Banks shouldn’t offer customers a bot to access their account for a few more years, Forrester advised in a new report.
The report from the consulting firm titled “Bots Aren’t Ready To Be Bankers,” suggests banks focus on readying their backend and wait 2-3 years for bots and artificial intelligence to mature before offering customers a bot.
Employees from Facebook, Bank of America, Kasisto, and an assortment of financial institutions were interviewed for the report released Aug. 31.
Echoing Goldman Sachs, Forrester defined recent interest in bots as being driven by billions of chat platform users and advances in artificial intelligence.
In March, Bank of America announced plans to launch a banking bot. Capital One allows you to use Alexa to pay bills, and institutions like China Merchant Bank allow banking with WeChat in China. Bots like Trim and Penny have also emerged to help people manage their personal finances.
Using Poncho and the H&M bot on Kik as examples, the report’s authors described the current customer experience bots provide as “poor and uneven.” Banks must be considered in a different category from other businesses when it comes to bots, the report said, because “money is an area where people are least willing to put up with mediocre bots.”
“If Taco Bell’s TacoBot misunderstands a person’s request and orders three tacos instead of one, the results are unlikely to be catastrophic,” the report reads. “If, however, a bot interaction accidentally leads to the same person sending money three times or paying a bill wrong, the results can be costly.”
The report concludes that when it comes to innovation and making better bots, banks are out of their depth and should wait for further advances to be made.
“That’s not a bad thing: Tech companies are better staffed and equipped to push A.I. and bots to the next level, and banks can reap the rewards of these advances. But given these circumstances, most banks outside China will not gain from investing in bots on third-party platforms in the near-term.”
The report suggests banks explore APIs and platform improvements or replacements instead of investing time in the creation or rollout of a bot.
On June 28, Kasisto debuted its KAI artificial intelligence, as well as MyKAI for personal finance and KAI banking for banks.
The KAI banking bot is currently being used by Royal Bank of Canada and DBS Bank in South Asia. Kasisto is in talks with U.S. banks to offer the bot to their customers, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat.
Kasisto agrees that certain kinds of banks have some work to do before they’re ready for a bot, but those that are agile, forward-thinking, and interested in expansion shouldn’t wait, said Kasisto cofounder Dror Oren. Stay on the sidelines too long and businesses risk being devoured by startups and banks already providing a service to customers on chat platforms.
“The banks that sit down and wait 2-3 years doing nothing…the digital first banks are going to eat their lunch, and we’re going to help them do that,” Oren said.
What the report fails to acknowledge, Oren added, is that there is a lot of difference between bots like Poncho and Kasisto’s A.I.-driven bots. Kasisto is a spinoff of Siri-creator SRI International.
“We’ve been saying from the beginning: Not all bots are created equal. There are what you call, for lack of a better word, ‘dumb bots’ and ‘smart bots’,” Oren said. “Bots that are using real A.I., that are contextual and can hold a conversation like the ones we build, have a much clearer experience, much better than the others.”
Enterprise bot maker Kore debuted its Smart Bot for retail banks today. Kore agrees with the Forrester report’s finding that banks need to prepare to launch bots for their customers. Waiting a couple of years to implement a multi-channel bot strategy is out of the question for banks that want to reach young customers, the company said in a post earlier this week,.
“Gen Z, or the millennial cohort, probably won’t want to wait another four years. To a twenty-something who has grown up in the digital age, that’s simply an eternity, and without long-time roots in retail banking, a customer like that is liable to choose the next best bank. Bots provide an outlet for all banks and credit unions to secure that customer, and bring Gen X-ers and Gen Y-ers easily into the fold as well,” the Kore blog post said.
Bank of America was invited to share its thoughts on the Forrester report and when its Facebook Messenger bot may be available (original announcement was made in April), but a company representative familiar with the bot initiative declined to comment.