November 14, 2016
Unlike how most of us predict the outcome of something like US presidential elections (and go wrong), our personal finance and money matters need accurate answers. In this age, where millennials expect everything in four clicks, it is also important to provide those accurate answers quickly along with great customer experience. Chatbots, AI, deep learning are the common techniques used by technology startups to develop a communication channel that would work with the digital generation and provide them with advice, action and plans – from what type of savings account/banking products is right for them to what type of investments one needs to make in order to reach their goals. One such startup called Active.ai is enabling banks to provide conversational banking that involves no browsing, no downloads and no forms. Just chit-chat with a friendly, intelligent, and tireless bot to get balances, view transactions, make payments, get advice, and much more.
FinTech offerings are either already facing or would inevitably face the issue of personal advice that is possible only in physical outlets. To overcome these issues, tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon as well as some tech upstarts are exploring new-age chatbots. These chatbots are powered by AI, deep learning and NLP that would provide similar communication features as a human being. Active.ai is one such promising startup that aims to change the way financial services can be delivered across digital channels. A customer can seek advice, check financial information and perform transactions using the chatbot service provided by his/her bank. The future of customer engagement (UX) is being architected on artificial intelligence, and Active.ai's intelligent and omnichannel platform enables financials services to engage with their customers over messaging bots, voice and IoT devices. Active Intelligence Pte., is a Singapore-based FinTech company that aspires to be the go-to customer AI engagement platform for financial services companies such as banks, wealth managers and asset managers, etc. Partnerships At the back-end, they have partnered with IBM Watson for cognitive intelligence. And with Envestnet Yodlee for its data and API platform to deliver solutions to clients. They have built the platform ground up and are working towards filing multiple patents.
Funding The company raised $500,000 in a convertible note from Kstart-Kalaari Capital in May 2016. The company announced today that it has raised $3 million in funding from IDG Ventures India and Kalaari Capital (announced first to LTP). This investment will support the rapid growth of Active.ai to continuously advance its cutting edge platform and to build out advanced AI features, enabling an increasing roster of clients to deliver a superior and engaging banking experience. Speaking on the Investment, Ravishankar, CEO and Co-founder said, Conversation is the new UX and with banks opening up APIs, a new era of digital business is emerging. We are moving from 'mobile-first to AI-first' and Active.ai is the platform facilitating Banks to achieve that. "Active.ai is helping banks redefine their digital strategy for the future, bringing in automation and intelligent customer engagement to banking and payments. The company’s intelligent and built-for-banking technology uses advanced NLP and machine intelligence to enable customers (so that they have) natural dialogues over Messaging, Voice or IOT devices, added Shankar Narayanan, COO and Co-founder. According to Sanat Rao, IDG Ventures, 43% of worldwide mobile phone consumers with a bank account use mobile banking today, and the new generation of banking customers are looking for easy, secure and seamless interaction with their financial services provider. IDG Ventures India believes that AI will completely transform the banking industry, and we are very excited to partner with Active.ai to build the world’s largest conversational banking platform. According to Bala Srinivasa, Kalaari Capital, "Messaging-based mobile banking has become a strategic imperative for banks globally to enhance consumer experience and lower customer engagement costs. Active.ai is poised to tap into this large market opportunity with its chat and AI-powered mobile customer engagement solution. Kalaari is excited to back this founding team given their past track record, banking domain knowledge, and deep technology expertise." Customers In terms of customers, the company is engaged in discussions with 20+ banks in APAC region to deploy its platform and expect at least 10 banks to go live on their platform over the next year. What's important to note is that AI-based chat assistant technology is getting commoditized and the real power of such an offering is to understand the workflows in banking and connect so well with the bank systems that the bot will actually be useful for a bank user. There are examples of how AI-based chat assistant don’t work if you don’t understand and imagine/include the way customers interact with banks usually (technology is just a tool). That is where the experience of the Active.ai team is important as it is a good balance between banking and tech. Another differentiating factor is the IP they have built (classifiers, NLP, integrations with multiple AI algorithms, etc.) and patents pending filing in some of the areas such as dialog synthesis and faster integration to existing systems. Active.ai team: Founded in early-2016 by Shankar Narayanan, Ravi Shankar and Parikshit Paspulati, the platform aims to enable financial institutions to better engage with their customers and reach out to over 2 billion unbanked and eligible customers in the world. The team has attracted some of the best talents in the industry across FinTech and artificial intelligence technologies towards building its capabilities in Singapore and Bangalore (India Development Centre). Currently, they are 20+ specialists in banking technology and AI (ML+NLP) with over 100 man-years of expertise in FinTech.
Left to right: Parikshit (CTO of Active.ai) was the Co-Founder and CTO at Tagit. Ravi Shankar (CEO of Active.ai) has more than two decades of experience in the banking industry and has worked with reputed banks such as Yes Bank, HDFC and ABN AMRO. Shankar Narayanan (COO of Active.ai) has more than 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur in the FinTech industry founding Tagit, Fastacash and Cazh. The conversational banking platform from Active.ai is designed to automate customer interactions using insights powered by algorithms. Their expertise enables the platform to be deeply connected to a financials platform via APIs, messaging interfaces and IOT devices, thereby, automating customer engagement and services at a lower cost. Using the platform, customers can request information regarding the balance in their savings account, credit card limits, last five transactions and also instruct the bot to make transactions – bill payments, bank transfers, etc. The instructions would be simple phrases akin to how a customer would chat with a friend or a bank branch personnel. Note: People interested in this exciting segment and company should visit the company’s demo station at the Singapore FinTech Festival.