Where Conversational Interfaces Belong in Banking - with Shankar Narayanan of Active.Ai
This is daniel fidel. And you're listening to the a in financial services. Podcast should be grateful that the hype wave around of thoughts started to die down at least in the financial services world. I remember two years ago. Essentially all of our enterprise advisory engagements with banks in particular involved in some way shape or form leading air out of the balloon of the expectations around chat bots. People thought that these things had monumental capabilities. Astronomically beyond with technology is today and subsequently you saw companies like wells fargo and like ally bank make a lot of noise about chat bots and then all of a sudden. Fold those projects entirely presumably. They're working on them in the background. But none of the big buzz ended up coming to life and we in fact kind of annoyed a couple of the chat bot vendors by letting the air out of that balloon but the fact of the matter is there are places where conversation lay i can add value. We have to be realistic about it. We've had some great guests on this show in the past. We've had consist sisto. Who's probably the company that's raised the most money for chat bots in financial services specifically and this week we have a company from the other side of the world from singapore in fact active dot. Ai has raised over fourteen million dollars. They have over seventy employees and they are working on conversational interfaces in banking we speak with their co founder. And coo shankar narayan about where conversational interfaces belong in banking. What are the places where they actually can get fruitful use. And what are the places where it's realistic to expect them to deliver value. We really shoot straight on this topic. And i think it's a really useful episode for that reason if you're interested in more natural language processing use cases including conversational interfaces than download our free. Pdf brief called unlocking the business value of nlp. You can find that at emc rj dot com slash nlp one. That's anna's in natural ellison language visa processing and then the number one emerge dot com slash. Nlp one and you can download that free pdf brief if you wanna take some of the lessons from this interview and go a step farther without further ado. We're going to hop into this. Episode with sean carr of active dot. Ai you're on the financial services. Podcast so shankar. I wanted to start off talking about what elements of workflows within banking where we can really apply conversational interfaces today. I think there's a lot of claims about ai taking over customer service or some other functions but of course it's more nuanced than app when you take a look at where your technologies being applied and what you see in the landscape. How would you summarize wear conversational interfaces fit in in banking right. So there's a lot of hype around conversational So i would like to break that particular meant we are on the very early stages of conditionally. I am in the technologies just evolving as long so in terms of in banking. I think the key use case for conditionally is of several but let me talk about the customer engagement side am banks are looking at cutting costs on call centers and reputation calls which comes into the call center they move into some form of a flow for chat bots and chad votes has to be intelligent enough to understand that alonso's and respond appropriately the challenge. Which we've been seeing and which most of the companies thunder companies are evolving from celebre. Give you an example. This has been restarted. This company was that everything's moved conversation and unstructured data. And we just happening where you have people chatting or come on what they can ask anything. Because there's no structured work or the zone many shropshire that they can ask anything. So you'll you'll heavy lifting is done by your systems in entirely to understand. The piece has to be good enough to understand the intent and appropriate the answer Their tools at one is banks have to be pretty strict in terms of how they respond just to make sure that the brand is kept so the way. If if it's an ai which is open to training or training without any human interface. It can this phone and get trained and If based on property may give a wrong response so if we need to have a better control on that and stock has to be built in that so what we are seeing or the bureau of let me give you an example right when we started in twenty seven twenty eight when we launched our first services with a bank the workload pretty structured the opportunity impact build a lot of variations on radiance fall the the intense again the stroke of the nlp to understand how pavilions for that to respond a car in the food has to happen is let me give an example if i make a query that hey there's my checkbook i applied for it guest today so you may have multiple variants which built in and the system understands what you intend hits and response to it. We launched. We had of art. Sixty thousand interactions per day mid some of the banks on viet launched in india. Where the there are twenty million customers and the operational team was overwhelmed. Because you can't keep having team billions so we have to build a deep learning mortar so that it auto trains and the billions auto bill so this my team both so there was a lot of learning which we act do as we each rated in canonisation layer journey the customer engagement side. That's the sign the law of other use cases which is emerging will the last few years especially in a machine comprehension whether market documents which banks have and. Let's assume that you are a relationship manager and you just want to know that on. How is the apple Gonna be doing tomorrow. And what does the cio report. Amancio information office of has created and the relationship manager doesn't have time to read through it so you have a reading the document which is being fed understanding the intense and comprehending it and you can quit any queries and it will not give up particular on servile pick relevant answers and showcase whether human gan understand