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Essay: How Bank of America’s AI-Powered Virtual Assistant Erica Is Transforming Banking

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ANALYTICAL REPORT

DATE: Oct 15, 2018

PREPARED FOR: CEO and Board of Directors of Bank of America, Bank of America Customers, and people interesting in AI technology

REPORT BY: Krystal Bui, customer service representative

SUBJECT: Bank of America new virtual financial assistant – Erica

Executive Summary

Bank of America makes a huge investment in AI technology, especially their mobile apps. As of the beginning of this year, they introduced the voice and chat mobile virtual financial assistant using artificial intelligence technology. The purpose of this report is to analyze the pros and cons of the new AI technology at Bank of America and if there should be some improvement on it.

There are some advantages of the new virtual assistant, named Erica. First, customers can ask Erica to perform the basic daily transactions without coming into the bank, such as check the balance, transfer between accounts and it is also designed to be accessible to clients 24/7 at their convenience time. In addition, with the new AI technology, Erica can review customer’s daily transactions, account, and habits to perform a financial analysis and give recommendations to help customers reach their financial goals.  

There is also a disadvantage, or limitation, of the mobile apps. Since the U.S. is a diverse country, there are a lot of people from different countries who do not speak English at all. The fact the new virtual assistant can only understand and speak English would make it diffifult for customers who cannot speak

English.  

In conclusion, Erica has brought such benefits to both customers and the bank itself. The new update showed that with AI-enabled digital assistants,  it completely transform the way consumers engage with their bank.

In order to improve Erica and help it connect to more customers around the U.S., my recommendation for the apps will be expanding its language options.

Introduction

PURPOSE OF THE REPORT: to analyze the pros and cons of adopting AI technology into the banking industry. This report is to show if Erica has accomplished its goal as a virtual financial assistance.

BACKGROUND: In 2018, as President of Retail Banking from Bank of America, Thong Nguyen stated, “the company want to be there for customers in the moments that matter most and incorporating artificial intelligence into their mobile banking offering will help customers manage their simple banking needs more efficiently and consistently, which then allows specialists in the financial centers to spend more time with clients to understand their more complex needs and help them improve their financial lives.”

SOURCES AND METHODS: My data will come from articles on King Library databases, and primary will from employee interviews, as well as the survey from clients that use Erica. The report will be targeting Bank of America’s customer who still unsure what is Erica and how can it help their financial needs. It will also for tech-people, who interesting in AI technology and would like to know the application of AI in the banking industry, the CEO and Broad of Directors of Bank of America as well.

SCOPE: The report will include the benefit of the new virtual assistant, both to the company and the clients, and some concerns and recommendations to improve it. As a teller for Bank of America, I will do the research about the topic, the reason behind the decision and why I support it.

REPORT ORGANIZATION: The report will start with the advantages and disadvantages of the virtual financial assistance, customer experiences, follow by the conclusion with the benefits of Erica. Next, based on the research and customers interactions, the report will include recommendations that Bank of America can use to improve its mobile apps with the new virtual financial assistant.

ADVANTAGES OF VIRTUAL FINANCIAL ASSISTANT (ERICA):

1. Popular functions

Based on the research, Erica provide customers with different functions that help with their daily financial needs, and most popular is easy-to-use-transaction-search function, which customers can ask Erica to show them transactions from a merchant and it will populate all the related transactions, especially those with popular merchants such as Amazon, Target, Walmart, Costco and Uber (Crosman, 2018). Others popular functions that are also popular and being used a lot is account balance, account numbers, routing numbers, pay a bill, transfer money between account or to someone else.

2. Time Convenience

According to Michelle Moore, Bank of America’s head of digital banking, “I have Erica now in the mobile app and just to talk and speak freely, and she does things for you – how great is it that you have an assistant in your pocket that you can use at any time to do thing?” (Crosman, 2018). As financial is not always operate 24/7, Erica is a different story. With Erica, it gives customer options to access their information anywhere, anytime and they Erica can assist customer needs as an actual assistant.

