Using Conversational AI to support financial advisors

Investia, member of iA Financial Group, and IBM Canada’s Client Engineering team up to co-create solution to support financial advisors.

By August 23, 2022

The financial services market is constantly changing in terms of its landscape and the age demographic of crucial clientele. What if it was adjusting to the point that the very nature of our jobs was changing? How do we leverage technology to execute against those changes? These are some of the questions that Kevin Sandapen, Expert Innovation Advisor, Investia and his team asked themselves while reaching out to IBM.

In his conversation with Raphaël Vidal, Advisory Business Technology Leader, Client Engineering, IBM Canada, Kevin shares his perspective on how technology is shaping the financial services sector.


Market change, adapt or fail

Millennials are the generation of an ever more demanding audience. Their time is essential, and expectations are high, and this is what Investia was observing as well for many of its new customers.

The role of the financial advisor is indeed changing to address the needs of these younger clients.

This renewing client base is evolving the way the Investia and the financial services industry approach customers, from “many assets few bits of advice” to “few assets many advice” methods.

Kevin Sandapen says, “It’s not enough anymore to be a good portfolio manager. Clients are using their financial advisors for everything. They want personalized advice and coaching for their finances, – How do I plan for a future child? What are the best investment practices? What if I get a divorce, and how will it affect my finances? – these are the questions among many that Investia’s team faces now.”

“The diverse set of roles require a holistic menu of products and services to meet clients’ needs aptly. Younger clients need advice but don’t have many assets accumulated yet,” he further added.

Kevin wanted to support Investia’s financial advisors, so they thrive in this newly demanding environment to be more efficient and effective to proactively support growth for these younger clients.


From a pervasive business opportunity to a working proof of concept

To understand how to best address this business challenge, Kevin engaged with IBM’s Client Engineering team. The team invests in IBM’s clients to innovate and rapidly prove the value that IBM technology solutions can have to address business challenges.

Using the IBM Client Engineering co-creation methodology that is based on lean start-up and agile principles, Investia moved swiftly into a series of workshops to further identify the business challenge, the key priorities and what was key for IBM Technology to demonstrate to bring a proof of concept to life quickly with impact and value.

The co-creation workshops helped define the following objective:

Kevin said, “We would like to create a real-life scenario of how an AI virtual assistant could help our financial advisors. We need to understand the technology and capabilities to assess if this is a viable solution for us.”

  • The AI virtual assistant should be as human as possible, and must have personality and provide an immersive interaction with a sense of natural conversation while providing a sense of empathy for a very distinctive experience.
  • AI virtual assistant needs to be client aware and provide personalized answers based on structured and unstructured data sources.
  • Investia team wanted to have several avatars with a different set of expertise as a human, so the individual interacting can toggle from one avatar to a second one depending on the type of questions they ask.
  • Lastly, the virtual assistant should have some tone analyzer and be able to recognize intents and emotions.


The solution

After only four weeks of iterative work, the Client Engineering team, jointly with Investia, demonstrated the following two flows of conversations, delivering on all the above features, with IBM Watson Assistant and IBM Watson Discovery.

The new AI powered virtual assistant is customer aware and proposes general suggestions based on the customer’s data.

It can modify the customer profile and provides personalized recommendations based on the customer’s situation. The avatars answer with empathy depending on the situation and can pass seamlessly to another more specialized avatar, depending on the topic at hand.

This Conversational AI powered by IBM Watson Assistant can answer general questions and remembers elements of the conversation and carries them along the way. When asked a public inquiry, it can crawl existing content on Investia’s website and propose it as a relevant match for the questions. The assistant can also offer to book a meeting with a financial advisor.


Business outcomes

As per Kevin, “At Investia, it’s all about make it easy, I strongly feel that neither technology nor people alone can respond to the current driving forces of change. It will take humans working together with machines in a designed system. This proof of concept being successful, we will move to the next stage which is the proof of value. This iterative process ensures that we deliver the best possible solution for our clients and advisors.”

By working with IBM Client Engineering team, in a few short weeks, they were able to see a proof of concept that showcased the capabilities and value of IBM’s technology to help Investia’s financial advisors, offload the mass of new requests and questions coming from new prospects and collect information to provide valued guidance to help the financial advisor deliver impactful next steps to its new and existing customers.


Kevin Sandapen, Expert Innovation Advisor, Investia


Raphaël Vidal, Advisory Business Technology Leader, Client Engineering, IBM Canada


IBM Client Engineering is focused on providing an enhanced client experience that is focused on co-creation, technical eminence, and speed. With teams in Canada based out of Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Calgary – IBM Client Engineering is a multi-disciplinary team of solution architects, data scientists, designers, developers, business technology leaders and other specialists who work side-by-side with clients to rapidly co-create solutions, as quick as in four weeks, to show how innovative technology like AI, Data, Hybrid Cloud can solve their business challenges.