it and pick up the knossos. It's such plus plus right. So i see that as a segment which we are working on with some max banks so using a for internal processes you have the rpm which is basically. That's a separate were to complete version. But in terms of con- additionally is fell focus on you. See a lot of use gives us or hr all the mundane tasks which people have to communicate with. A human is being moved onto box or workflow base os and that starts the shift which is happening. And we're seeing that. I have data which shows the in fact last month a one of the banks did six million interactions in a month. Or the because it's amazing but the final. Wally masur doing now just to clarify chocolate. This is six million internal interactions. You're talking about this. hr faculty here. No no no. No your customer writ large of a lincoln howard phasing customer actions retail banking iraq jumps rea-. Now that makes sense humans out there but just imagine a call center will not be able to have that kind of scalable volume now. There are lots of unique interactions which are happening which banks looking through. So i'll give you an example while the banks had to adam. Api just tell where the credit card is going to be delivered on which day just going to be delivered because they didn't have the use case but customer Asking that i applied for credit card. Where is it. I haven't received it so bank said okay. I don't want this to go to the call center. I want to based on customers asking these questions. Why don't i give a particular times time kind of thing where i can tell where the where the credit card is share not share so what is happening with conversation is if banks can leverage and i think banks are slowly understanding the scale of it there is a communication we just happening between a customer and the back and how smart the bank can be to understand this communication and and has the Better engage the customer and that's the value which we see on the corner. And that's what's going to happen in the next. Few years is still in the early stages yet where predominantly botched on function properly they only can do set functions already set queries which i always to the banks you. Why are you putting. Faq's in the bar. I would have a better such features on google. You know i get better response. But guess banks would have to has to create that data pool for estimating agent. The banks are realizing that. There's a lot more effort to be put in for a direct engagement. Because just imagine. I go to a taylor. Who's a knowledgeable teller. And i tell her i want a particular checks to be shoot. She knows exactly what to do right. She doesn't she will go check and come back and tell you the relevant answer so about to function in that manner intelligently it needs to have results connected in the back end to be able to provide the answers to the front so from accurate perspective. We focus a lot on soza requests. The mutsu actionable services. Quickies what we look at. Give us some examples of those assuncao. This is really where the meat and potatoes happens for. Me is because you're saying it's early days. We can't handle everything conversation right. We're where we're just not going to be able to just tackle everything. Customer service services. Too many permutations. You've decided a lane to pick. This is really cool. What are those. Can you give maybe three examples of what a service request is and how it works so today. We do hundred fifty. Plus you skates this in all our banks. So we we alive in about twenty banks most of our banks because the last skill banks are india in india for us and there are some concrete unions in the us who are using our products but india scale much much higher so we are doing use cases. From checking account balance enquiry credit card inquiry services credit card issuance services origination services. I would be able to buy a sell stocks. I can do. Fund transfer functionalities heyman functionalities. So we are covering the entire gamut. Oh yeah loans issuance of loans. Managing your loans. Kurdish scores as well as ablity to campaign management internally via coming about hundred fifty. Use my get. My guess is some of those are astronomically more developed than others and some of those are astronomically more bounded succinct and reliable than others. And that's almost certainly true. You talked about loans. Could you give us an example of a question or checking account. I saw Listen i come to a bar. And i'm basically saying that i'm make a payment. A fundraiser trouser Thing is my balance right now. When i am looking for that particular functionality the bank is similar to say that shankar has a pre approved loan of say. Ten thousand dollars With this particular interest rate heat bank is pushing me that in the conurbation. Hey sugar I know you've been getting salaries as your balance. We are also your pre approved for this long. Would you like to take this long right now. So that kind of interactivity at the time of customer engagement is what's happening today. Got it to being able to sort of. I mean in that case where we're actually talking about kind of for lack of a better term. A bit of a marketing use case i suppose of course loan loan origination. Select that in getting a call. You're basically communicating with the customer at the time of. Its an engagement tool. It's amazing engagement to let me give an example racial today. If you have an app apple structured you open up and you go button. click click. Click click stuck is a vase structure. I i may not be saying that in a chat i may i may because y me is that It needs to all the consumers have to understand that you can the limitation as well as where it can take so. Let's let me give you an example. I can tell that. Hey i'm going to the us. I need a foreign exchange for this. Can you some travel card. And i'm going being these long sentence which upset but to invention that now. What is the future of the is going especially on coalition air. I it needs to understand this intend. It needs to be able to say. Hey sean where you're gonna use. This is the industry's rate. This particular visa Is able to handle this for your