Banking

Live More. Bank Less. Bot Smarter.

Singapore’s DBS Bank has a philosophy — Live More, Bank Less — which, at first seems like an odd mission for a multinational bank to adopt. Unless, of course, executing that strategy is about using AI and bots to make banking contextual. Kasisto Co-Founder, Dror Oren, takes PYMNTS inside the story of how smart bots helped DBS deliver on their mission.

Banking can be a bit of a chore, but with artificial intelligence (AI) getting smarter and smarter, it may not have to be one for long. Bank of America has Erica (or will soon), JPMorgan Chase has COIN and Capital One has Eno. American Express and Mastercard are letting users conduct business via Facebook chat.

On the other side of the planet, DBS Bank (one of the largest banks in Asia) is offering the same functionality to three new markets as it rolls out its all-mobile banking platform digibank in India, Singapore and Indonesia. Digibank customers in those three countries can now handle their banking needs via mobile SMS, web portal or Facebook Messenger thanks to an artificial intelligence platform called KAI.

KAI, created by the company Kasisto, can field questions and answers, update accounts and help users determine when their next statement will be available and provide information about special offers or their current interest rate. It processes and searches transactions by date, amount, merchant, location and more. It can retrieve how much a user transferred to a specific person last Thursday or throughout the entire year.

“This is not a futuristic visionary kind of bot,” said Dror Oren, KAI co-founder and chief product officer. “We’re not talking about what could be done with it [later]; we’re talking about what we are doing right now. We’re on a mission to reinvent the way people interact with enterprises, starting with banks.”

Chat capabilities, said Oren, are only half the picture.

“KAI is not only about queries, it’s also about doing things,” said Oren. Users can direct KAI Banking to pay bills, send funds to someone to cover their share of a dinner check and even pause in the middle of a transfer to double check there are enough funds in their account to cover it.

“What you see in the conversation is really the tip of the iceberg,” Oren said. “Underneath that is the network trained by banks and engineers. The AI environment is easy to deploy in demo but harder in production. It requires ongoing dynamic support — it’s not just a collection of buttons and menus.”

The fully-trained AI offers financial expertise right out of the box, and DBS and others who license it train the system to understand their products, services, and data as well as customize the persona to reflect their brand. KAI learns core banking intents and general financial services knowledge via deep domain expertise before it ever reaches a customer, which means that, when it does reach its destination, banks can focus on training the platform about their specific customers, products, and services.

KAI answers 82 percent of inquiries and requests with no human intervention at all and relays the remaining 18 percent to live agents. Chat sessions do take place in a secure, authenticated environment, even on Facebook, but banks can – and generally do — choose to limit the level of banking that can be completed each platform. For instance, even though a chat on Facebook Messenger is secure, it may not be the best place to talk about suspected fraud activity in an account. KAI knows when and how to hand off conversations to human agents.

Still, the 82 percent containment rate has enabled digibank to reduce operational costs and shift its focus to acquiring new customers for its mobile-only, India-based bank. Launched in April 2016, digibank now serves more than a million customers with its branchless, paperless, signature-less platform. The KAI platform helped DBS create digibank with one-fifth the resources of a traditional bank set-up.

KAI was born of a spin-out from SRI International’s Ventures team. At the time, KAI’s co-founder Oren was Executive Director at SRI, responsible for commercializing AI technology.

KAI’s secure platform sits easily on a cloud or premise foundation. The fully trained AI offers financial expertise right out of the box, though DBS and others who adopt it may wish to customize KAI’s persona to fit their institution.

DBS’ overall vision is “Live more, bank less.” The lifestyle banking approach embeds the banking experience into customers’ lives, making it a natural part of daily routine rather than an occasional hassle. Banking, Oren said, should be consumer-led, and KAI finally accomplishes that.

Kasisto raised two rounds of funding from venture capital firms. It is backed by Propel Venture Partners, Two Sigma Ventures, and Commerce Ventures, with additional investments by Wells Fargo, Mastercard and DBS. It is headquartered in New York City with offices in California, Singapore and Australia. Future plans include continued growth of its customer base for the omnichannel, cross-channel experience.

Wells Fargo is next in line as it pilots its Kasisto-powered Facebook chatbot.

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