Vancouver-based FinTech startup Finn.ai announced this week that it is partnering with Alberta-based ATB Financial on the first ever banking chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
“Banks are increasingly starting to learn how to work with companies of our size and create value. There’s a strong objective to work with FinTech to offer better value to their clients.”
The company has been in talks with ATB since the first quarter of 2016, and after initial work had already begun on design and integration, the organizations are ready to move forward. While there are some examples of banks in Europe moving ahead with chatbots, this could be the first service of its kind in North America, says Finn co-founder and COO Natalie Cartwright. They’re building out personal financial managers powered by AI, optimizing messages for business that can be put through SMS, apps, or websites, she says.
After successfully developing their proof of concept with ATB where customers can check their balance and latest transactions in Facebook Messenger format, the company is now getting interest from banks in the US and Europe, Cartwright said. “This really allowed us to scale our business.”
Finn has gone through changes in 2016, notably winding down their P2P payments product in the spring (when the company was branded as Payso) to focus their efforts on the bot.
“Banks are increasingly starting to learn how to work with companies of our size and create value,” Cartwright said. “There’s a strong objective to work with FinTech to offer better value to their clients.”
Chatbots can help banks have helpful conversations with their customers via text, said Finn co-founder and CEO Jake Tyler in a previous interview. The product understands natural language and integrates with existing messaging apps. Banks can deliver faster customer service without hiring vast numbers of representatives or leasing out space for phone banks.
Today, the company’s team is growing again and the founding team is particularly grateful towards one perhaps overlooked source of support: the Canadian government’s Startup Visa Program. Two of Finn’s three co-founders, including Tyler (from Australia) and Guru Atlu, their CTO (from India) both received permanent residency cards this month.
The visa program was slammed years ago for only issuing five visas in 20 months, but this month’s announcement was good news for the company and the program, Cartwright explains. “Guru has been able to bring his wife and two-year-old son to join him in Canada as of about a month ago,” reuniting a family just as the company seems to be getting additional traction.
The startup has been chosen from among hundreds of global applicants to present their bot at the world’s largest FinTech conference, Money 20/20, happening in Las Vegas in October. The event aims to attract up to 10,000 attendees. Meanwhile, the company has support from Highline VC, the co-founders of Hootsuite and PhoneGap founder Dave Johnson. Hootsuite co-founder and active fintech angel investor Dave Tedman was the lead investor for an oversubscribed funding round announced back in June.