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One-third of people prefer instant reply from chatbot about finances to waiting for human reply

Consumers are warming to being supported by chatbots when it comes to financial services, but firms in the sector face hurdles to achieve true end-to-end automation

As financial services businesses increasingly automate customer engagements, nearly two-thirds (63%) of people are now happy to engage with a chatbot, according to a survey.

In fact, the survey, by Pinsent Masons and Innovate Finance, found that 35% of people prefer an instant response from artificial intelligence (AI) than a delayed reply from a person.

It also revealed that it is only when something goes wrong that human contact is the preferred engagement method among customers.

While 63% overall are happy to engage with a chatbot, a higher proportion are happy to do so for simple tasks, while fewer want to use a chatbot for more complicated services that require more data.

For example, 33% of respondents are happy to use an automated service for mortgage applications, 40% for credit card checks and 45% for insurance quotes. A few years ago, before AI had matured as a customer interaction tool across industries, such figures might have seemed unlikely.

But winning over customers is just part of the battle for financial services firms wanting to automate their processes.

Luke Scanlon, head of fintech propositions at Pinsent Masons, said the research shows that consumers are open to the use of AI in financial services, “but, as with the adoption of a lot of technology, there are legal, ethical and cultural challenges to overcome”.

Scanlon added: “The key concern cited by customers around using AI centres on the risk of their data being hacked, and so it is not surprising that customers are not as willing to use services that require more data from them, particularly where the benefits of the use of the technology and their data has not been clearly explained to them.” 

Read more about AI in banking

Concerns like this may account for 64% of the people surveyed liking the option to choose between a human adviser and an AI at the beginning of an engagement. More than half (56%) of respondents said they believe consent should be sought for each individual query before AI is used in an engagement.

Another challenge to pure automation is the fact that 60% of people in the survey said they want to be able to speak to a human at any point during engagement with an AI, if they feel it necessary. And 58% of consumers said that if something does go wrong as a result of the AI-controlled engagement, it is the financial services provider’s fault.

Scanlon said it is likely to become more difficult to establish who is at fault when things go wrong. “Financial institutions looking to use AI need to think carefully about what it means to treat customers fairly, and clarify how liability can be allocated when using AI technologies, as clearly the human element remains important to customers,” he said.

Charlotte Crosswell, CEO at fintech industry trade body Innovate Finance, said there is a requirement for a reliable and responsible framework for AI adoption that puts the customer at its core. “We see this as an opportunity to engage in further conversations with policy-makers and regulators to explore how AI can enhance the future of finance,” she said.

Read more on Artificial intelligence, automation and robotics

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