- Bank of America announced this week that Erica, its virtual assistant driven by artificial intelligence (AI), is now being used by more than 1 million users, per a company press release. The milestone was reached within two months of completing its phased roll-out.
- Through AI, predictive analytics and natural language technology, Erica lets users search for transactions, view balance information and bills and get their credit scores or send money to friends and family with Zelle, a bank-powered digital payment network. Users can interact with Erica by texting, talking or tapping options on their smartphone.
- New features on Erica will roll out this week, including enhanced shopping for financial products and services, easier onboarding to the app, new chat functions, digital wallet tools and mobile enrollment in the bank's rewards program.
Bank of America's rollout of its AI-powered assistant shows strong signs of consumer acceptance by reaching 1 million users in its first two months. The bank is among the financial institutions that foresee digital and mobile technologies transforming the way people manage their money, pay bills and make payments in stores, online or person-to-person. Bank of America has more than 36 million digital clients, including 25 million active mobile users, giving the company a large platform for additional financial services like P2P payments, digital wallets, mortgage or investing tools and loyalty programs.
Here, the national bank is flexing its digital tech muscles as mobile banking continues to grow more popular, with 63% of U.S. smartphone users saying they have at least one financial app. Apps for mobile banking have become some of the most widely used by Americans, a Citibank survey found. Usage for these mobile apps will likely grow as mobile tech and digital assistants evolve in sophistication.
Erica was in development for several years after first being announced in late 2016. The technology shows how nascent AI tech, predictive analytics and natural language processing are giving mobile apps a wider range of features to boost efficiency and functionality for on-the-go consumers. Erica handles simple queries about account balances and can help people with bigger tasks like tracking personal spending, offering money-saving tips and suggesting personalized steps to improving the user's credit score. Bank of America last month said it had integrated more than 200,000 ways for users to ask financial questions through Erica, demonstrating the complexity of handling natural-language interactions.
While AI tech is expected to disrupt the banking industry and lead to massive job losses and branch closures, consumers often prefer a human touch for certain kinds of financial services, according to a study last month that Samsung commissioned from Celent. It found that people typically prefer digital interactions like Erica for quick transactions, such as withdrawing cash or transferring funds, but many still prefer human interaction when it comes to more complex questions about their money. Most consumers prefer a phone call for quick questions (53%) and a branch visit when they need a lengthier discussion (77%).