Two Canadian startups team up to build Lucy, the FinTech chatbot

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Lucy is the name of the fossil, Australopithecus afarensis, cousin of the genus Homo, that proved that bipedal walking dates back more than 3 million years, and is often referred to as our oldest ancestor. Lucy is also the title of a 2014 science-fiction film and its heroine, who, through drugs, accesses her total brain capacity and transforms into a superhuman form.

Lucy is now also the name of a new AI chatbot created by Thinking Capital, a Montreal FinTech company with a mission to help SMEs access loans quickly and easily. The company says Lucy is the first of its kind in North America.

“Lucy is able to give responses to basic questions; Lucy is not to replace humans. We do expect things to be broader, but we still see the use of humans.”

Lucy was developed in conjunction with Vancouver’s finn.ai, which builds a white-label virtual banking assistant augmented by AI. It took the companies about three months to build the first version of Lucy, imbuing her with the capacity to respond to business owners’ basic questions. For example, Lucy can notify a user if they are eligible for a loan and at what amount (ranging between $5,000 and $300,000), or help them understand repayment terms. If the user asks a question which she is not yet able to answer, Lucy redirects the client to a member of the customer service team.

“Lucy is able to give responses to basic questions, which allows the business owner to engage,” says Anthony Lipschitz, Chief Strategy Officer at Capital Thinking. “Lucy is not to replace humans. We do expect things to be broader, but we still see the use of humans.”

Lipschitz said that over time, Lucy will be able to respond more effectively to complex issues as her abilities grow through machine learning.

Thinking Capital does not yet have a clear idea of just how much time and money will be saved by using AI chatbots like Lucy. Currently, the emphasis is on her ability to respond quickly and clearly to customers, in a natural, casual style.

“What’s really important is that, as a FinTech leader, we continue to invent and be at full-front of the technology,” continued Lipschitz.

Since October 18, 2016, a customer can contact Lucy 24/7 through Facebook Messenger. Thinking Capital is also working to integrate Lucy into SMS on their web platform so that customers can easily switch from Facebook Messenger to SMS. The focus on mobile is important as 52 percent Thinking Capital’s customers currently apply for loans through mobile devices.

“Broadly speaking, we’ll see a lot more of these chatbots for example in the travel industry, retail, etc. The main thing is to service your customer on a platform on which they are naturally on,” concluded Lipschitz.

Gabrielle Drouin

Gabrielle Drouin

Gabrielle Drouin has completed a master’s degree in Literature specializing in Quebec’s contemporary dramaturgy at University of Montreal. She worked as a journalist in Toronto, covering the news of its Franco-Ontarian community, and has been reporting on the Montreal startup tech ecosystem since 2016. She is currently the Community & Portfolio Manager at Panache Ventures.