John San Filippo
BOND.AI: Connecting FIs, Employers, Employees and Fintechs
By John San Filippo
BOND.AI’s Empathy Engine, an artificial intelligence (AI)-based solution, connects employers, their employees, financial institutions and fintechs, all with the purpose of increasing the employee’s financial wellness. The Empathy Engine takes a needs-based approach so that it can, according to company Chief Strategy Officer Adam Montgomery, “offer insights to that end user and help them better their financial health, improve their wealth, ultimately give them that shot in the arm they need about how to take better control of their finances.”
According to Montgomery, the Empathy Engine can identify the specific financial needs of each consumer and customize recommendations based on that assessment. If the consumer’s financial institution can meet one of those needs with one of its products, the consumer is so advised. However, if the financial institution is unable to meet a particular need, the Empathy Engine chooses an appropriate solution from its curated network of fintech providers. Even in this latter scenario, the financial institution still gets credit for providing the overall experience.
How It Works
“We look at and understand what the user’s needs are,” explained Montgomery. “We identify where those needs can be met and matched with the financial institution. In doing so, we give those banks and credit unions user acquisition when it's needed because we've matched up the best intent of the products with the needs of user.
“But when those matches don't exist in a financial institution type of marketplace,” he continued, “we have cultivated an ecosystem of additional financial needs that we can offer up through the app, like a buy now, pay later, a refinancing program, you name it. We have those types of features and functionalities that we can embed while giving the institution the credit, maintaining the trust and giving the user the assurance that we are looking out for them.”
The key, he noted, is creating a unified user experience. “They're not bouncing all over the place,” added Montgomery. “There's no swivel chair. It's a single version of an experience.”
Montgomery told Finopotamus that the BOND.AI app is provided to the employer as part of a financial health and wealth benefit. Employees can then download the BOND app. Once the employee is enrolled and connected to their financial institution, the Empathy Engine begins to analyze the employee’s transactional behaviors and tendencies. An embedded chatbot also asks the employee questions based on this analysis.
“People are willing to respond to questions that that come through the app because they come via a trusted experience,” said Montgomery. “To the end user, the app is the entire experience that’s driving their financial success.”
Asked how personally identifiable information, or PII, is addressed in the BOND platform, Montgomery explained, “PII is something that's top of mind in many of the conversations that we have, but we have architected the system to where we do not require and PII to come across.” He said that the system uses randomly assigned unique identifiers to keep track of each user.
The Empathy Engine seeks to “understand what their needs are, not their wants,” he added. “We identify how to help them and then we make those connections across the network.”
“We have a curated set of fintechs,” explained Montgomery, “but we're not a marketplace. I'll be very clear with differentiating that. He added that BOND hand-selects each participating fintech based in no small part on user needs. The whole point is to provide each user with a personalized set of financial tools.
“The average individual these days is using somewhere around 38 products from a financial perspective,” said Montgomery. “That could be anything from your Starbucks app down to ways that you're moving money around. Because of what we're seeing with these external apps, the primary banking relationship has dwindled down to somewhere around 16 to 18% of someone's financial life.” BOND, he said, helps to keep the financial institution front and center.
Montgomery added that in addition to introducing consumers to new fintechs, BOND can also work with financial institutions to help them augment their current product offerings with new fintech solutions. “We have the ability to understand what the financial institution might look like as a whole,” he noted. “We can do some modeling with the financial institutions to show them, hey, here's products being used outside your institution that you don't have.”
According to Montgomery, this is achieved through an “insights layer,” which is driven by the same Empathy Engine and the AI that the company employs on the consumer side. “We show the institution three things: what's going on inside your bank or your credit union and how you can optimize that; what's going on outside your credit union; and a look at the solutions that are already in-house and which a fintech may need to provide.”
At that point, he said, financial institutions have two options: Expend the time and money necessary to integrate these products to their core processing and digital banking platforms or “tap what you want to offer to your customers through BOND’s fintech network and almost instantaneously be able to offer these solutions and services with very little integration and time.”