Canadian Banks Answer 2020 with Digital Innovation

The big five Canadian banks all leaned into AI to launch new tools to better support their clients through a year that relied on being digital-first.

Canadian banks evolved this year to keep up with not only competition from U.S. banks and fast-growing fintech firms, but the unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning to better support their customers, banks like TD, BMO, RBC, CIBC, and Scotiabank all launched new digital-first customer service tools. These new features primed the big five banks to handle a surge in digital users and prepare for whatever 2021 may throw at them.

TD Unveils New Digital Cash Flow Tools Powered by Predictive AI

  • TD released a number of new online tools, including a more personalized app experience powered by AI, to better serve its increasingly digital consumer base.
  • New features include predictive low-balance protection and personalized onboarding, plus new global money transfer options.
  • The bank also launched Student Budget Calculator, a project from TD’s innovation hub, TD Labs, in collaboration with Canadian post-secondary students.

TD Bank Group evolved its online customer experience, launching a new suite of AI-powered upgrades to its app to help users better understand their finances and track spending, as more of its users migrated towards digital-only banking during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Updates to the TD app also include an AI-powered retirement planning tool; a machine learning-enabled tool to support customers with investing, a new international money transfer tool, as well as a student budget calculator.

Banking’s New Normal: TD Chief Digital Officer Rizwan Khalfan

  • TD’s Digital engagement is up 30% in Canada and 17% in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.
  • During the pandemic, TD developed and launched over 100 new capabilities to inform and educate customers as well as provide new services.
  • One service is a Virtual Assistant that within its first week logged 75,000 customer sessions and more than 135,000 customer interactions; another is SimpleApps, a platform developed in days that has been used over half a million times to facilitate relief service applications to programs like CERB and CARES.
  • Enrollment to TD’s real-time money management platform MySpend has also increased 30%.
  • Chief Digital and Payments Officer Rizwan Khalfan wants to ensure that the “muscle we built in the last three months will remain a core part of our DNA.”

In the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, TD was well prepared to weather the storm, but that doesn’t mean it was a simple process. In April the bank’s chief digital officer Rizwan Khalfan outlined how TD recognized early warning signs that prompted a quick shift to digital-first initiatives. 

In this feature article, Khalfan shares how TD migrated all of its 6000 workers to a work-from-home environment and shifted its priorities to be digital-first. In order to stay on top of the new demands of the pandemic, the major bank built and deployed over 100 new capabilities to support customers virtually, including a new virtual assistant that uses conversational AI to offer real-time responses to customer questions.

Scotiabank Taps NVIDIA AI to Improve Credit Risk Assessment

  • Scotiabank’s “boosting” system aims to replace traditional credit-application scorecards by creating a more accurate, yet easily-explained method of credit risk assessment.
  • The boosting method is driven by machine learning and starts with a single question, adding one question at a time, then stops when additional questions would not improve results, vs. traditional scorecards with static lists of questions.
  • So far, the results have been “no harder to explain than traditional weight-of-evidence models, but often were more accurate.”
  • The bank will leverage NVIDIA’s AI tools to use this boosting technique to quickly generate scorecards (up to six times faster) that will give applicants credit when they are deserving of it.

Scotiabank this year adopted a new AI-driven program, in partnership with NVIDIA, that will allow credit applications to be more accurately processed. 

Previously, the process involved a series of set, static questions issued towards a prospective lender via a scorecard. Now, Scotiabank can generate scorecards six times faster than they could before the creation of the GPU-accelerated code—and, in turn, the bank is able to more accurately serve its credit-seeking customers.

Scotiabank Launched Advice+ for Pandemic Financial Planning

  • Scotiabank’s new financial planning hub, Advice+, offers both a self-serve online ScotiaAdvice Centre or the opportunity to book an online appointment with a Scotiabank financial planner.
  • The ScotiaAdvice Centre has three hubs: financial planning, investing, and budgeting.
  • According to a survey conducted by Scotiabank in May 2020, 62% of Canadians believe professional financial advice is more important now than it was before the pandemic.

As more Canadians reassessed their finances due to the unprecedented economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Scotiabank launched a new service, Advice+ to help guide customers towards better, more confident financial decisions.

