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ASB and Kiwi tech startup launch digital human to help SME clients

06 Mar 18

ASB has announced plans to launch Josie, a digital assistant designed to help ASB staff support small-to-medium (SME) business owners in New Zealand.

Josie, created by ASB in partnership with New Zealand technology company FaceMe, is the first human-like interface powered by artificial intelligence to be used in Australasian banking.

She has been designed to assist SME business owners with setting up a business.

Due for a mid-2018 launch, Josie is in her final stages of development with the bank now seeking input from SME business owners ahead of her first day at work. 

ASB executive general manager retail banking Russell Jones says ASB is looking for SME business owners to help build Josie's knowledge of what's required when setting up a successful business.

"ASB has a sound understanding of our SME customers' wants and needs. Josie's technology is new territory and we want to ensure she provides customers with valuable business guidance," Jones says.

"Our SME customers have been asking for easy access to relevant information so we're engaging with New Zealand's large SME population to understand the range of questions they have when setting up and managing a business."

In the short-term SME business owners, including those who aren't ASB customers, will be able to interact with Josie in Auckland-based business hubs. Through this process Josie's understanding of the SME sector and customer needs will develop so that longer-term she's armed with the knowledge she needs to deliver customised assistance. 

Jones says ASB created Josie to foster the success of business in New Zealand with an avatar service that isn't yet available in Australasia. 

"We're excited to develop this technology, but more importantly we're eager to see what Josie will help our customers achieve. Globally, New Zealanders are known for innovation and entrepreneurship: we have brilliant ideas but sometimes lack the knowledge for profitable execution. This is where Josie will help," Jones says.

FaceMe CEO and founder Danny Tomsett says the brands that succeed in the future will be those whose artificial intelligence (AI) can provide customers with enhanced, personalised service.

"We believe great customer experience follows meaningful conversation, so AI must respond to customer needs with empathy and personalisation. Customers don't want to talk to a lifeless robot incapable of understanding their needs beyond keywords," Tomsett says. 

Much like the human mind, Josie's knowledge will develop with information through human interactions over time.

As AI is still developing there are some misconceptions surrounding its impact on people, Tomsett says.

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