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TSB Smart Agent integrated into mobile banking app

TSB has integrated a smart agent, developed to relieve pressure on its contact centres during the Covid-19 pandemic, into its mobile app

TSB has completed the integration of a smart digital agent into its mobile banking platform following its success in relieving pressure on call centres during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In May last year, as the early effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were being felt, TSB introduced the smart agent to its internet banking service to support customers as branches were closed and contact centres were overloaded.

The TSB Smart Agent, as it is known, took just five days to build. It has since had about a million conversations with customers, with only 20% having to be forwarded to a human for resolution.

It was developed using IBM Watson Assistant on IBM Cloud and is part of the bank’s digital transformation, which was accelerated after IBM was hired to provide hybrid cloud services.

“With the launch of the service on the mobile banking app, TSB Smart Agent now handles around 3,500 conversations a day, across mobile and internet banking,” said TSB. 

About 250 TSB employees, most of which are working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, were trained to work with the smart agent.

TSB’s chief operating officer (COO), Suresh Viswanathan, said: “As more and more customers bank and shop online, we have introduced TSB Smart Agent to our mobile banking app. Throughout the pandemic, it has proved a quick and helpful way of answering customer questions on internet banking. 

“Through our modern digital platform and strong partnership with IBM, we have again delivered cutting-edge technology to meet the changing needs of our customers in an increasingly digital world.”

Through IBM Watson Assistant, the TSB Smart Agent uses artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced natural language processing capabilities, which will evolve and improve over time.

IBM is building and managing a private cloud for TSB and introducing technology such as AI to the bank through public cloud services. The supplier is dealing with TSB’s core banking channels and applications such as ATMs, internet banking, mobile banking and high street branches run on a unified cloud.

Read more about artificial intelligence in banking

The agent is an example of how quickly the bank can add services through cloud computing.

Michael Conway, partner and AI practice leader at IBM UK Global Business Services, said: “Bringing artificial intelligence into new areas for the bank and building on its hybrid cloud foundations has brought even more efficiency and effectiveness. This shows how technology can be employed at pace to further enhance the stellar work already being carried out by the bank’s employees.” 

Smart agents, such as the one created by TSB amid the pandemic, can eventually be integrated across all bank systems, enabling these complex organisations to provide a single point of contact for customers.

According to a study by EY last year, more than one-third of businesses accelerated their automation strategies when the extent of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic became clear.

It revealed that 36% of businesses were accelerating investment in automation and 41% were re-evaluating their automation plans.

Customers are also open to using automation technology when it comes to their finances, a Pinsent Masons study found. In the past, one of the concerns holding companies back from moving to automation was fear in the customer base, but attitudes are changing. According to a survey by Pinsent Masons and Innovate Finance last year, nearly two-thirds (63%) of people are happy to engage with a chatbot.

The research also found that 35% of people prefer an instant response from AI to a delayed reply from a person.

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