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How AI, blockchain and native languages are powering digital banking at ICICI Bank

How AI, blockchain and native languages are powering digital banking at ICICI Bank
Photo Credit: Reuters

ICICI Bank customers can now put money lying idle in savings bank accounts to better use with the help of an investment advisory platform, which is powered by software robotics and artificial intelligence. The platform, dubbed Money Coach, is the latest in a long line of products and features that India’s largest private sector lender has been rolling out over the years as part of its digital banking initiative.

“Money Coach will manage the entire investment journey of a customer from building an investible corpus to investing in recommended portfolios,” Madhivanan Balakrishnan, the bank’s chief technology and digital officer, told TechCircle during a media interaction recently. The launch of the platform also marked two decades of digital banking for the lender. It claims that it was the first to launch internet banking in 1998. It introduced its mobile banking application, iMobile, in 2008 and a digital wallet in 2015. 

Speaking further on the lender's digital banking initiatives, Madhivanan said 2017 was the year when digital banking took a very positive leap specifically because of AI and natural language processing (NLP) technologies. "We experimented with an AI-powered chatbot called iPal which effectively complements the migration into digital. It can resolve almost 65-70% queries on the iMobile application. It moves in stages and learns by itself so that more and more routine services can be handled by the chatbot," he added. 

The bank has also adopted robotic process automation (RPA) on the operations side along with early steps in blockchain or distributed ledger technology wherein it's able to execute some cross-border transactions. "We have a base of 250 corporates who are exploring ways and means of moving domestic-related transactions on the blockchain platform," he said.

Among other innovations, the bank has leveraged upon Apple’s virtual voice assistant, ‘Siri’ to enable seamless peer-to-peer fund transfer to registered payees using voice commands. For example, the customer can initiate the fund transfer by simply saying 'Transfer Rs. 5,000 to mother'. Available 24x7 and on all days, this service can be used by the customers using their Apple iPhone or iPad with iOS version 10 and above. It also showcased an intuitive interface using which customers can now track personal spends and deliverables, set card limits, check account balances, get instant digital credit upto Rs 20,000 and save frequently made transactions as ‘favourite’.

Madhivanan believes that the future of internet banking lies in digital loans and quick investments. "For mobile banking, I foresee that in the near future, growth will be led by voice-based services and technology, AI-led personalised suggestions and services for every customer and ‘satchet’  like financial products with small ticket digital loans and insurance,” he added.

The bank has also revamped its mobile banking app and expanded features to cover new areas such as shopping and investments. It is also in early experimentation stage in multilingual languages with Mera iMobile which is ICICI Bank’s official vernacular mobile banking application. It offers agriculture advisory services such as weather and mandi prices, especially for our rural banking customers. It is the first mobile banking app to be launched in 12 Languages. 

Speaking about how this year turned out for the bank, Madhivanan said, "2018 was an exciting journey not just within the bank but also in terms of engaging with the overall ecosystem. More than 80% of our digital transaction happens on three platforms – iMobile, Pockets, and our retail internet banking and this does not include the ATMs and the actual transaction that we have in our branches."

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