Home Economy Natwest upgrades AI chatbot to provide ‘human interaction’ amid branch closures

Natwest upgrades AI chatbot to provide ‘human interaction’ amid branch closures

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Natwest has partnered with IBM to launch an AI chatbot designed to provide more “human interaction” to customers after closing dozens of local branches this year.

The bot, called Cora+, is the second iteration of a “digital human” developed by the bank in 2018.

Whereas the original Cora was a basic question-and-answer bot, the updated version will use “generative” AI, similar to ChatGPT, to have conversations with customers on products and services.

Wendy Redshaw, chief digital information officer at Natwest’s retail bank, said Cora+ would “feel even more ‘human’ and, most importantly, a trusted, safe and reliable digital partner for our customers”.

Paul Taylor, managing director of IBM Technology, told the PA news agency: “The bank has got to have confidence that the answer that’s given is free of bias, free of hate… and can be done in a way that both the bank and customers can trust.”

He added that there would be no risk of the chatbot “hallucinating”, meaning it presents inaccurate information as correct.

The announcement comes as experts debate over how AI will replace jobs. IBM’s chief executive said in May that the tech giant could replace nearly 8,000 jobs amid a hiring slowdown.

Natwest has presented its chatbot as an additional way for customers to find help, on top of its usual in-branch, telephone and online services.

Weak high street footfall has driven the bank to announce the closure of more than 140 branches in 2023 and 2024.

Natwest has shut down more than 1,300 branches over the past eight years, according to Which?.

A Natwest spokesperson said: “Cora+ will be used side-by-side with our colleagues to enhance productivity and customer experience. This is an enhancement to our digital tool and does not affect existing in-branch or over the phone services.”

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