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Technology> Software 28 Aug 2018

The future of banking automation

New technologies have transformed the financial sector based on integrating systems that learn for themselves while processing millions of pieces of data. BBVA has pioneered the use of automated systems such as bots to enhance customer experience.


“Daisy, Daisy give me you answer do, I’m half crazy all for my love for you…”. In 1962, the IBM 7090 sang. The machine, designed to develop mathematical calculations, stunned the world with its version of Daisy Bell, a song composed in 1892. The zeros and ones programmed by the U.S. company bore witness to its abilities. Then, artificial intelligence and robotics were in the Stone Age but the big-techs were already looking to emulate the actions of man and even seeking to replace him. Step by step they have managed to create powerful tools with complex communications networks inspired by the behavior of neurons in the human brain. The evolution has been spectacular.

Nowadays innovative systems not only have musical skills but are also capable of learning by themselves, structuring information, sifting through millions of statistics in a few minutes, interpreting thousands of human behavioral traits and taking decisions. You can even speak with them. Their analytical capacity has seen them find a place in all sectors of the economy and reduce paperwork with a perfect combination of greater productivity, lower costs and improved customer experience. According to a report by the consultancy McKinsey "in general, close to 50% of all global economic activity can be automated". The banking sector is one of the leading players in this revolution.

Frank Plaschke, a financial sector expert at McKinsey, says "the world of finance depends on knowledge, not physical labor. Stock market traders and bankers live off their ingenuity". However, almost 50 percent of the time in the sector is spent on gathering and processing data. That is where the sector has great potential to accelerate its transformation, Plaschke says. About a third of this opportunity, according to this expert, involves adopting technologies based on the automation of processes through robotic systems that consist of software that learns from the user and assists him/her in relatively simple tasks.

These types of tools can open emails with attached files, connect to web applications, move documents and folders, fill in forms, read and write, follow rules, and take decisions based on predetermined scenarios. They can also gather statistics from social networks, extract structured information, do calculations and connect different applications. “The combination of these activities allows end-to-end processes to be carried out practically without human intervention,” according to experts at Deloitte.

BBVA, a pioneer in the use of bots and virtual assistants

The cocktail of artificial intelligence, algorithms, bots and an endless number of technologies (pepped up by big data and machine learning) have led to an increase in productivity in the sector, but above all have allowed in-depth analysis of the risks and needs of individual customers, says Juan García, an expert on the financial sector at the consultancy Gartner. Despite the benefits, automation in the sector is still in its infancy. McKinsey predicts a wave of automation in the next few years in which machines carry out between 10 and 25 percent of banking functions, which will allow banks to increase their ability to react and employees to focus on higher-value tasks and projects. BBVA is at the vanguard of this transformation.

"The goal of automation has to do with improving the experience of customers who value speed and simplicity in banking”

The bank recently signed a collaboration agreement with the technology company IPSoft to develop a range of digital customer support services using artificial intelligence. The system known as Amelia looks to automate resolving complaints by communicating with people and the use of Natural Language Processing (NPL). This intelligent assistant is unique. It has the ability to detect and adapt itself to the emotions of the speaker but can also take decisions in real time and even suggest improvements to the processes it has been trained to carry out.

The tool has successfully been tried out in Mexico and BBVA plans to extend the use of intelligent assistants in other areas and regions. What’s magical about this system is its ability to adapt to the needs of individual users. Artificial intelligence in its maximum expression. But this is only the start of a great future. Many companies are now starting to think in visionary terms.

Artificial intelligence and social networks

The use of bots by BBVA also extends to social networks through BBVA Chatbot, a program that can process language (both voice and text as well as keystrokes) and hold a coherent conversation with a user through a chat. BBVA was a pioneer in the creation of this assistant, which continues to develop in order to be able to reply on its own to users and to include new functions. Initially, it allowed access to basic operations such as consulting one’s available balance, the IBAN number, and the location of the nearest ATMs. Thanks to BBVA Cashup, users can now send money in an automated and simple way through platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Hangouts.

Recently, BBVA Bancomer also became the first bank in Mexico to apply artificial intelligence (IA) through WhatsApp. The assistant facilitates interaction between customers and users and the bank answering questions on branch locations, queries about opening accounts and suggesting the use of bank digital solutions.

Financial automation is an opportunity to reimagine work and not only to carry the same tasks more rapidly, says Gartner’s García. “It’s not just a matter of speeding processes up and reducing costs. The goal of automation has to do with improving the experience of customers who value speed and simplicity in banking”, he concludes.