Sweden’s financial giants are using AI to free up staff

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Currently trending in the latest AI news is Aida. She is the perfect employee: always courteous, always learning and as she says, ‘always at work, 24/7, 365 days a year’. However, Aida is not a person, but a virtual customer-service representative that SEB AB, one of Sweden’s biggest banks, is rolling out. The goal is to give the actual humans more time to engage in more complex tasks.

After blazing a trail in online and digital banking, Sweden’s financial industry is now emerging as a pioneer in the use of artificial intelligence (AI). Besides Aida at SEB, there’s Nova, which is a chatbot Nordea Bank is introducing at its life and pensions unit in Norway. Swedbank is adding to the skills of its virtual assistant, Nina. All three are designed to sound like women, based on research suggesting customers feel more comfortable with female voices.

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Sweden’s financial giants are using AI

Chatbots have access to vast amounts of individual client data, meaning they can quickly handle straightforward customer requests. That, in turn, frees up human employees to deal with more complex services, like coming up with the best mortgage plan to suit a specific customer.

“Basically all banks are closing branches,” Mattias Fras, head of robotics, strategy and innovation at Nordea, says. “This is a way to return to full service again.”

Nordea’s chatbot will eventually help customers who want investment advice, who want to cancel lost credit cards or to open savings accounts.

Swedish banks have already seen their customer satisfaction scores drop to a 20-year low after shutting branches and pushing people onto online services. But AI might be part of the cure. According to a recent study by market researcher GfK, there are wide gaps between what consumers hope to receive from banks in terms of service and financial advice, and what they actually get. AI applications such as chatbots “hold the promise of filling in these service gaps, given the right data and programming”, GfK says.

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