Financial technology, shortly termed as Fintech, has been on the rise since recent years. At its core, Fintech’s main objectives are to help financial institutions, business owners and companies to better manage their financial operations and processes. Fintech incorporates the use of algorithms and software to make the lives of the consumers easy. Fintech has seen a lot of growth in the last decade and one of the latest growth is the use of virtual assistants for mobile banking.
Erica is an AI-driven virtual financial assistant at Bank of America. It was launched in June 2018 and ever since then, Erica has been rising. The name is derived from the last part of America. Although Erica is much closer to Siri and Alexa by function, it is not yet that widespread. Within the first three months of its launch, 3 million users were using Erica and this number has continued to increase.
Erica helps customers with simple transactions like balance queries and money transfers. Currently, Erica is only available to mobile users but the bank is planning to make it available to its ten million customers who mainly use the online banking platform but do not use the mobile app.
What can Erica do?
Erica uses natural language and predictive analytics to help the users of Bank of America’s mobile app to transfer money between accounts, access balance information and even schedule meetings with financial centers. One of Erica’s top use by the consumers has been to search transactions, especially with popular merchants like Amazon, Walmart, etc. By October 2018, Erica had rapidly grown with about 3.5 million users and had new features like tracking month-to-date spending, reporting of FICO scores, managing subscriptions and sending bill-pay alerts.
The Erica chatbot is available on the bank’s mobile banking app. It was launched after a three-month phased rollout in 2018. Mobile app users have to log in and initiate Erica within the app. The users can interact with the chatbot by voice, tap or text. This is collectively referred to as “tri-modal.”
Initially, Erica was capable of performing the following duties:
- Search for past transactions across any of their BofA accounts
- Call up credit score information
- Get help navigating the app to find things such as routing numbers or ATM locations
- Schedule face-to-face meetings
- View bills and schedule payments
- Lock and unlock debit cards
- Transfer money using the Zelle person-to-person solution
At the time of launch, the chatbot was capable of understanding 200,00 variations of questions the clients would ask. At present, the chatbot is nearing the aptitude of understanding close to 500,000 variations.
Most Popular Features
The most popular feature in Erica is transaction search, said Christian Kitchell, head of artificial intelligence and Erica at the bank. Customers can search for transactions by the retailer, dollar amount, time frame and category across all their accounts going back 18 months.
Erica’s Insights was introduced in November 2018 which is a series of proactive financial management tools. The insights included:
- Spend Path: a weekly snapshot of month-to-month expenditure
- FICO Score Tracker: tracks month-to-month score changes
- Subscription Monitor: flags upcoming recurring charges
- Bill Reminders: alert customers to upcoming BofA and third-party e-bills coming due within five days of the due date
AI Solutions and Erica Executive at Bank of America, Christian Kitchell, said,
“This was the first time Erica was looking at people’s situation and behaviors and offering proactive guidance and insight to help consumers stay more connected with their cash flow, to avoid surprises and identify savings opportunities.”
Much of the Insights functionality relates to recurring charges. The app also notifies customers of any increase in recurring charges, like subscriptions to Netflix or Amazon Prime. Erica sends the notifications automatically to the customers, even though the customers can turn them off. Insights have been extremely successful and popular among the consumers, multiplying the engagement of consumers with Erica.
There has been an addition of a series of new features in the app including in Erica insights. These new features offer personalized, proactive guidance to the clients. Some of these features include rewards notification, enrollment guidance, bill payment reminders and warning about increased recurring charges like regular subscriptions.
Millennials Love Erica
Nearly half of Erica users are Millennials and it comes as no surprise to Bank of America. This is mainly because millennials are more likely to try some new technology or service as compared to older people. This is obvious that Bank of America will keep on making Erica more innovative and user-friendly and the numbers will keep on rising.