MEST Member Feature: FinChatBot

Nazli Allie, Tuesday April 24th 2018

MEST Incubator Cape Town is home to tech entrepreneurs, freelancers and small businesses. Today we spoke to one of our members, Romain Diaz - co-founder of FinChatBot - to find out how they use AI to impact the insurance industry.

FinChatBot is an Artificial Intelligence company that develops bespoke products for the financial industry. Romain co-founded the company with his partner Antoine Pailluseau 2 years ago as part of startup studio, Far Ventures.

How it all began

We both had a good understanding of and experience in lead generation from our previous work, and we were able to identify  a specific opportunity to assist companies with this problem in the insurance and financial service industries. This would help these companies overcome the general challenge they faced when it comes to lead generation, with low conversion rates and high costs.

In 2015 the technology sector was filled with buzzwords like chatbots and AI. Being tech enthusiasts, we quickly came up with an AI-based solution that would impact profit margins in the financial sector and work to solve the lead generation issue.

The result was  an AI-powered chatbot for the financial services community. The product would target insurance and finance companies to affect their  top and bottom lines:

  1. On the top line: increasing conversion rates

  2. On the bottom line: lowering call centre costs

During our time at Far Ventures we built an MVP and hired a core team. In 2017, as soon as the company gained traction, we received our first investment of 1.6 million Rands from Richard Marsden, the CEO of Envision, a specialised underwriting management company based  in Kwazulu Natal.

We went on to sign contracts with some big insurance companies, MiWay being one of our biggest clients. We integrated our chatbot into their website and positioned ourselves as a startup focusing on clients in South Africa who are operating in long and short term insurance and debt collection.

What changes have you seen in the insurance industry since the introduction of AI-powered ChatBots?

In 2016, more companies came to know about ChatBots and AI. We like to keep up with new technology. We first learned about it in 2015, but it took time to educate the market. Now that we have gained traction and have had press surrounding FinChatBot it’s much easier to convince insurance companies and financial service providers of our value.

How do ChatBots work?

The ChatBot is heavily scripted, and we constantly work on it with our clients.  We script the ChatBot very narrowly using many different kinds of scenarios to ensure the desired experience. We don't really allow any free text with the decision tree support.

This means that customers will not end up in a situation where they will be frustrated or experience complications or bad lines. It can be a very frustrating and emotional experience trying in trying to relay information across or having to repeat it.

ChatBot VS Human Interaction

When we implement our bots into company websites, we are upfront about client interaction occurring through a chatbot and not through human interaction. We also give people the opportunity to choose between being assisted by a call centre agent or through a chatbot. We have found that more than 50% of customers choose the chatbot. This is a good indication that end users are more and more preferring to use chatbots for their queries.

It is faster and more effective, and people like to interact via online conversations/text messages. Since 2016 the number of people who are using online text messaging apps has outgrown the number of people using social media. People are using more and more text-based apps like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp, so chatbots then become a natural progression.

The results so far have been  very positive. At the end of interactions we ask end users to rate their experience. So far, for  all of our clients using our bots, ratings are above 4.5 stars out of 5. This means a better experience for our clients’ customers, which results in better customer engagement and retention.

Why should financial service companies use ChatBots?

Companies have to go digital to reach their customers today. Online messaging is how people prefer to interact with other companies as it is a much smoother and shorter process. ChatBots offer a similar experience to the messaging platforms customers are used to.  

Building your own chatbot, however, is time consuming and expensive. Instead, companies can now choose to use FinChatBot. We will  work on creating the ideal chatbot for them, which allows them to cut costs while improving customer experience.

What’s next for FinChatBot?

Our bots have enabled clients to more than double their conversion rates online, which has had a massive impact on their topline. We estimate that we can automate up to 50% of the queries our clients have, which can also have a massive impact on cost savings.

We are based in Johannesburg and Cape Town. So far, our clients are based in South Africa and Australia, but we have strong prospects in a few other African markets. We have significant market expansion and strategy plans which are  part of the road map in our current fundraising efforts, looking at other emerging markets in Nigeria, Kenya and Morocco.

We want to deploy our solutions across the board in the financial industry, which include lenders and banks which have a longer sale cycle than insurance companies. We have already started to interact with a couple of banks who are willing to deploy our solutions.

Join MEST Incubator Cape Town for our next event on Thursday 26 April. Book your ticket to MEST Masterclass on Demystifying African Investment: The Legal Perspective with Joshua Janks.