Client Stories

Putting smart to work: Raising Cora

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At IBM Think, the premier business and technology conference, the main theme is “mankind + machine,” and during the Wednesday morning session with Ian Hurst and Sarah Diamond, IBM General Managers of Banking and Financial Markets, and Naresh Vyas, Royal Bank of Scotland Head of Solutions, that theme was on full display. A digital reinvention is underway in financial services, driven by the need for fraud prevention, personalized customer service, and the ability to keep pace with massive amounts of new regulations. The session highlighted how exactly IBM and RBS worked together to conquer these challenges.

Digital reinvention is needed, necessary

Ms. Diamond kicked off the session by outlining how disruptive forces shape the industry, factors such as the “customer experience is a new control point”. Financial institutions’ customers demand personalized experience driven by analytics and artificial intelligence, and it has to be mobile. Those who execute this strategy best will see their market share increase. She cautioned that these gains in customer convenience and simplicity open the door to fraud, so institutions must rigorously invest in security. With the cost in dollars of seven figures per security incident, banks have no choice but to make this a top priority. Lastly, Ms. Diamond pointed out that along with security and best-in-class user experience, a bank must play by the rules and maintain compliance. There will be 300 million pages of new regulations by 2020 and over 20,000 new regulations were introduced just last year. That, in combination with the $300 billion in fines financial services have paid in the last decade alone, makes regulatory compliance a critical requirement.

To meet these challenges and undertake the digital reinvention, large financial institutions have been partnering with smaller fintech and regtech startups to work together to provide better user experiences, increased security, maintain compliance, and create new digital ecosystems comprising of businesses blurring the line between industries.

Hello, Cora!

Next, Ian Hurst invited our distinguished client Naresh Vyas from RBS on stage to discuss his journey into artificial intelligence, to give both value to the bank and to benefit their customers. RBS, one of the oldest banks in the UK, has seen customer behaviors drastically change. Gone are the days of face-to-face banking, while online and mobile banking took up most of the client-to-bank time, the personal touch has disappeared almost completely. That was one of the main goals of launching the RBS Digital Assistant, Cora, to provide a personal banking touch in the new digital world.

When Cora was launched, there were about 60 intents or tasks; now there are more than 200 intents. By combining an agile methodology with machine learning, Cora gets smarter (and better) every day. Mr. Vyas explained that “you don’t program a chatbot as much as you teach her–it’s really a new kind of systems development practice, where iterative learning shifts the development paradigm.” He went on to describe a metric that is used to measure the competency of Cora, her containment rate, or the percentage of conversations handled with no human involvement whatsoever. Right now, Cora is averaging a containment rate of 40%, with up to 80% for commercial banking. Mr. Vyas added that the volume of calls, or conversations, is also steadily increasing. Right now there are approximately 100,000 calls per month, with as many as 2 million per month projected by the end of this year. Lastly, he explained quality control is a priority to RBS. These conversations must be meaningful, user-friendly, and to put it plainly, make sense. A new position, called a “Conversational Analyst,” is staffed by the top RBS call center agents who monitor conversations to continuously improve them–creating a new digital profession. The goal by 2020 for Cora is to continue to improve natural language conversations, and arrive in other outlets such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and the Apple Homepod. RBS continues to expand the areas of the bank where Cora is being put to work to serve even more customer needs.

To learn more about how Cora was built and how we are helping bring the RBS digital agent to life visit us here:

See you next time, Cora!

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