“If you’re not feeling well, you go to the GP, but if it’s a financial question, there’s really no one there. When it comes to money, you’re all alone. Our vision is to bring the personalized treatment to everyone who is looking for value for their money, and for that we need a lot of technology that automates most of the work,” said digital bank One Zero CEO Gal Bar Dea, in an interview with Calcalist ahead of The Power of AI in Banking.
“In the world of autonomous banking, things that are now done manually by a wealth manager or a private banker are simply done by artificial intelligence: gather information, cleanse, analyze and make forecasts. Soon it will be possible to correspond with the bank’s digital banker, Ella, similar to ChatGPT.”
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Gal Bar Dea.
(Photo: Orel Cohen)
You mean actual free flowing speech? Today’s correspondence is via built-in menus, I can’t write everything I want.
“We’re working very hard to get there and I hope we’ll release it in a few months. But it’s amazing. A PoC (Proof of Concept) we did blew my mind to open up additional markets in the world and offer personal banking services to masses of people without hiring 1,000 bankers and 2,000 operators.”
So will Ella, who is a bot, completely replace Arnon, the family banker I opened an account with?
“Not completely. Today, through a conversation, a machine knows what a person can do, but there’s the other 5% that only humans can do. The more the banking process becomes automated, the more time will be left to personal attention from human professionals. Ultimately, most of the money management is done by an artificial intelligence system that performs financial checks, performs operations, makes deposits, and borrows. If we want to advise you on something very complex, all the information gathered will reach a human and that human will have more time to get attention.”
And won’t we eventually reach a situation where a machine can do 100% of the process, including complex consultations?
“I think it’s impossible to replace the place where human sensitivity is needed in the foreseeable future. A personal banker is a kind of financial psychologist, because financial decisions are not only rational decisions, but also emotional decisions. The machine is built to make rational decisions for the customer, it works by goals, for example to put the customer in a situation where in four years he can buy a house that costs NIS 3 million. What the machine doesn’t know What you can do, however, is make decisions that ensure the customer is calm. This calm is very difficult to translate. There’s a certain human sensibility that’s hard for a machine to understand right now.
“Possibly, in addition to developing language models, machines will not only know how to get a return on investment, but also understand whether they made the customer feel good. But in the foreseeable future someone will have to put an end to it.” – to feel what is really important to the customer, what he is afraid of and what he does not say. After all, a language model only knows what the customer tells it. A human, on the other hand, knows by voice and body language that while one thing was being said, the person wanted to say something else or was afraid to say something else. I think at the end of the process there will always be a human and the nice thing is that he will just have more time. They don’t concern themselves with things that a human should not concern themselves with. I think that’s the power of artificial intelligence. I also have to say that the technology has surprised me to this day. I He never thought that there would be a language model in 2023. It would speak to me like a human being.”
How do you make people feel that Ella, who is Bot, knows them better than Arnon?
“There is a challenge here that is not only technological but also psychological. It’s a feeling that’s hard to generate even though Ella knows you better. For example, she will remember everything you say to her. We have a team of seven people whose whole job is to work on how Ella speaks to you – how does she respond? is she laughing When she tells you that you’re going into the red, is she saying that definitely or with reservations? We work very hard to create an interaction experience that makes the customer feel like they trust Ella and we see it works great. People express greater satisfaction from correspondence with Ella than with our bankers. Someone knocked on the door here a month ago and asked to speak to Ella.”
Let’s put the future aside for a moment and discuss your pricing. I don’t know of any young people in their early 30s who are relatively active consumers who are not afraid of technology and are willing to pay NIS 50 a month to the bank.
“That’s going to take time. I didn’t think people would be willing to pay for music streaming services, but in the end everyone is on Apple Music or Spotify. Eventually everyone will be with us. We are long-term players, with a lot of patience and we have investors who give us breathing space, I offer a 24/7 available AI system that looks through your account 24/7 and the opportunity to work with a pension advisor and an investment advisor to talk to customers, the fact that yesterday they had no one to talk to and today they have is worth 50 NIS.”
How is it worth it for them?
“Most customers today use paid models. They can choose a free service that does not include access to advisors and AI account scanning, which actually makes them the cheapest digital bank in Israel, and yet the vast majority of customers choose a paid model.”
It’s only free for the first two months.
“True, but customers could have chosen not to continue with the paid model. We only launched it in January-February, so now the first wave of paying customers is coming in and we don’t see them leaving. Most customers today are on paid models.
“Look, I’m saving you money, but that’s not why I want you to come. Most people are not interested in saving 10 shekels here or there. Union Bank of Israel offered incredible terms and it didn’t help them attract customers. And look at what happens with securities in banks – people pay 100 times more than they would pay in an investment house and they don’t leave. The people who come to us are people who are willing to pay 50 shekels a month to receive personalized service and not feel alone in the financial world. Life is too short to spend a shekel here and a shekel there, but it’s not too short to get better service.”
But at the moment the service is not good enough. There are complaints from people on social media. For example, not everyone is able to get a bank ID.
“It’s true, things aren’t going well and it’s not where we want it to be, and I’ll put that on the table. Building a bank from scratch is difficult and takes time. Everything has taken longer than we thought and some things cost more than we thought and there are growing difficulties. And yet over time the system is stabilizing and we are also seeing a sharp decrease in the number of issues.”
In the past, with your launch and open banking, you have spoken of 2022 as the big bang year in banking. Looking back, I’m not sure if you can say that anymore.
“I think there was a crazy explosion and you see it in the value propositions of Discount, Hapoalim and Leumi. Never in your life have you been fought over as a customer like this. Uri Levin (CEO of Discount) and Dov Kotler (CEO of Hapoalim) get up in the morning and fight for their customers. The kicker is that the market started to compete – on price, service, value proposition. If you look at the industry from the side, that hasn’t happened in 50 years. And besides, I think that it is not a matter of course to win 50,000 customers in six months in a market where people don’t leave their bank.In banking, it takes more time, it’s not mobile.