Wells Fargo taps Google AI for virtual assistant launch

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Diving brief:

  • Wells Fargo will rely on Google Cloud artificial intelligence to power Fargo, its soon-to-deploy virtual assistant, the companies announced Monday.
  • Customers will be able to use Fargo to activate or deactivate their debit cards, check credit limits and search for specific transactions by date, amount or type. If Fargo can’t answer their questions, it will seamlessly connect users to a representative.
  • In an announcement Monday morning ahead of a public launch at the Money20/20 conference in Las Vegas, the bank said its collaboration with Google Cloud marks “a crucial step” in its strategy to reach customers.

Overview of the dive:

Fargo represents the next step in Wells Fargo’s digital transformation, which began last year with the announcement of a 10-year plan to modernize its cloud infrastructure with Microsoft and Google. A Monday statement from the 170-year-old bank said it plans to “go digital first and reinvent personal finance.”

“This partnership will expand our customers’ digital financial support network by enabling meaningful money conversations from their mobile device,” said Michelle Moore, Chief Digital Officer at Wells Fargo. “It’s more than dollars and cents; it’s about improving the emotional and financial well-being of our clients by understanding their financial goals and providing them with the most convenient interactions to achieve those goals.

Fargo will use Dialogflow, Google’s conversational AI platform, to allow the virtual assistant to provide a personalized response to customers based on their intent, according to Monday’s announcement.

By combining Google’s artificial intelligence and natural language processing capabilities with Wells Fargo, companies can “provide customers with connected, personalized tools that seamlessly integrate with their financial needs,” said Yolanda Piazza, vice president of financial services at Google Cloud.

Wells Fargo rebuilt its mobile app this year with great success: Users ranked the bank third in JD Power’s 2022 US Banking Mobile App Satisfaction Rankings Studywhich touted the bank’s “complete visual language and layout overhaul”.

Next year, Fargo will be available for Spanish speakers, following a similar move by US Bank this year.

Fargo will also use predictive analytics to guide customers towards overall financial health by highlighting things like a spike in the price of a recurring subscription or an increase in routine spending, calculating how much customers can spending to cover expenses and meet savings goals, and emphasizing smart financial choices like debt consolidation or investing.

Representatives for the two companies did not immediately return a request for additional information on when Fargo would be released.

Digital banking services have exploded since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for young customers. According to a Wells Fargo and Ipsos study conducted this summer, about two-thirds (65%) of millennials and Gen Zers said they would prefer a virtual assistant for customer service needs over waiting for a representative on the phone.

Saving time is the main benefit, according to seven out of 10 respondents.

Moreover, this isn’t Moore’s first foray into developing virtual banking assistants: She developed Erica, Bank of America’s virtual assistant, when she was in charge of digital banking for that lender. Erica’s popularity skyrocketed from 2020 to 2021, with users tripling to over 100 million.