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April, 2019 8:23 PM



AI assistant to advise on Aust home loans

AI assistant to advise on Aust home loans

Australians looking for a home loan will soon be able to have their questions answered by a digital human, powered by AI and backed by a major bank.

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By AAP 11.02.2019 04:21 PM

The startup that digitally cloned a Swiss bank's economist has produced an Australian digital home loan assistant to help manage online applications.

National Australia Bank's digital-only arm UBank on Monday announced customers applying for a home loan will soon be able to talk to an artificially intelligent assistant that talks and interacts like a human.

Called My Interactive Agent, or Mia, the assistant is part of the bank's preparation for the open banking regime when customers will be able to move their digital records between institutions to get the best deal.

Mia's creator, Auckland-based start-up FaceMe, made global headlines in 2018 by cloning the chief economist of Swiss investment bank UBS to help answer client questions.

This is the first time FaceMe has moved into Australian banking.

"There are rates, there is information but ultimately how we often differentiate the brand is through customer experience," chief executive Danny Tomsett told AAP.

"Often when you think about what AI and what this technology can bring, it's the ability to embody a brand ... and creating the experience that a customer truly values rather than just information."

Customers will be able to speak to Mia around the clock and get answers to more than 300 questions.

UBank chief executive Lee Hatton said while customers should in years to come be able to get a home loan in four clicks with no interaction, they would always be seeking information from the bank.

She said Mia allowed UBank staff to focus on other areas.

"What AI does is continually lift the bar on how knowledgeable you can be," Ms Hatton told AAP.

"So it makes our people much smarter and it means that we're able to train and develop our people in new spaces while Mia is able to take care of the things that are route learning."

But while a digital assistant may be helpful as a first-point-of-contact, Mortgage Choice chief executive Susan Mitchell said no current technology could replace the "valuable service and choice that mortgage brokers provide".

"While we welcome all advancements in innovative technology, voice-activated applications can prove to be frustrating," Ms Mitchell told AAP in a statement on Monday.

"Those home loan applicants who require the most guidance, such as first home buyers or those with complex financial needs, are unlikely to know which questions they need to ask these technologies in order to secure the right home loan for their situation."

Mia is expected to be up and running by the end of February.

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