The Customer Effect

CIBC debuts currency transfer bot Remi

  • CIBC rolled out Remi, a Facebook messenger bot that can carry out currency transfer and track foreign exchange rates.
  • The Facebook bot is a way CIBC can reach customers outside of the traditional mobile banking interface, and it's a way to reach out to non-customers.
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CIBC debuts currency transfer bot Remi

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Sending money across borders has traditionally been costly and fraught with delays. Fintech companies like Transferwise jumped in to offer competitive rates and easy customer experiences, and they’ve rolled out money transfer bots to help smooth the process.

Now, banks are following suit.

This week, CIBC, a top Canadian bank, began offering foreign exchange trading services through a Facebook messenger bot called Remi — yet another sign of banks taking inspiration from the world of fintech. CIBC’s choice of a Facebook bot rather than one that works only through its mobile banking app is a way to reach new customers and existing ones who may not always be logged into the mobile banking app.

“We were thinking about how we can improve and enhance global money transfer from clients; how we can engage and communicate with clients in a seamless manner,” said Jimmy Dinh, executive director of capital markets trading at CIBC. “We’re working with Facebook to enable a chatbot as a way for clients and users to interact with Global Money Transfer.” The bank launched its fee-free online money transfer product, Global Money Transfer, two years ago.

 

Remi, CIBCís first digital assistant, sets up foreign exchange alerts for sending money abroad (CNW Group/CIBC)
Remi has two core functions. It can guide users through the process of transferring funds across borders, and can take questions from customers on prevailing exchange rates. It’s trained to use natural-language processing capabilities to answer customer questions in a conversational way. It can be used to offer regular updates when exchange rates are going up or down on, and can be instructed to transfer money when currency rates are favorable, Dinh said. For example, a customer could say “buy 100 U.S. dollars when the Canadian dollar goes up to 80 cents U.S.”

Using a Facebook bot instead of embedding it within the mobile banking app helps it reach customers in a social media channel they’re already using, making the transfers an incidental activity separated from core mobile banking.

“When people log into a mobile banking session, they’re there to do a transaction, and once they’re done, they log out,” said Dinh. “With the chatbot it’s ubiquitous; you don’t have to log in but add it to your contact list within messenger and interact seamlessly.” He adds that there’s no need to download another app, since when a transfer is initiated, customers simply type in their mobile banking login credentials within the chat bubble.

The exchange rate tracking feature is also accessible to non-customers, a way to get prospective clients interested in the product.

Given all missteps with commercial chatbots, CIBC is treading carefully, trying not to overload Remi with too many tasks. While extending Remi’s capability to other platforms was not part of the launch, it’s an option for the future evolution of the product, Dinh said.

“Obviously day one we’re thinking about Facebook, but that’s not to say we can’t use it on WhatsApp, Google Home, Alexa or other digital channels.” 

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