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Chatbot: A smart, swift virtual assistant

Swissquote launches its brand-new AI messaging service, a first in the banking industry.

Imagine chatting in real time with a machine and getting the information you need right away, even faster than if you were dealing with another person – welcome to the world of chatbots. Artificial intelligence has come a long way, and these interactive bots are getting better and better at understanding and processing complex requests. Once again living up to its reputation as an innovator, Swissquote is the first player in the financial industry to use this new technology.

What is the chatbot’s role, and how is it useful for Swissquote clients?

Chatbots can answer questions that used to be handled by our call centre. We noticed that a lot of questions deal with lost passwords, changes in address or other similar issues. In other words, the same questions are often asked over and over. For our clients, dealing with a chatbot for those types of questions will be faster and more efficient – and they won’t have to sit on hold!

What about clients who would rather speak with a person?

Clients who don’t want to use the chatbot don’t have to. They’ll still be able to contact our call centre. The idea is simply to give them another option. In some cases, people don’t necessarily want to talk to another person. With the chatbot, they can maintain a certain level of anonymity. And for some, dealing with a fast and efficient machine can be reassuring.

Isn’t it dangerous though to let a machine handle client identification?

Not if we follow the same processes as the call centre. If a client wants to reset his or her password, for example, the chatbot first asks a few questions to confirm the client’s identity. Only then will it send an email allowing the client to reset the password. As a bank, we are extremely attentive to all aspects relating to security and confidentiality. That’s why we don’t want to use an interface like Facebook Messenger, whether for call-centre or trading services. We use our own secure social network, Pulse, which means we have full control over the process.

Which languages does the chatbot understand?

The chatbot can answer questions in English, German and French. Other languages, such as Chinese, will be added later depending on need.

How does the chatbot understand clients’ questions?

Artificial intelligence has come a long way. The challenge is designing a chatbot that behaves like a human. Users need to be able to formulate questions using their own words, as if they were speaking to another person. Unfortunately, there are no libraries out there offering turnkey solutions. Everything must be developed. That’s why our relationship with the researchers at EPFL is so invaluable.

Can users communicate orally with the chatbot?

Technically speaking, the chatbot only handles text for the time being. But voice recognition is just around the corner – it’s only a matter of years. That said, it is possible to communicate with our chatbot orally using the voice-to-text option (ed. note: when you press and hold the microphone icon and speak, the phone converts the audio content into text) available on most smartphones.

Besides providing call-centre services, what else can the chatbot do?

Our chatbot can provide information on share prices or search for stocks based on different criteria, such as price range, market or currency. Soon, chatbots will be able to help less-experienced clients, who aren’t necessarily familiar with our platform, learn more about the world of finance. Clients will be able to ask questions such as: “Which companies offer the highest dividends?” The next step will be to offer a trading platform with an integrated chatbot. Placing an order would be as easy as saying something like: “I want to buy 100 shares in Apple.” The platform would even be able to handle more complex orders, such as: “I want to sell Apple only if it hits such-and-such a price.”

What changes do you expect to see over the long term?

We’ll probably add a chatbot function to Robo-Advisor, our automated portfolio manager. Doing so would make the robot a fully interactive advisor, ready to serve the client at all times. Given that our clients are generally alone at their computers, having an electronic coach available 24/7 can be very helpful. Unlike human managers, the robot can process all of a client’s data at once. It knows the exact composition of the client’s portfolio, their risk profile, age, etc. It can provide quantitative answers based on that information, data history and market conditions. And it can do so in the blink of an eye.