BofA adapts consumer technology to corporate clients
What will the future of corporate banking, transaction services and supply chains look like?
At the SIBOS conference last week, Bank of America executives spoke about some of the technologies they are currently experimenting with to determine which ones appear viable in the long term. Major among these are artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, virtual assistants (including Erica’s extension for consumers to commercial banks), distributed ledgers, and application programming interfaces. .
“While no one can predict the future, what we can do is help companies prepare for drastic changes in their business or market disruptions,” says Stephanie Wolf, Corporate Sales Manager , governments and financial institutions for BofA’s Global Transaction Services unit. . “We know this will inevitably happen. Therefore, our goal to invest and innovate in new technologies is to equip treasurers with tools that can help them be dynamic and agile, and manage their business holistically, from customer to base. supply. “
Ayeesha Sachedina, Head of Multi-Product Solutions at Global Transaction Services, focuses on areas where emerging and disruptive technologies such as AI, blockchain, cloud, robotic process automation, Internet of Things and 5G may be relevant. One place his team has already deployed AI is in cross-border electronic payments.
One of the ways they use AI is to help customers optimize their working capital.
“We are in the process of launching a cash forecasting product that uses predictive analytics to forecast where our clients have their cash positions and help them better optimize their working capital, not only through their Bank of America footprint, but all of their banking presences, ”Sachedina said. “It allows customers to automate their internal processes and make better decisions.
In a third use of AI in corporate banking, Bank of America has started deploying virtual assistant Erica, which is currently integrated with its mobile banking app and used by 15 million consumers, to help automate the service and advice for its CashPro customers. CashPro is the company’s online banking software for large businesses.
“It has become a great tool for employees that our service teams can use, where they can type or express questions., ” said Tom Durkin, Global Product Manager for CashPro. “The technology aggregates information from 10 different systems that they might need to refer to before they can respond, whether they’re on the phone with a customer or with an internal associate. It changed the service model in terms of quick access to information.
Customers can also use Erica directly to ask questions about their payments. For example, did this payment reach Singapore?
And employees have been trained to use and code their own bots, to automate repetitive tasks like retrieving reports.
“It ties together some of the historical knowledge that has resided within the technological organization in the industry,” Sachedina said. “You see this change in the skill set, which is fascinating. I am sure that over the years we will see more and more of them. “
At SIBOS, BofA announced three new application programming interfaces for CashPro customers. These allow corporate clients to manage banking tasks from other applications they use in their daily lives, such as enterprise resource planning software. One of the new APIs allows customers to manage cross-border payments directly from another app. Another offers the possibility of directly recovering the images of the checks. The third allows customers to extract and schedule reports from CashPro.
The Cross-Border Payment API automates some of the manual work that occurs when banks and customers exchange exchange rate information.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if many still exchange this via an Excel spreadsheet,” Durkin said. “So moving that to an environment where you have real-time access to that information from your trading system or your ERP system, and then setting the stage for a potential guaranteed rate based on the expected amounts to be negotiated, that is. is something that we are seeing more customers take advantage of. “
In cross-border payments, Bank of America has also experimented with several ways to make real-time payments, according to Ad van der Poel, co-head of product management for Global Transaction Services in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. .
One is the cross-border automated clearinghouse, which is cross-border access through local clearing houses, whether real-time payments or more traditional ACHs. Bank of America has been offering this for some time.
“The challenge, however, in this area is that you are very dependent on the rules of this national compensation,” he said. “Making changes to the rules of the payment system takes time. “
In another route to faster cross-border payments, BofA worked with the distributed ledger technology provided by Ripple to see how it works, if it can cope with high volumes and if it is an option for the future. .
But the bank’s key partner for cross-border payments is Swift.
“Accessibility is one of the key elements for the success of cross-border payments,” said van der Poel. “To be reachable, you need a community. You must have a lot of connected players. Whether they are banks, non-bank financial institutions, payment service providers of all kinds, they all need to be connected to achieve this accessibility. Swift is still the solution that has most of this collaboration going. “
Bank of America uses Swift GPI, the organization’s payment tracking software.
“These payments which have gone through GPI, 95% of them are now made on the same day,” said van der Poel. “About 40% of these are done in five minutes. On top of that, Swift works on a transaction management platform; they’re creating something that goes beyond messaging and transaction tracing.
Card networks like Visa, Mastercard and American Express are also working on cross-border payment solutions. Bank of America is talking to all of them and reviewing their offers, he said.