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July 16, 2018 FOCUS: Banking & Finance

AI-driven technology changing banking landscape

Joseph Gianni President, Bank of America, Greater Hartford market

Q&A talks with Joseph Gianni, Bank of America's president for the Greater Hartford market, about artificial intelligence and other technology reshaping the financial services industry.

Q. Digital banking tools have been all the rage in recent years. Bank of America just unveiled its first widely available AI-driven virtual assistant, called Erica. What does it do and how did the concept for it come about?

A. Our customers are increasingly asking for mobile services that make their lives easier, and Erica is another demonstration of how we're responding to them. Erica combines the latest technology in artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and natural language to be a virtual financial assistant for our customers.

As one of the industry's first AI-driven intelligent assistants, Erica will help customers accomplish simple-to-complex tasks within the mobile banking app by texting, talking or tapping.

Since introducing Erica to customers earlier this year, they have primarily used it to search for transactions, view balance information and bills, and get their credit scores and account numbers. Erica will help customers tackle even more complex tasks in the coming months, such as displaying key spending information and showing upcoming subscription charges.

We recently surpassed more than 1 million Erica users.

Q. It seems as if companies across myriad industries now consider themselves technology companies. Does Bank of America view itself as much of a technology company as it does a financial services provider? What other digital technology tools do you offer?

A. Beyond Erica, some of our recent investments in digital capabilities include the Digital Mortgage Experience, giving homebuyers the ability to apply for a mortgage through the mobile banking app or online and immediately have many aspects of their mortgage application auto-populated, significantly reducing time and effort.

We also offer a mobile car shopping tool, enabling shoppers to search millions of cars from auto dealers nationwide, estimate their monthly payment and apply for a loan prior to their dealer visit, all in one place.

It's all about customers' evolving priorities and offering new products and services like Zelle — an automatic payment service — to make our lives easier.

Recently, I was watching a World Cup match in downtown Hartford with a friend, kind of a last minute thing, and when it was time to pay, I didn't have cash but I did have my phone so I transferred through Zelle my share of the bill.  It was easy and it saved me time and I thought how cool is this!

Q. Financial service technology companies and online banks have been encroaching on the turf of traditional lenders like Bank of America. Does B of A consider fintechs friend or foe?

A. We view fintech as the use of technology to accelerate change in financial services. Customers in a digital era demand perfection from their financial institutions, getting the service they want when and where they choose. We need to be ubiquitous, fast and flawless.

Competition and disruption makes us better for customers by producing better capabilities. 

Our view is that all of us can live together in this ecosystem, and learn from each other. Everything we do is to give our customers choice, and we have great partners in the fintech space.

Q. How will technology change the financial services industry over the next five to 10 years?

A. New technologies are revolutionizing every industry, and financial services is no exception. As technology continues to transform banking and finances, we look at everything we develop at Bank of America through the lens of how it will enhance the customer experience.

As we continue to advance our work on AI-driven developments like Erica, it's important that we listen to our users today to further enhance every digital tool we develop, to better meet and anticipate their needs for tomorrow.

Q. What is B of A's current brick-and-mortar bank branch strategy?

A. We feel it's important to create a seamless high-tech, high-touch experience across all our channels, including our financial centers. While customers are increasingly using the bank's digital tools for day-to-day needs, like mobile check deposit, they still rely on in-person conversations with our team of specialists for some of their more complex financial needs, like buying a house and saving for retirement or college.

With close to 1 million people visiting our financial centers every day, we are investing in our financial center and ATM networks to complement our digital platform to turn our centers into client destinations. We've been redesigning financial centers with new technology, furnishings and layouts and adding thousands of certified professionals.

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