Text your buddy, your bae, or your bank

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Banking has never been this convenient

Like any good bae, what good is technology if it doesn’t provide freedom?

In our world, freedom is when customers can bank how, where, and when they want. No more ‘forcing’ someone into defined channels (like bank branches, websites, and mobile apps). We’re moving toward a new breed of banking that is conveniently intertwined with one’s day-to-day life.

In partnership with Finn.ai, we’re thrilled to be the first bank in Canada to be working toward launching a banking chatbot. When it’s live, you’ll be able to text the chatbot through Facebook Messenger, asking it to perform different types of transactions. From Interac e-Transfersto bill payments, and viewing transaction histories.

We decided to integrate the chatbot with the Facebook Messenger platform because, so far, it’s one of the only text-based platforms that’s allowing outside bot APIs to develop new technology. Luckily it’s a platform lots of people are comfortable using, and one of the most used phone apps driving a significant amount of user behaviour.

This project is made possible through a specific form of AI called Natural Language Processing. It allows the chatbot to learn from its own mistakes, bettering its ability to understand customer requests and respond accordingly over time. It’s not perfect (yet), but it does provide a new way to bank where, when and how you want, and we’re pretty optimistic about the chatbot’s learning capacity when it comes to our long term project goals. We believe transactional capabilities are just table stakes for the much wider applications of a true Virtual Banking Assistant. The future of this will be much more like the movie Her and much less like having a bank teller in your pocket.

Chatbots are new to banking, but not to people. Companies like Domino’s have built chatbots you can text to order pizza. Pizza is pretty innocuous, though—it’s not a big deal if the fact that you order pizza twice a week “leaks” to everyone you know. It’s a bigger deal if it’s your bank account info becomes public. So even though we’re the first to integrate a banking chatbot into Facebook, we want to make sure we’re refining toward a seamless and safe experience for users.

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We’re iterating our authentication module daily, and pairing technology with education. We’ll focus on sharing best practices with users around device and information protection because you can never be too safe. The biggest risk happens when money moves out of an account—for that reason, we’ve employed “friendly money movement” for our chatbot banking services, which restricts customers to transactions involving accounts that have already been set up and approved for the platform.

While Facebook Messenger is our first step, it’s certainly not the only one. Beyond this social media chatbot, we’re already exploring voice activation so that we can move into accessing the bot through systems like Siri, Google Home and Alexa. These interactions will be very different from their on-screen counterparts, but will still require our bot to learn the multiple ways basic questions can be asked (“What’s my account balance?” vs. “How much money do I have?”), among many other things.

It’s a highly iterative process—we’re always listening for feedback from our early adopters and customers to prioritize/implement new features and functionalities regularly. And we’re proud to be partnering with amazing fintechs, like Finn.ai,  to pave the way when it comes to offering you the ease of banking services no matter where you’re spending your time.

ProgressJosh Posty