By Will Hernandez

AI is hot, chief.

At least that was one of the key takeaways I took with me last week when I left Chicago after attending Networld Media Group’s annual Bank Customer Experience Summit.

When we were constructing this year’s agenda back in late 2017, discussions about how AI would affect the banking industry were abundant in various trade publications and industry conferences. But it seemed as though some executives had a difficult time defining how AI would affect their operations.

That’s not the case anymore.


One focus at the moment is how banks will use data they extract from AI initiatives.

For example, how can banks offer a better voice banking service based on the data they receive on how customers interact with something such as Amazon’s Alexa, or in Bank of America’s case, the proprietary system Erica.

It remains to be seen how this all plays out, but panelists at the summit gave us a glimpse of the future. Over the next week or so, Mobile Payments Today and ATM Marketplace will recap some of the key panels last week in Chicago.

We already started our coverage last week with a recap of the opening keynote speech.

For now, here are five tidbits (in no particular order) from sessions I attended during the summit:

  1. Suresh Ramamurthi, chairman and CTO, CBW Bank: “If you want to go into digital banking, [consumers] expect everything to happen at the speed of Google. The generation born after Google [was created] expects everything to happen right away.” Ramamurthi said this during BCX’s opening keynote speech to start the conference. His keynote traced the history of CBW Bank from a local institution that catered to farmers in Weir, Kansas to one that has become a fintech playground thanks to what Ramamurthi describes as a banking marketplace. Fintech companies have developed APIs around CBW’s platform to help the institution tackle digital banking despite its own infrastructure shortcomings.
  2. Rachel Huber, analyst, Javelin Strategy & Research: “[Gen Z] is also the smartphone generation. For Gen Z, having a smartphone has always been a thing. The smartphone is how they start the day. It’s really their focal point.” Huber said this during the summit’s Four:15 panel, which is a session dedicated to four, 15-minute presentations from industry analysts or executives. Huber focused her presentation on the difference between millennials and Gen Z, the latter of which has a profound fondness for their smartphones. Huber urged attendees to focus on their mobile efforts because Gen Z is positioned to impact the future of financial services in a way millennials did not.
  3. Kader Sakkaria, director of technology, business and portfolio management, BMO Harris Bank: “If you look back about 10 years, Apple helped to transform the behavior of the customer [with the first iPhone]. Consumers were then asking themselves, how can I get a product or service quickly into my hands. It’s been an interesting dynamic that affects the customer experience.” Sakkaria said this during a panel about AI’s role in future customer experiences that bank could create in the near-to-long-term future. He mentioned the iPhone launch as a way to set the scene for the current customer experience and how banks today are investing in AI to help improve digital offerings.
  4. Phil Leininger, general manager of omnichannel sales and service, USAA Bank: “We’re focusing on the member and the humans that are driving the customer experience. We talk a lot about humanizing our services and humanizing the digital experience.” Leininger said this during a keynote speech Friday morning. “USAA must rely on the digital channel because it lacks physical branches. Its customers are U.S. military members and their families. So, it’s important there are human elements to USAA’s digital experiences.”
  5. Ryan Tuttle, senior consumer finance analyst, Euromonitor International: “What can banking steal from other industries? Mobile hardware is saturated, but the software isn’t there yet. Then you start looking at things in China, they are taking VR and making a shopping experience out of it.” Tuttle said this during a panel discussion about how banks will adjust in what’s become a mobile-first world. He’s right in that the smartphone’s form factor and components haven’t changed much over the years. That said, what kind of experiences can brands create to deliver customer satisfaction via apps? That’s what Tuttle was conveying with the particular comment.

Photo credit/Jon Cullen/Networld Media Group