travel. You should be used. This particular travel cards and here are some of the bad. You can get a money. Invest in union in the us on on diesel addresses so that would be the most convenient way the bank should we interacting with you know so that will happen in the future. It is not there yet a part of the functions. We are already doing it. Activists already doing that. Most of the dense via able to address. It is not the energy function you intense. You can capture yet but the bank needs to have the relevant the api. Yes and the data tools and convergence of a multiple systems into a data lake where we can pull data from. The reason is bank. Most banks are embarking or already have embarked on digital and they all really seriously looking at a singular a later lakes which can combine multiple products and so that in the future as a single window and customers engaging on that single window. This is a really important point that you drive home. In from interviewing consists though at all the other players at your mid jillian the other players in the space at least in the in the western world know. I'm aware of just how important this is. The fact that we can identify intent. You can give me a hundred thousand messages. And ninety six percent of them. I can put it into the right or almost the right category to the point where maybe i could prompt a response a them to the right person but being able to really provide a rich experiences about having it connected to all the contextual information and also you would need then to train a system to not just do what it's been doing in terms of replies but now you'd have to train system on leveraging that contextual data so you need to make it accessible then you need to learn iteration train on that new layer of richness and it feels like that's maybe the next evolution the next phase four the next step that banks are gonna have to go through his at a a safe way to put it chunk or would you put it. In a different web so the banks are building that base indolence of the conversation piece of iding. The technology. Willing to become contextual. So in fact. Our activity is leaders. Version of products deals with contractual interactions. As well so let me give you an example right so if you may if a customer as okay. What's my balance on visa card. I would like to save right now. And then. let's say the gives you the balance and say is this disease being old by you and you can pay on this day and then i just ask question next question i say. What would my mastercard so system understands that. He's asking for the balance on the mastercard and it's basically correlates with the previous cornerbacks and then starts the process so we build that in our in a stack where we have a better understanding of how Context together now context vivid important and we do to levels oh context. You can't do multiple multiple levels. You can but i think the gets get confused right at this point in because i can't do multiple layers and as a human we we tend we can meandered within different contexts combatants on a it is not. I won't say technically does not possible it is it is but it is. It has to be very nadal focused yet. It cannot be white folks like say. I would like to send some money to dan Fifty dollars and i would like to do the same functions in using my visa card. So the i mean. The machine will get confused and these educators right against it's we are also not building tools and cape For something which is not gonna happen today. That requirement of the bank is also very limited in terms of is understandable. Let's take an example of alexa It'd be launched alexa with checkbooks and other things and you know for a fact. The data the most of the usage on alexa are predominantly in song or basic functions transaction base functions on not happening on alexa. Right and not yet. I mean that's the did i saw thousand nineteen right. The predominantly moss flare if particular song or music music is is the biggest banking vetiver university. Of course yeah in but we lost it in. Yeah i would be have about five thousand people using it but it is it is it is. It is something which is going to catch up in another twelve to twenty four months. Beden service requests will happen. Maybe not transaction basic westwood solicited stock scaling up that i warned us. I warned that he's royd this piece for me. This data that would happen right. I think people have to get much more comfortable but it is happening right. The compositional method unstructured method of accessing inflammation is happening. It's not going to go away. it's just going to just steamroll. Become bigger and bigger. Bigger technology will catch which village-level technology will will will scale accordingly but the demand is going to be there and fundamentally the demand is being created by the huge young population coming into the financial services to win and they want everything instinct. I mean you are in the tiktok era. You would need to be done now. So when you have that kind of mindset of youngsters. The basically the heavy lifting has to be done by the financial services stupor why that particular function. I was just going to poke into that. Sean car where we are at time that i wanted to throw one kind of very related question. Exactly what you're saying. I think is a great point that we could. We could wrap up on. Because it pertains to part of why i brought you onto the program on you are referred to me by by ocoee. Who runs a different company out there in asia and you folks operate all around the world you operate in the western world operate in big indian market. You're talking about behavior of how we access banking. And i happen to know. India china california. You're gonna have very different norms about online shopping. Very different norms around. You know chat between friends very different norms about how people buy things or or interact with companies when you look at the east and west. Are there any big dynamics in terms of the use of chat or voice or or other things that you really see kind of the differentiating trends differentiating realities of the boots on the ground market. Because i think you have a very unique