3. Insights and proactive notifications

Besides just the basics simple tasks, with the new advanced AI technology, Bank of America had also included Better Money Habit functions into the apps which Erica will deliver personalized, actionable insight that goes beyond users’ specific requests (Fakhri, 2018).

Better Money Habit functions cooperate with AI technology will help Erica analyze customer financial situation to produce recommendations for managing their money more effectively. According to Bank of America, with the new update coming up by summer, customers will get notifications if they have bills due within certain ranges and if the balance is enough to cover those bills, or even if their credit score changed.

4. Change in customer’s financial behavior/habit

As these simple transactions can be done by just simply asking Erica, it would be easier for customers who are not familiar with mobile apps, or people who have a hard time dealing with new technology. As a teller for Bank of America, I have chances to talk to a lot of customers, especially old people, on how the new update change their habit in coming into the bank. One of my customers, Mrs. Leticia Nunez always come to the centers for transferring money between her account because she does not familiar with technology or computer, she said she refers face-to-face and having a conversation so that she sure to do the right thing and not messing up her transactions. As she was introduced to Erica, it was a huge change for her since now she can actually tell Erica to help her to do the transfer, Erica will confirm with her before taking the action, and it helps she know that her request is being done right.

5. Reduce traffic at the banking center

As for the financial center, since the new development of AI technology, the customer flows had been decreased. Sometimes the customer just comes into the center and do a simple transaction that they can do it through either online banking or mobile baking, but they don’t want to do it as they afraid they may do it wrong. As customer learns about Erica, they can just simply login into their mobile banking, click on Erica simple and ask Erica to do the transactions for them. As I interview my managers, Perla Murllin, Financial Center Manager at Bank of America for Capitol-Berryessa branch, on what she think about the impact of Erica has on the financial center, she said, “Since fewer customers come into the banking center, we can manage the traffics easier and focus on more complicated transactions, reduce the complaint about the wait time, and therefore bringing a better experience to the customers.”

DISADVANTAGES OF VIRTUAL FINANCIAL ASSISTANT (ERICA):

1. Language limitation:

The only downside of Erica right is its language limitation. Even though Bank of America is in the U.S. and not worldwide, not everyone in the United States understands and know how to speak English. For people who cannot speak English, they cannot get any benefit from Erica because she doesn’t understand their needs. Sometimes even if customers can speak English, if they are having a strong accent, Erica cannot understand them as well.

Conclusion

Overall, Erica has done a good job on helping customer engage more into the mobile banking and provide a better experience for customers.

Recommendations

1. Provide difference languages option:

To improve it, the company can add more language option to the apps so that customer whose English is not their primary language can easier to connect and access the apps. By doing it, Bank of America will make sure to have a deeper connection with the customer and go beyond the language barriers.

References

Crosman, P. (2017). How consumer banking leaders are embracing AI. American

Banker, 182(201), 1. Retrieved October 4, 2018, from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=125739070&site=bsi-live&scope=site

Crosman, P. (2018). Mad about Erica: Why a million people use Bank of America chatbot. American Banker, 183(114), 1. Retrieved October 5, 2018, from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=130118994&site=bsi-live&scope=site

Coram, A. (2017, October 27). Bank Of America’s Digital Banking Chief On Chatbot Erica And

Being Mobile-First. Investors Business Daily, p. 5. Retrieved October 5, 2018, from

http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=125942974&site=bsi-live&scope=site

Crosman, P. (2018). Where Bank of America uses AI, and where its worries lie. American

Banker, 183(92), 1. Retrieved October 7, 2018, from  http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=129636996&site=bsi-live&scope=site

Sennaar, Kumba (2018, September 16). AI in Banking – An Analysis of America’s 7 Top Banks.

Retrieved October 4, 2018, from https://www.techemergence.com/ai-in-banking-analysis/

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