A day does not go by without reading or hearing about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Whether it's a new app that predicts something or the latest video from Boston Dynamics demonstrating how their humanoid robots are able to perform human tasks better than humans, AI is the latest buzzword that almost every business is mostly talking about, as compared to building anything using AI or Machine Learning (ML).

So much so I am starting to think the phrase is being abused and used, in some cases, to an extent that some AI appears to be more artificial than it is intelligent.

FinTech and Artificial Intelligence

Having said that, one industry has taken to using AI and ML quite well and it makes sense. The financial services industry, by nature, not only deals with lots of data but well structured data in most cases. Data, as you might guess, is one of the prequisites for ML and AI.

One such use case of AI in the finance industry has been through chatbots on various social media platforms by both FinTech startups and established banks and other established finance companies.

But can chatbots be considered AI?

What actually goes into building a chatbot?

Conversational AI

To understand a bit more about this, I caught up with Vuyo Mpako, Chief Digital & Data Officer at Old Mutual (a South African financial services company). This is because Old Mutual (OM) not so long ago started introducing chatbots in a bid to improve their customer's experience when interacting with the company.

uyo Mpako, Chief Digital & Data Officer at Old Mutual.

iAfrikan: On which platforms will the chatbots be available?

Vuyo Mpako: Currently the chatbot is only available on our South African public website.

The chatbot we launched leverages Amazon Lex, a service for building conversational interfaces into any application using voice and text. Powered by the same conversational engine as Alexa, Amazon Lex provides high quality speech recognition and language understanding capabilities, enabling addition of sophisticated, natural language ‘chatbots’ to new and existing applications. Going forward, the technology will enable the automation of many of our digital propositions allowing us to respond to the needs of our customers in real-time. This ultimately results in a better user experience for our customers as we work towards helping them do great things every day. In addition to benefitting from AWS’s scalability and flexibility, we expect significant cost saving due to a reduction in time-to-market and efficiencies

Does the chatbot offer financial advice, and if so, in the possible event that the chatbot offers advice that causes a customer losses, legally, who will be responsible for taking responsibility for giving the advice?

The chatbot allows visitors on www.oldmutual.co.za to find relevant content on thesite. Providing financial advice is not within the ambit of services available via the chatbot. The Old Mutual chatbot is completely secure. There’s no need to sign up or log in. If the user is looking for advice the chatbot will direct them to the Find an Adviser functionality on www.oldmutual.co.zathat will help users find advisers in their area.

Walk us through what the chatbot is capable of.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what Old Mutual has to offer - from investments and savings to pension plans, insurance plans, loans or everyday banking, the chatbot will direct you to the right page on www.oldmutual.co.za with the relevant information.

Anything else you'd like to add.

Our customers are evolving every day which is why our brand needs to evolve. Today, we are the advice champions, helping our customers better manage their money, work toward their financial goals and dreams and protect their families. This is how we create ultimate value for our customers – through enabling their positive futures. Technology helps us deliver this additional value to our customers through a number of avenues:

·         We’re driving digital engagement, sales & servicing to ensure customers are able to purchase core products and enable simple servicing needs using digital channels.

·         We are digitizing key end-to-end customer journeys to deliver a superior customer experience allowing customers to save time and effort while increasing convenience.

       Within the financial services space, we are seeing increased use of newer technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring greater efficiency to existing processes and to extract deeper value from data sources in the industry. Traditionally, banks and insurance companies found making effective use of AI and ML models challenging. Today, customers can use AWS AI/ML services to create new insights from data or achieve process efficiencies in much simpler way. This is why the AWS collaboration, along with many other digital projects we’re currently running, is central to our digital transformation journey.


Cover image credit: Vuyo Mpako, Old Mutual