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Embracing Technology Offers a Bright Future for Banks

By Bradley Matthews, Senior Vice President, U.S. Bank Corporate Payment Systems

Bradley Matthews, Senior Vice President, U.S. Bank Corporate Payment Systems

As a banker, I admit the banking industry historically is not known as a disruptive one. However, changing technology and customer needs have forced banks to innovate and modernize their products and services—and to do it quickly. At U.S. Bank we are embracing this “new normal” of banking. Like the rest in the industry, we must rapidly discard the tendencies to cling to old practices and continually shake up our innovation processes and partnerships. Just ask Kodak or Blockbuster.

Establishing new and faster innovations and processes are important in this environment of rapid change. Banks should be joining forces with fintech companies to keep up with the change, if they haven’t already. We need to be thinking like a start-up when it comes to technology and think more about the “what’s next” and less about the “what we have now.”

"AI can be trained to help pore through massive amounts of data and find the “answer,” such as that perfect photo​"

Future trends point toward virtual cards quickly becoming just as relevant as physical credit cards. In addition, mobile payments continue to experience tremendous growth, with more than half of merchants in the United States accepting them. However, if we stop here, we would miss a significant opportunity to re-envision the end-to-end experience. Mobile payments have so much more potential for disruption than just removing cards from our wallets.

To achieve this new experience—and the full potential of mobile payments—let’s look at some increasingly prevalent technologies: Artificial Intelligence (AI), chat bots and cloud technologies. 

AI’s Role in Leveraging an Abundance of Data

With nearly all solutions based in or moving to the cloud, all facets of our personal and business lives are accessible anywhere, which creates a vast amount of data on who we are, what, where, and why we are doing what we are doing. That is good news to keep us organized, but it has changed the landscape from a scarcity of data to an incomprehensible amount of data. For instance, look at the camera—it has truly evolved from using film to capture that single perfect shot to the immediacy of digital images. In the past, to get that perfect shot could take many hours and many rolls of film to get it exactly right. Now that film limitations are gone, anyone can take a thousand pictures and one of them will be that “perfect shot.” Therefore, the commodity has switched from limiting to an overabundance, and with that, the problem becomes not capturing the perfect photo, but rather finding the perfect photo.

The solution to the “perfect shot” scenario and the broader concern of an overload of data is AI. AI can be trained to help pore through massive amounts of data and find the “answer,” such as that perfect photo. This challenge becomes even more prevalent, as data migrates online and users look for instant answers to their questions. In fact, the expectation is fast becoming that these answers will be offered up before the question is asked. 

Changing Preferences for Communication

Using the phone for a call is quickly losing its value; just ask any teenager. Data show they text friends sitting right beside them. Apps, email and especially instant communication have become commonplace in today’s digital existence. This changing preference for communicating shows that there is an opportunity to build upon a common understanding or preference for digital interactions, and we don’t need to train users how to interact with new tools. Many people talk about wanting that simple “Google experience” of having a single field where you just ask any question; unfortunately, that approach doesn’t work for many business processes. The significance of the “Google experience” is its intuitiveness. If we leverage chatbots, or simply chatting with an AI-powered tool, we can create that same intuitiveness because of the ubiquity of chat.

Pulling Technologies Together:  A Use Case Scenario

Today, business travelers must rely on paper receipts, multiple reporting and travel planning systems and lengthy approval processes, especially if he/she works with a company with strenuous travel policies. Tomorrow looks much different, thanks to the technology, so let’s look at the possibilities of combining mobile payments and AI for business travelers.

Picture this. The year is 2022 and a business traveler needs to plan an out-of-town trip to visit a key client. He/she enters this information into her customer relationship management tool (CRM), and as goes about the day. The CRM tool connects to his/her calendar, which reaches out to the customer’s calendar to find a good date. A virtual assistant then purchases an airline ticket by activating a virtual account number. The remaining arrangements, including payment options, local travel and client meals are all captured and taken care of by a virtual card via a mobile device. There’s no hassle for who pays the lunch bill or for the business travel to create a new expense report once he/she is back in the office. It’s all handled in this new age of digital business.

In this scenario, the payments are just one part of an elegant solution, improving the business traveler’s entire experience. By leveraging the connectedness of systems powered by AI, all with he/she interfacing by chatting or talking with the app we can make that total experience happen and make payment part of the background.

Changing the Future

The technology is there. We in the banking industry understand our customers’ challenges and pain points. The tremendous opportunity established banking institutions have is using technology we possess to deliver new and innovative solutions to our clients—making their daily business lives easier, while building a bond with them that helps maintain a mutual and lasting business relationship into the future.  

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