In the Spotlight... Jo Kelly from UBank

Like all things digital, online banks are taking the world by storm, and setting the bar here in Australia is UBank. Voted Australia’s Best Online Bank in our Experts Choice Awards for the second year running, we caught up with Jo Kelly, Chief Marketing Officer, to talk about how Australia’s first virtual assistant is changing the home loan applications process, innovative new savings techniques and how a suite of just seven products can be so powerful.

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By Kelly Emmerton· Friday 21 July 2017

Online excellence

The philosophy behind UBank’s range of top quality banking products is all about simplicity and efficiency. The bank has just seven products spanning key personal finance areas of savings, day-to-day transactions, and home loans.  

According to Kelly, what sets UBank apart from the competition is that its suite of products was designed specifically with customers in mind.

“Our goal is to deliver a simpler, better, smarter experience for our customers, and we think being able to offer top of the line products is key to achieving that,” she said.

With its entire company - including an Australian-based call centre - across two floors, UBank is far from a traditional bricks and mortar bank. And by avoiding all the overhead costs of running physical branches, UBank is able to pass on those savings in the form of great interest rates.

“Our customers are savvy about their finances and want to be in control of their money. Everything about UBank, from its product suite to its online model, is set up to help them do that,” says Kelly.

A clean sweep for savers

One of the products that helped bag UBank the Experts Choice top gong was its USaver with Ultra Transaction Account. Not only does this savings account come with no account fees and a generous 2.87% interest rate when linked to the Ultra bank account, but it also utilises innovative sweep technology to help customers manage their saving and spending.

Here’s how it works: Customers can set minimum and maximum limits on how much money they want to keep in their transaction account at any given time. The Sweep then shifts funds between this account and the linked savings account to match these limits.

“Sweep technology helps ensure customers have the money they need on-hand 24/7 while the rest is tucked away in a savings account earning interest,” Kelly explains.

“It means you’re always making the most of your money, without having to lift a finger."

Streamlining home loan applications with RoboChat

But the online banking experience with UBank doesn’t stop at great value products. It has also recently rolled out Australia’s very first virtual home loan assistant, dubbed RoboChat.

Built using IBM Watson technology, RoboChat is an AI that can answer thousands of common questions in a snap, assisting customers with simple queries, and freeing up UBank staff to tackle more complex questions.

According to Kelly, when the bank reviewed the data it had on application enquires it found that  around 80% of customers were asking a very similar set of questions.

“We made changes to the form itself to help streamline it,” she said, “but we also saw an opportunity to offer real-time support to customers during the process. And that’s how RoboChat was born.”

Now, when you are filling out a home loan application, RoboChat will ask if you need help. If it can’t answer your question in two attempts, it asks if you want to speak to a ‘human’ advisor.

“It’s been great to have RoboChat work in partnership with our talented advisors.”

Constant innovation

“We’re always thinking about what’s next, and constantly innovating to improve what we offer our customers,” said Kelly.

Today, RoboChat can tell you a joke if you need a quick break in the middle of a mortgage application, but it can’t tell if you’re happy or sad. According to Kelly, that’s next on the list.

By tapping into the tone analyser offered by IBM Watson, RoboChat will someday be able to “understand and respond to customers based on what they’re feeling.”

“Nothing beats a human touch and soon, RoboChat will be able to track if a customer is frustrated, curious or happy and tailor its response accordingly,” says Kelly.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface with AI, but we’ve certainly taken a big leap, and the upcoming developments for RoboChat are very exciting.”