TD Ameritrade is bringing financial market updates, investor education and client account access to retail investors through Facebook Messenger. TD Ameritrade’s chat bot for Messenger, driven by artificial intelligence (AI) technology and backed by live client service support, gives retail investors one more way to access the markets and their investments where they are, when they need support, in the most natural conversational way.
“We live in incredible times, not just the flurry of new technologies, but the way those technologies are changing behaviors and lives,” said Vijay Sankaran, chief information officer for TD Ameritrade. “Consumers are interacting with companies in more ways than ever before, and it is incumbent upon us to constantly strive to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations in new ways.”
TRUE CO-BOT EXPERIENCE
TD Ameritrade’s bot for Messenger is a true co-bot experience, augmented by human support. Human support will be available seven days a week, seventeen hours per day. According to TD Ameritrade, the demand for service during the other seven hours per day is much lower.
Client support specialists can intervene in multiple ways. Or, at any time that humans are available, clients can proactively connect with a person. The initial thinking is that the bots will be able to answer most routine client questions without human intervention, but that a human will be ready to intervene to address more complex issues. Of course, at any time, a client can request human help.
“Our goal is to use the power of technology to make finance more personal,” continued Sankaran. “When it comes to something as personal as money, people often have complex questions that only a human can answer. But, they also have lots of questions about simpler things, like where to find an IRA statement or how to reset a password, and AI gives an intelligent assistant that can answer those things anytime, anywhere. This allows our employees to focus on the human element, while our technology can make the simpler things just that – simple.”
LARGER CONVERSATIONAL STRATEGY
The launch is part of the company’s larger conversational commerce strategy. To speed up execution and delivery of these new consumer-facing capabilities, the Company has built an underlying engine powered by AI that can ultimately be applied to a variety of client interaction points with little additional development. TD Ameritrade’s bot for Messenger is powered by the same underlying engine used for its Amazon Alexa skill, which launched last year.
TD Ameritrade’s Messenger functionality encompasses three main areas:
Before accessing client information, an additional TD Ameritrade authentication process is required.
TEST DRIVE IMPRESSES
I previewed the Messenger experience, and it is impressive. When you log on, by default you receive a market update. The interface itself is very user friendly. You can type in questions, use the voice capabilities to ask questions, or click on context sensitive buttons to navigate and get answers. The look and feel is consistent of that of the TD Ameritrade mobile app for retail clients. Any content that a user accesses can easily be shared with others, provided the information is not anything that requires further authentication by TD Ameritrade.
To get a quote, just type in or speak a symbol. A clean card view appears with relevant information. Access to integrated events such as upcoming dividends and earnings call are accessible. Currently, quotes for stocks, mutual funds and EETF’s are available. More data will be added at a later date.
Users can create personal watch lists. Currently, your Messenger watch list cannot synch with the one from the mobile app, but TD Ameritrade plans to make this functionality available in a later release.
Initially, Messenger includes 25 educational videos. These can be shared with others.
If a user does not know where to start, the artificial intelligent and native language processing will make suggestions, much like Netflix and Amazon currently do. As investors use the system, the AI engine will make recommendations based upon past user history on the site. Furthermore, the knowledgebase is being updated daily, so it will become even smarter as usage increases. Additional information and logic will be added based upon what consumers are requesting. Some of the preferences can even be seasonal. For example, more education around tax issues can be made available during tax season.
According to Sunayna Tuteja, Lead, Digital Strategy at TD Ameritrade, the firm decided to launch enhanced capabilities in Facebook Messenger first, as opposed to Amazon Alexa for a number of reasons. First is security. With Messenger, it is easy to require users to authenticate before viewing any persona information. Alexa is often used in areas of the home that unauthorized person have access to, and the authentication process presents more of a challenge. Second, much of the information that Messenger offers can be best presented visually, in a graph for example. Until recently, Alexa devices did not offer a visual option, although the release of the Echo Show can support those features.
The Company is currently building out additional features and functionality for its Alexa skill, and has plans to add basic trading features and more to its bot for Messenger.
Demographics also played a role in the TD Ameritrade decision to launch with Facebook Messenger. While Facebook itself seems to be more popular these days among older clients as opposed to Millennials, Tuteja pointed out that the demographics are different for Messenger. Apparently, Messenger has a loyal following across all demographic groups.
Initially, no trading functionality is being offered through Messenger, but it is under consideration for future release.
EXPANDING TO ADVISOR SERVICES SIDE
According to Jon Patullo, Managing Director, Technology Product Management at TD Ameritrade, Messenger functionality is not being released to TD Ameritrade Institutional clients at this time, but the firm is exploring ways that they might be able to leverage Messenger and other AI capabilities for the benefit of the clients of advisors that do business with TD Ameritrade. They are also exploring ways that these newer technologies might be leveraged to serve advisors doing business with TD Ameritrade.
“In everything we develop we ask: how is this adding utility but also delight to people’s lives?’” Sankaran continued. “We want to build relevant technology that makes consumer’s lives better.”
To access the experience, consumers can simply connect with TD Ameritrade on Facebook Messenger.