After 3 years of fallow, we resurrected London’s most fun fintech meetup to explore the impact of conversational interfaces on finance. Here’s how it went down.
The meetup’s essence is to learn from people who are actually designing and building financial products, rather than gazing at the future and complaining about those naughty banks.
Chatbots and voice apps are easy to criticise and hard to do well, but there are some interesting use cases emerging. For people who are permanently impaired, voice has been a long-term solution and it keeps getting better. We are also seeing in places like India, that voice can also enable millions of people with limited literacy to engage with complex services and data. But what’s been going on in finance? Are chatbots going to remain the dominant conversational solution in fintech?
Our first speaker was Philip Balbirnie, Head of Commercial Development in Experian’s Consumer Services team talking about how a quick experiment by a developer to connect Experian’s APIs with Alexa triggered a huge amount of organisational hype, but wasn’t a perfect fit to customer needs.
However, in the short term Experian have been seeing far more success and promise from the use of conversational interfaces in areas such acquisition marketing, form-completion and customer service.
After a short pizza break, we then heard from Zoe Popperwell, Experience Designer on the Financial Services team at @cxpartners, fresh off the plane from Chicago to give us her presentation on the trials prototyping a health insurance app on Alexa.
Zoe observed that the limitations of Alexa’s voice recognition made it difficult to separate customer feedback about the proposition from general issues with the technology. She is keen to try Google Assistant for the next prototype.
And finally, Jack Holmes, Senior Experience Designer at Nationwide Building Society, stepped up to speak about a live mortgage chatbot that his team built recently, with promising early results.
The big insight for me from Jack was that even with the best user testing, you can’t always predict how customers will engage with your product. He recounted numerous unexpected customer behaviours surfaced through monitoring their anonymised chatbot logs – a vital process for learning.
After more pizza and a broad selection of refreshing beverages that were generously provided by WorldRemit, who are hiring BTW, we proceeded to a speaker panel.
We discussed questions like “is Alexa winning?”, “how will design processes and roles change in the future?” and “how are people changing their behaviour in response to conversational technology?”. And we were provided with great examples and stories which I am not going to write here.
The Creative Exercise
And finally, as is traditional at all of our events, we ran a speed-design exercise to put all of our learnings into practice. 3 teams were tasked with designing conversational solutions to the following problems, set by Hillary Frazier, Head of Chatbot Strategy & Design at Black Ops in NYC:
OPTION 1: A tech solution that splits payments within a group after a holiday
OPTION 2: A budgeting service that helps you save money for big life events
OPTION 3: An online platform for insuring your items
The results, presented in front of the group 20 minutes later, were impressive given the timeframe. Then we went to the pub.
Big thanks to everyone who attended, spoke and helped organise.
Yeah why not. I’m keen to do another FFH focused on AI-assisted workflows in a B2B context. If you’re interested in speaking or attending, give me a shout: @muirwd / @ffhlondon.