NatWest Expands its Virtual Assistant with the Help of IBM

NatWest and IBM have unveiled generative AI improvements to the bank's virtual assistant, Cora, to expand the scope of information available to customers during conversations. NatWest will become one of the early adopters in the UK to use generative AI in its virtual assistant, aiming to offer a secure, user-friendly, and inclusive digital experience for its customers.

As a part of the bank's broader strategy, NatWest is committed to using responsible and ethical AI. In collaboration with IBM and other experts, the bank aims to assist customers in achieving financial well-being by offering personalized support. They are achieving this by leveraging IBM's robust AI and data platform, Watsonx, to co-create a digital concierge called Cora+. This enhanced version of the chatbot will provide customers with a more interactive and conversational experience, whenever it brings added value.

 "We are a relationship bank in a digital world, building trusted, long-term relationships with our customers through meaningful and personalised engagement. Building on Cora's success over the last five years, we're working with companies like IBM to leverage the latest generative AI innovations that will help make Cora feel even more 'human' and, most importantly, a trusted, safe and reliable digital partner for our customers," said Wendy Redshaw, Chief Digital Information Officer of the NatWest Group's Retail Bank.

Answering complex customer queries  

The innovative feature is intended to offer customers a more user-friendly and human-like interaction when they want to compare different products and services within NatWest's offerings or seek information across NatWest Group websites.

Cora+ can access information from various secure sources that were not previously accessible through chat alone. This includes details about products, services, information related to the bank, and career opportunities. Customers can now ask questions in a natural, conversational manner and receive responses. They will also receive links to the requested information, which they can either view immediately or save for later reference.

The expansion of the digital world 

As the banking sector increasingly transitions into the digital realm, attracting and retaining top technology talent has become a top priority for the industry. NatWest's Digital X Strategy revolves around three core pillars: engineering, security, and operations. This strategy allows the bank to explore exciting opportunities through collaborations with leading industry experts, such as IBM, as they work together on cutting-edge emerging technologies to deliver what matters most to customers.

To expedite the pace of innovation and implementation, the IBM Client Engineering team closely collaborated with NatWest's business and technology teams. As a result, they rapidiy co-created, tested, and validated their efforts with the goal of efficiently and securely providing a functional generative AI digital assistant.

"NatWest and other forward-thinking leaders of financial institutions around the world are exploring the potential of AI technologies as part of their competitive business strategy. With the appropriate guardrails and governance in place ensuring that AI is open, trusted and targeted, banks can deliver an empowering value proposition enabling an even deeper level of customer loyalty. We're excited about the opportunity to collaborate with NatWest on their vision for customer care," said John Duigenan, Distinguished Engineer and General Manager Global Financial Services Industry at IBM.

The value of Generative AI  

A recent survey conducted by IBM's Institute for Business Value sheds light on the decision-making processes of CEOs in the banking and financial markets sector in the era of AI. The study reveals that these CEOs are exercising caution and selectivity when it comes to the adoption of generative AI. While they acknowledge the potential of this technology, more than 40% of the 360 leaders in the banking and financial markets anticipate that generative AI, deep learning, and machine learning will contribute to their financial success in the next three years.

Regarding priorities, talent acquisition, security, and improving customer experiences stand out as the primary areas where financial services leaders are keen to leverage generative AI. Notably, 54% of industry leaders identified customer care as one of their highest technology-related concerns. Furthermore, 75% of financial services CEOs who participated in the survey believe that the institutions with the most advanced applications of generative AI will gain a competitive edge in the market.

IBM is dedicated to enhancing different businesses and sectors with generative AI, as can be seen from its recent partnership with AWS, aimed at assisting more shared clients in leveraging and benefiting from generative AI.