Would you trust a bot with your banking? We take a closer look at the conversational interfaces designed to plug into your bank account and sharpen up your savings…

Chatbot Plum can be accessed via Facebook Messenger.

Plum, Chip, Cleo. The names are short and snappy, but could an Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot be just what you need to whip those finances into shape?

AI apps are all the rage when it comes to tracking spend, automating saving and even aiding investment. We take a look at three of the most popular pocket-sized AI advisors for iOS and Android, how they work and what they do…

Firstly, what is an AI chatbot?

Regular readers may recall this piece in which we explained exactly what a chatbot is and does with the launch of our very own Vodafone UK chatbot TOBi. Broadly speaking, a chatbot is a piece of software designed to mimic a human when spoken to – either through vocal conversation with a device (as with Siri), or text conversation carried out online or via an app (such as Facebook Messenger).

The two key building blocks of any chatbot are intent (requests or commands for information) and answers. Adding an AI element enables chatbots to be even smarter about interpreting what users might be after, leading to more natural conversations – like talking to a friend.

How can a chatbot help with money management?

There are a number of different banking bots out there designed to streamline your spending. Some, like Plum and Chip, have a strong focus on automating savings. These apps analyse your spending habits to determine how much you can afford to save and automatically transfer this into a savings account every few days.

Others, like Cleo, are out to increase transparency by allowing you to easily see where your money’s going and identify areas for improvement.

How do these chatbots work?

Each works slightly differently, so if you’re thinking about jumping aboard the banking bot bandwagon it’s worth stopping to consider which option’s best for you.

Plum and Cleo, for example, are AI powered Facebook chatbots. That means there’s no new app to download – you simply sign up within Facebook Messenger and you’re good to go.

Both bots run you through a few prompts and request details, such as your full legal name, birth date and address before asking you to link your bank account by logging in within the chat. Doing so allows the AI tech to start analysing your transactions.

By learning about your income, expenses and spending, Plum calculates how much you can afford to save. It then automatically transfers this into your Plum savings account on a weekly basis, ensuring it remains available for you to access should you need it.

By learning about your income, expenses and spending, Plum calculates how much you can afford to save.

While Cleo can also calculate how much you can afford to save and squirrel this away for later, it’s mainly designed to demystify your spending to help you can smarter decisions. It also enables you to send money to your Facebook Messenger contacts without the need for logins and sort codes.

In contrast to Plum and Cleo, Chip comes with its own app. This works in much the same way as micro-saving chatbot Plum – analysing your transactions, and regularly transferring small amounts to your Chip savings account at Barclays.

Do they work?

If testimonials on the chatbots’ websites are anything to go by, Chip has taken Lydia from ‘careless credit card spender to thrifty saver’ while Mandy loves Plum’s integration with Facebook Messenger: “I find it really easy to use,” she says.

But while these apps can provide motivation and help automate the process, it really is up to your own resolve to make saving habits stick. Just like a physical fitness programme, you’re going to need to commit long-term. Money may not grow on trees, but it can grow over time.

Are they safe?

Amid recent revelations around Facebook and data security, safety is a valid concern. All the platforms profiled above claim to use advanced encryption and security practices and do not store your data on their servers. But, like any time you divulge your personal details, it’s not completely free of risk.

It’s worth noting that your bank could hold you liable for any fraudulent activity on your account if you’ve shared your details with outside apps. So you do need to weigh the pros and cons and make sure you’re happy with assurances from your chosen AI option before you go all in.

Have you met TOBi yet?  Find out more about our AI chatbot and the future of customer service at Vodafone UK.

Where to next?

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