Banking has come a long way and if you live in Nigeria or any other African nation for that matter, it would seem like yesterday when we used to fill out tellers and have to join long queues to either make a deposit, withdrawal or even transfer to another account.
But in the early 2000s, Nigeria deregulated its telecom sector which saw more people coming online (voice or data) than ever before and as a result, we saw the birth of a whole new set of startups in the different sectors. One sector where there has been significant progress is in the Banking sector.
You can now do just about anything you would have had to do in the bank online including complex tasks.
To further make the banking experience better for users in Nigeria, we have seen banks launch services like;
Social banking which allows people use their Facebook account for example to carry out transactions and even open an account
Single Code for all which is a service where you use a single code provided by your bank to do just about anything without logging into your account. For example on the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) platform, the *737* does just about anything for you including recharging your telecom line.
But as these services have made the experience better, the world is changing and many more people are coming to patronise banks and more are expected to use these services in the future. For example, it is estimated that nearly 70 percent of Nigerians still don’t have bank accounts which has prompted a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) campaign to get more people to open accounts going into 2020.
So let’s assume that campaign succeeds and say that number is cut in half over the next five years. Now that would mean 30 million or more accounts and the big question will then be, how would banks cope with respect to customer services? As is stands today, you can barely get a customer agent to respond t your request as quickly as possible and this means the banks may have to come up with really intelligent (artificial intelligence) ways to overcome this challenge.
In a recent BBC report on virtual banking in the UK, Customers at Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest may soon be sorting out issues with help from a virtual chatbot. Yesterday we did a report on how the US President Barack Obama is effectively using chatbots to interact with not just Americans but from people from around the world. Since announcing the service back in August, they have received about 1.5 million messages from people all around the world.
Using IBM Watson technology, banks in the UK are using a web based bot called Luvo to interact with their customers and this is a huge shift from not to dynamic interactive voice response (IVR) systems which basically output just what they have been told to do. In the case of virtual agent Luvo, it is able to intelligently learn from human interactions and respond to you dynamically over time. It’s able store a pattern in a database and use it for future interactions with you and that’s what it’s all about.
Besides long term costs, one advantage of the virtual assistant is that it Virtual agents never deviate from regulations and provide a full audit trail of every interaction and this according to Chetan Dube, IPsoft’s chief executive who also told the BBC that virtual staff represented a “fundamental shift in the way that banks manage their operations. IPsoft is also a company that specialises in artificial intelligence in banking.
While there may be legitimate fear in some quarters about jobs, like Gina Rometty who is the CEO of IBM said in a CNN interview, machines are not meant to eliminate our jobs but to help us make better judgments and in other cases complement our efforts. Frankly speaking, how many human agents can actually satisfactorily solve customer problems efficiently? It’s no longer a questions of if but when because banks will eventually have to adopt this just as they did in the early 2000s if they must stay competitive in dealing with growth.
Bots can solve real problems and that’s a fact.
With respect to inevitable automation coming to nearly all sectors of our economy, we can only retool and retain citizens to work with machines or help them settle in other growing sectors.