NatWest and IBM have announced updates to the bank’s virtual assistant, Cora, that will use generative AI (genAI) to provide customers with information through conversational interactions.

By using IBM’s AI and data platform, Watsonx, the companies are co-creating a digital assistant, Cora+, allowing for a more interactive experience.

Cora+ can access information from multiple secure sources that were previously inaccessible through chat alone, such as products, services, information about the bank and career opportunities.

Customers can ask questions and receive responses in a conversational style and are provided with links to requested information, which they can either view immediately or bookmark for later.

Customers will continue to have the option to speak on the phone with branch representatives during business hours.

Wendy Redshaw, chief digital information officer of the NatWest Group’s retail bank said: “We are a relationship bank in a digital world, building trusted, long-term relationships with our customers through meaningful and personalised engagement.”

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As banks increasingly become digital enterprises, attracting and retaining top technology talent has become an industry priority.

Earlier this year, Quantinuum, a quantum computing company, announced a partnership with UK-based financial services major HSBC. The companies will focus on a series of projects to explore the potential near and long-term benefits of quantum computing for the banking industry.

The IBM Client Engineering team worked alongside the NatWest business and technology teams to rapidly co-create, test, and validate the outcomes with the aim of safely and swiftly delivering a viable generative AI digital assistant. 

“With the appropriate guardrails and governance in place ensuring that AI is open, trusted and targeted, banks can deliver an empowering value proposition enabling an even deeper level of customer loyalty,” said John Duigenan, distinguished engineer and general manager of Global Financial Services Industry at IBM.

According to a recent study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, CEO Decision-Making in the Age of AI, banking and financial markets CEOs are being selective and deliberate in their use of generative AI.

They recognise its potential, with over 40% of the 360 banking and financial markets leaders responding that they expect generative AI, deep learning, and machine learning to help deliver financial results over the next three years.

Customer care was cited by 54% of these industry chiefs as among their highest technology priorities and a full three quarters (75%) of financial services CEOs surveyed believe that the competitive advantage will go to the institutions that have the most advanced use of genAI.

Last week, a group of finance and technology companies called for UK regulators to refrain from placing aggressive regulation on AI, claiming it is too early to define the emerging technology. 

The news follows UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s speech on 26 October, outlining the risks surrounding AI and stating that world leaders should hold back from regulating the tech before it was fully understood.