customer even asks.
Will 2023 really be the year of the banking chatbot? Honestly, with only 220 working days left in the year, it’s probably more like the year of spinning up chatbots for 2024 deployment.
*Note: Wells Fargo’s press release (24 Oct 2022) doesn’t says its chatbot Fargo will be released “in the coming months.”