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Envestnet's New Acquisition To Power 'Conversational AI'

Yodlee's new tech, provided by Abe AI, is setting the stage for a groundbreaking type of advisor-client interaction.

Soon wealth management could feel a lot more conversational. Underpinning Envestnet | Yodlee’s new conversational AI functionality is recently acquired Abe AI, a software provider that enables users and financial institutions to engage and interact with one another via mobile- and web-based voice and text. The service is now available for integration with retail banking solutions but will be built into Envestnet’s wealth management offerings later this year.

The service uses natural language processing to expand the voice-enabled offerings Envestnet already has, like its Intelligence for Financial Institutions offering or the analytics tool Envision IQ. Abe AI works on a variety of communications platforms, from Google Home and Amazon Alexa to Facebook Messenger and text messages. Institutions can control which communications platforms they want to use.

The new offering delivers a span of sophistication that financial service providers can extend to their customers. Providers can even segment clients, providing more functionality to DIY customers, while assigning just the basics to those likely to be overwhelmed by tech interfaces. Abe AI calls this strategy “Crawl, Walk, Run,” and it stretches from providing customers with knowledge and support, like account balances, spending habits and credit scores, to personal financial management and banking functions, like enrolling in auto-savings programs, purchasing new financial products or transferring money between accounts.

From a security perspective, users will need to set up the service by providing account access information, but after initial setup the user will only need to provide a password or a one-time token. The service is customizable to the needs of financial institutions and can reflect the protocols of individual businesses.

While the product is available now for retail banking providers, the firm expects to roll out the “initial phases” for wealth management customers by the end of the year, said Brandon Rembe, SVP of Products at the firm. Advisors should have a preview of the “top use cases” at the firm’s advisor summit in May and beta users will be able to get access to the tool shortly thereafter.

The quick deployment can be attributed, in part to the recent reorganization at Envestnet, which should enable more rapid innovation, added Rembe.

The segmenting capabilities that retail banking providers will have are expected to extend to advisors’ clients, as well. More independently-minded investors can be granted additional functionality within conversational AI, while those needing more hand-holding can be reined in.

Advisors will also be able to make use of the tool. “Think of this as a brand-new user interface,” said Rembe. Just as advisors can control what actions the end investor has with the platform, they can use the interface for their own business needs like reviewing upcoming client meetings, checking deposits that came in during the week or engaging with other Envestnet systems, such as Tamarac.

Envestnet wants to be a leader in conversational AI. The firm predicts that the “rapid mainstream adoption of conversational interfaces” will continue creating demand for its services, pointing to companies like Bank of America as proof of demand for conversational technology. Erica, the bank’s AI-driven digital assistant, has 4.8 million users with 23 million interactions, according to the firm’s Q4 2018 financial results released last week. That’s over 10 percent of the bank’s 36.3 million active digital banking users and shows a jump from the one million users who had access to the service as recently as June 2018.

By combining Yodlee’s data aggregation with the conversational AI capabilities of Abe AI, Envestnet hopes that financial data will be more accessible for advisors and investors alike. In the background, the firm will be looking for new ways to draw value from that data.

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