The ScotiaAdvice Center splits its self-help advice into three tiers—financial planning, investing, and budgeting—with each hub providing no-nonsense advice from Scotiabank advisors, plus a glossary of terms, and step-by-step planning advice.

Digital Banking’s New Frontier: RBC’s SVP Digital Peter Tilton

  • The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has seen impressive online growth throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by onboarding 400,000 new digital customers, leading to a 29% overall increase in digital re-engagement.
  • RBC also launched and adapted a new tool that allows clients to securely identify themselves during calls through the use of AI and NFC chip technology. So far, over 3,500 advisors have used the technology.
  • Over the last three quarters, the self-serve transaction rate rose from 87.6% to 94.5%, representing “around four years worth of transformation happening in under a year.”
  • RBC’s digital tool NOMI has delivered 1.2 billion insights, while the Ask NOMI chatbot has answered 2.3 million questions over the last three months.

At RBC, the digital team has undergone one of the biggest pivots the banking industry has ever seen, and so far, it’s been working. Peter Tilton is the senior vice president of digital for RBC, and it has been his job for the past five years to oversee the bank’s digital transformation across every service. 

In this interview and feature, Tilton outlined how RBC has weathered the digital shift successfully. Initiatives included digitizing “advice banking”, improving self-serve banking, and prioritizing the ability for customers to complete complex banking online such as renewing and refinancing home loans. 

“That is the frontier—how quickly we can build those capabilities so people can bank with us any way they like,” he says. “For me, it has been a rapid acceleration of what we’ve already built. We were already doing all the right things.” 

RBC Debuts Aiden, an AI Platform Capable of 32 Million Calculations Per Trade Order

  • Aiden will use machine learning to provide better trading insights and results for RBC clients.
  • The platform was developed in partnership with AI research center Borealis AI, which was created by RBC.
  • Aiden can make more than 32 million calculations per order, and adjust to new information and live trading data.
  • RBC says the market volatility resulting from COVID-19 has provided a powerful training opportunity for Aiden’s AI.

RBC launched a new tool, Aiden, that uses AI and machine learning to provide dynamic, real-time trading and market insights and results for RBC clients.

Jointly developed by RBC and Borealis AI, the AI research center created by RBC in 2016, Aiden can navigate “fluid and dynamic market conditions” without the need for continuous updates and retooling, making more than 32 million calculations per trade order and then executing decisions based on live market data.

CIBC Launches New Financial GoalPlanner Tool

  • CIBC has launched a new financial planning platform available to its Imperial Services clients.
  • The GoalPlanner tool allows clients to identify goals and see an overview of their finances with an easy-to-use, modern platform.
  • As the pandemic continues to disrupt the world, the need for improved financial planning grows, and banks like CIBC, TD, and BMO are responding with new digital tools and resources to do so.

CIBC launched a new platform to help clients set goals for the future and make financial planning feel easier. The new CIBC GoalPlanner “modernizes and simplifies the financial planning experience” so clients can get started with their financial planning through CIBC’s online bank. 

The CIBC GoalPlanner gives clients an overview of their finances and offers insight into opportunities, shortfalls, and surpluses with their cash flow, offering a better understanding of their progress and what it takes to reach their goals. 

BMO Launches New AI Tool, CashTrack Insight

  • The new tool, built in-house, helps BMO customers manage expenses by identifying upcoming cash shortfalls.
  • CashTrack uses AI learning to look up to seven days in advance across Canadian chequing and savings accounts, and suggest actions that can be taken to avoid a shortfall.
  • Insights will be made available to customers directly from the BMO mobile banking app.

As Canadians faced unexpected financial hurdles this year due to COVID-19, BMO helped customers manage expenses by creating a new AI tool for identifying upcoming cash shortfalls.

CashTrack Insight uses machine learning and AI technology to help identify when customers might be facing an upcoming cash shortfall. The tool is able to look up to seven days in advance, and analyses spending habits in both chequing and savings accounts to alert customers to an upcoming shortfall that may result in their being unable to manage expenses. Customers receive insights from CashTrack directly within their BMO mobile banking app.