NatWest has augmented its virtual agent – “Cora” – with generative AI (GenAI) to increase the scope of the conversations it has with customers.
Working with IBM, NatWest plugged Cora into numerous information sources – including product manuals, web links, and secure knowledge bases.
The GenAI then scours these, retrieves the answer to the customer’s question, and sends a response in a “natural, conversational style”.
In doing so, the virtual agent – now known as “Cora+” – answers queries without prior training.
Moreover, Cora cites and links to the source material in its response, which the customer can click through or bookmark for further information.
Meanwhile, users may also use the virtual agent to compare products and services.
Wendy Redshaw, Chief Digital Information Officer of the NatWest Group’s Retail Bank, added: “We are a relationship bank in a digital world, building trusted, long-term relationships with our customers through meaningful and personalized 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.
More pointedly, NatWest leveraged IBM watsonx – its AI and data platform – to co-create Cora+ and drive more “interactive and conversational experiences”.
To achieve this, GenAI reflects on the customer’s prompt, enabling a more personalized conversation.
Some GenAI models even allow businesses to specify the bot’s persona – whether that’s “professional and patient” or “empathetic and fun”.
In the future, businesses may be able to adjust that persona based on the customer’s tone and contact reason.
Yet, for now, NatWest is seemingly taking a tempered approach. Indeed, the bank aims to prioritize “a safe, intuitive, and accessible experience.”
NatWest Follows Its Digital X Strategy
In creating Cora+, NatWest follows its Digital X Strategy, which centers on three pillars: engineer, protect, and operate.
The strategy guides its innovation as NatWest seeks opportunities to engage with enterprise tech specialists and implement emerging technologies that “deliver what matters most for customers”.
That could include greater accessibility to critical information, improved first-touch resolution, and lower contact center demand – all of which Cora+ may deliver.
Indeed, these were likely core objectives for NatWest as it collaborated with the IBM Client Engineering team to create, test, and validate the virtual agent.
Discussing the experience, John Duigenan, GM of Financial Services & Global Industries at IBM, said: “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.
Expect other banks to launch similar innovations, with 54 percent of financial services leaders citing customer care among their highest technology priorities – according to 2023 IBM research.
That research also found that 75 percent of financial services CEOs believe institutions with the most advanced use of GenAI will earn a competitive advantage.
Yet, as NatWest seeks to earn that advantage, it promises not to neglect its voice channel and keep its phone lines open during business hours for customers who value a human touch.
Meanwhile, IBM also strives to push GenAI innovation forward, recently extending its AWS partnership to help more enterprises operationalize the technology.