Banks are now tapping Adobe’s machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) platform Sensei to better blend the experiences of banking online and in a branch, offering customers more personalized services.

“Sensei takes algorithms, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to enhance the bank’s ability to deliver meaningful personal data at scale, to get insights from data in an automated fashion,” said Chris Young, director of industry strategy for financial services at Adobe. “A lot of times retail banks have a good sense of what people are doing on the website, but nowhere else. This is a unified profile that can ingest all interactions–online, on mobile, or in person.”

As many customers shift to mobile banking, physical branches are being outfitted with more and more technology, ranging from high-powered touch screen kiosks to personal bankers walking around with tablets. One new Adobe feature, called fluid experiences, uses AI to automatically reformat content on a bank’s website or app to fit a screen inside the bank, making it easier to consolidate information and campaigns, Young said.

Another feature, called anomaly detection, examines a bank’s historical data and calls attention to any changes in performance. For example, if a bank sees a dip in the number of typical application starts for a specific type of personal loan, they can go into the system and ensure the link isn’t broken. The technology can also offer analysis as to why the anomaly may have happened.

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Banks also see a lot of anonymous visitors on their websites, who may be prospective customers. With Sensei, banks can use algorithms to personalize the experience of these anonymous visitors, based on their behavior on the site, and show them what they might be interested in based on past customer trends. “It ends up yielding significant lift to conversion and site engagement,” Young said.

Further, through Adobe’s mobile core service, banks can capture and analyze location data as well. If a customer walks into a bank branch with their mobile phone, the system can measure their activity within the physical local using beacons or geofencing to understand how that person is interacting with the branch. With the same technology, if a user walks up to a digital screen, or a personal banker with a tablet, those devices can show what options and services that person is likely looking for.

“It can alert branch staff, so instead of having to meet with the individual, log in, and learn more about them, it can trigger the profile that gets delivered to the personal banker, so the second they interact, they have a better sense of who they are,” Young said. “You can see their digital behavior before they walked into the branch, like if they were researching refinancing on the website.”

The technology will allow branch interactions to be much more personalized and efficient, possibly leading to increased future branch visits, Young said.

Adobe’s banking clients include US-based Citi and US Bank, European lenders HSBC, BNP Paribas, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS, and National Australia Bank.

The omnichannel experience

“It’s exciting to see the move towards a human-centered design for the customer experience, across channels,” said Gianni Giacomelli, senior vice president and business leader for digital solutions at Genpact. “Banks are trying to reclaim visibility and control over the experience in the branch, getting to the same level of sophistication and engagement as what is available online, where banks can have more visibility of user behaviors and can apply AI and machine learning to optimize things.”

Banks fall in the middle of the pack when it comes to digital transformation efforts, Giacomelli said, falling behind media and high tech due in part to legacy technologies and siloed operations. However, progress is being made as banks increasingly move toward a more omnichannel view of the customer.

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“While we expect to growth in digital channels, it’s clear that the branch is not going away,” Giacomelli said. “It’s all about how to use digital technology to transform the branch as well as other channels–about the seamless experience for customers.”

However, the solution to many banks’ problems isn’t found in the front-end, but the middle and back, such as in transaction records, which Adobe’s products won’t solve for, Giacomelli said. The key is to connect digital transformation from the front end, where technologies like AI can have an impact, through the middle, which can often be mired with disparate data sources and manual processes, all the way to the back, where operations may be fragmented and bogged down by legacy systems.

“It’s all about making sure their digital transformation strategies are integrated from the front, through the middle and back offices,” Giacomelli said.

Moving beyond online and mobile

Many bank initiatives around customer experience have involved improving the ease of use of mobile banking apps and online banking websites, according to Stessa Cohen, a research director at Gartner. While these are important, the next level is to go beyond the front end of customer experience, Cohen said.

“Any technologies that help banks–whether through digital channels and devices or ATMs or customer-facing bank staff–sense and detect true customer needs and requirements, even before the customer knows her own needs, and provide the advice and services tailored to each customer, will improve and even transform customer experience,” Cohen said. “We call this empathic banking.”

AI transformation has yet to reach the financial services industry as a whole, Cohen said. Key to transformation will be how AI and other technologies can enable banks to create new revenue, and new business and operating models, to compete in the digital business environment.

Non-financial services providers including Alibaba have increasingly expanded into banking and payment services for specific use cases, Cohen said, and it’s likely we’ll see that happening more in the future.

“Every part of the bank should incorporate digital technology,” Cohen said. “Digital is not a standalone technology. It can enhance and even transform customer experience whether at the branch, the contact center, or on a smartphone.”