Bank of America unveils an AI-powered bot to help customers with their personal finances

The outside of a Bank of America branch

Bank of America debuted a virtual assistant bot today at Money2020, a fintech conference being held this week in Las Vegas.

Named Erica, the bot uses artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to learn your personal spending habits and offer helpful advice.

The bot will be available by voice command or plain text in Bank of America smartphone apps next year, according to CNBC.

Erica is designed to not just be a virtual assistant, but each customer’s “personal advocate,” said Bank of America head of digital banking Michelle Moore. It can tell you about your spending habits, if you spend more than usual on a certain product or category of products, some opportunities to reduce debt or save money, and if your credit score took a dip. Links and videos are also provided to users so they can better understand terms like FICO score.

“We’ve spent a lot of time investing in better money habits with education and information for customers and so now we’re going to integrate everything, all the capabilities that we’ve created into one digital assistant that acts on behalf of our 45 million households,” Moore said.

Erica may not be B of A’s last bot: Bank of America and Facebook announced plans in April to launch a B of A Facebook Messenger bot. A Messenger payments API beta began on Messenger in September, but a B of A Facebook Messenger bot is not yet available.

A report from consulting firm Forrester advised banks to avoid offering bots to customers for another two to three years. The tech and AI just isn’t there yet, a Forrester analyst argues, but several financial services companies have ignored that advice.

PayPal today announced an extension of its payment services on Facebook Messenger, and last week CapitalOne extended its Alexa skill that lets customers pay bills with their voice.

In China, institutions like China Merchant Bank allow banking with WeChat, while startups like Kasisto and IPSoft work with banks to provide bots for customers in Canada, Singapore, and Sweden.

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