perspective. Your boy is the phenomenal difference. In i in the adoption of chat especially chad based on wise based technologies in asia. As you make substantial what you're seeing is at least a financial services and we have credit unions who are product. I think one of maggie's on box which runs in one of the unions And we just launched another one you lear. Seeing the throughput of the engagement is happening. People like it in the us and they are getting used to the box and the services what we were surprised support. The asia market is at the scale. At which the an option. Which like. I said it's Six million correction with one bank and people want drive and they'll very comfortable interacting with. Yeah very comfortable. They know the limitations and india's largest sorts of market. I believe four hundred is the largest. A lot of things by are so many folks out there. The market gigantic young. Dan china than india. Right into the thing. Good thing for accurate was in. There was a great launchpad for us Very karate we biller product. Got it to scale our ability to see sale. And as i was mentioning earlier twenty eighteen onwards start setting the base in the us and focus a lot on the credit unions and a long tail of the banging and that's very focused on in the us market. And we fundamentally seeing that the us market especially in the banking side is is a bit slow and catching up with a lot of the services because when we show our hardened sixty use cases customers in the customers in the us as while you can do this and you have gone live with us. This is amazing. So i think this much slower in terms of the take-up but yes they are moving towards that because that is a demand in the market does a need. It's interesting to me sean. Car let me know if you agree with this as we as we wrap up but this is your articulating something. That's really bringing something in mind. I spent a lot of time in bangalore going into the headquarters of all the unicorn. Ai companies out there the in mobis and make my trips and a lot of those other folks leveraging ai and exciting ways and i came out with an understanding that india in some regards. There's a lot of challenges in india. That's its own. It's its own topic but indian guards is going to kind of leap over much of the western world in terms of technology. Based because they're skipping a lot of these legacy systems it also feels like asia in general is leaping over the cultural gunk of how i interact with bank. Oh i go to a branch. Oh i make a phone call right. It's all these new folks. Just get introduced to banking and technology in india and it's all fresh. It seems like the culture can jump start as well. Does it feel the same to you. So there's two things right Interestingly the technology is coming from the west right over laurel yup see. The adoption is what's happening in asia. We are building utilizing a lot of the technology. Lot of the knowledge from this but the adoption is Is phenomenal because of i. Think the demographic rate though india's huge jump yes they do. Yes they are. The asia generally has it's the demographic uptake and predominantly to try. New things. Right really focused on five stolen and when we launched we launched with several banks and we have seen the adoptions we will also surprise in terms of the scale of the adoption and so we had to be on our toes building products evolving product according to you. And that's why. I mentioned we have like coloring fifty uses because the banks are demanding it. Max's i want these. I want this ten other products to be been when we launched our first bank the internal. Hr department is a very interesting discus. So we launched the bank retail banking service to the customers. Now all the eight to ten thousand in staff and the indulge staff says they usually call the call center to get information from the branches they said. Why don't wanna call the branches eleven. You'll give me into bark quit. You fully thousand three hundred thousand tough. So it's basically inflammation flow within the man. Craig people always looking. For instant information either is the soviet side of the On the sales guy who within the bank or the operations guy. All seeking information and In some form of service requests within that particular but a global tickle so there are a lot of the internal opportunities which are not customer facing a available to be to be realized utilizing this technology arts. Yes we are seeing that it will link that sort halford that oh. I'm just focusing on retail banking customer facing. But there's a lot of stuff which can be put onto the technology. It'll be interesting to see shocker. In the next five years whether it be your company or all the other players that are somewhat in this space east and west adoption trends differ and also internal versus external Which become the norm which become really fleshed out and robust. But as you've articulated here there's certainly a lot of opportunities. So i appreciate the extra detail on those points as we closed out. I just didn't leave without asking you that stuff. And i know we're up on time but chunk are thank you so much for being able to join us from the other side of the world here on. Ai and business podcast anchor muslim. So that is all for this episode. If you enjoyed this episode in the and financial services podcast and make sure to check out. Our other podcast. It's called the in business podcast. You can find it on apple podcast. You can find it on. Spotify soundcloud basically anywhere. Podcast can be found google podcasts. For sure again. It's called a in business. We have approximately ten times. The audience on the and business podcast. It's quite a bigger bundle of listeners. And also we cover a wider range of use cases financial services in the mix but we also talked about what's happening in life sciences. What's happening defense and military. So if you want your eyes open to more straight shooting insights on ai use cases and deployment advice and be sure to check out the i. Business podcast otherwise. I certainly appreciate listening to us here on your financial services show and we'll catch you next month for our next episode.