Professional Pensions spoke to Abaka as part of an exclusive series of interviews with some of the finalists and winners of this year's UK Pensions Awards. This is what the firm had to say…
What have been your main achievements as an organisation over the past 18 months?
Both the current global pandemic and secular macro trends are putting even greater pressure on the retirement, wealth and asset management eco-system, with lower for longer interest rates and margin compression issues placing greater importance on:
- retaining and expanding fee income revenue streams,
- increasing pressure of compliance
- the financial advice gap reducing the quantum (and likely quality) of advice available.
Over the past 18 months, ABAKA has successfully onboarded, designed and customised digital customer experiences and solutions delivered to its enterprise clients across retirement, banking or wealth a modular platform, leveraging new technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), open banking APIs, and omni-channel engagement. We've helped the industry quickly build highly differentiated digital solutions and a truly personalised customer experience, by powering:
- Next Best Actions powered by machine learning
- Conversational AI chatbots
- Seamless exchange of data
- Speed to market and agility for Innovation
- Digital customer experiences
There is limited ability to implement change in-house in many traditional incumbents and therefore manufacturers and distributors are pivoting from a vertical integration into a stacked architecture and open ecosystem, turning to technology solutions such as ABAKA to solve both cost/efficiency and revenue challenges.
We've managed to grow significantly our team, and build a strong corporate culture which has helped ABAKA become a global leader in digital saving and retirement enterprise SaaS solutions. We've grew our revenues fifteenfold and it is really exciting to see that today we're able to export the ABAKA technologies that have been built based on the solid UK expertise in pension and retirement in other markets across the world.
What do you believe sets you apart from your peers and contributes to your successes?
ABAKA has built a unique economy applications and seamless data exchange platform enabling our enterprise clients to access customer data, build insights and intelligence through conversational AI, next best actions and hyper-personalised behavioural nudges.
Today through both our ecosystem of clients and users, and our proprietary technologies enabling data capture across a large number of channels currently not available to providers, our machine learning models have analysed hundreds of millions of data points across our large customer base, defining very granular individual persona enabling profiling on behavioural, social, emotional, financial, health, personal and other unstructured data.
The results speak for themselves:
ABAKA demonstrates that delivering hyper-personalised Next Best Actions & Nudges is driving engagement and positive outcomes*
- Increase "saving & wealth" engagement by 500% (#sessions per user)
- Increase NPS (net promoter score) by 38%
- Increase product conversion from 3% to 31%
- Next best action nudge on increasing regular saving contributions: 44% of recipients increased their saving contributions
ABAKA's Conversational AI chatbot solutions drastically increase engagement, convert traffic into qualified leads and scale up financial advice capabilities, delivering high returns on investments to our clients*:
- 90% of users regularly use the Chabot for their App interactions (across all ages & income)
- 8 minutes: average session time on chatbot -> 75% reduction in call times (by automating capture of information)
- 26% of chatbot users complete the advice conversation and receive the corresponding product recommendation
- Increase traffic lead conversion from 2% to 10% (and collect leads of higher quality)
*Source: Average data across all ABAKA user base, coming from all existing Enterprise clients
How has your business dealt with the challenges of Covid-19?
At ABAKA, we've made a quick decision very early on in March to enable everyone to work from home, and provide immediate support to facilitate this transition. Having already employees working from home before the global pandemic, and because of our ability to work remotely on our cloud-based technology platform, the whole process was very easy, and we've been able to support our clients seamlessly.
We've experienced a short period of time where we saw our clients focusing their resources on this transition period, but it quickly became obvious that they needed to drastically accelerate their digital transformation to serve their clients digitally and allowing advisers to reach out to their customers.
We have seen first-hand a rise in demand for technology which can help support customer engagement. Conversational AI chatbots are one example, particularly because of their ability to guide customers' financial planning with intelligent nudges, and enabling them to book directly an appointment with their advisor when and if needed.
Many financial services providers have been slow in the past few years at adapting new technology, ignoring the facts that operating costs for digital banking are 67% lower than traditional branch-based, digital customers can generate twice as much revenue, and customers' interactions via digital channels are 16 times more frequent than branch-based interactions.
The global pandemic has drastically accelerated the digital transformation agenda and the industry will benefit from the cost reduction and enhanced revenue stream innovative technology such as AI can offer.
What are the key challenges facing your pension scheme clients at the current time and how are you helping them address these issues?
While some providers have kick-started their move to adopt new technology during the crisis, many remain in the early stages of their digital journey. Yes, we have seen some providers use technology to rise to the challenges of remote customer interactions. But it's clear there are areas where vast improvements are needed.
For example, providers rarely have good quality data on their customers and their financial behaviours. Often this is because that data is difficult to access, or because they simply don't have the data. This makes it much harder for providers to effectively engage their customers in saving more or planning properly for retirement.
AI can support that process, either by assisting in the data capture process and helping build a clear ‘profile' of each customer, or enabling providers to process and augment their own data. With better understanding of what each customer ‘looks' like, providers can use technology to build hyper-personalised communications powered by AI.
The financial services industry needs to continue its drive towards digital change. It's important providers do not lose the pace at a time when engaging customers in saving for retirement is absolutely critical.
For example, Accenture Citizen Survey recently showed that 84% of employees saving for retirement said they wanted access to digital retirement coaching, from hire to retire and beyond, yet only 11% have been offered one.
Digital innovation is a constant learning curve. Providers must be able to partner with technology vendors who provide modular platforms that can deliver bespoke applications which meet the provider's specific business requirements. These must be based on innovative technologies, such as artificial financial intelligence, and deliver practical solutions that are easy for a provider to implement.
Overall, Fintechs have so far unfortunately failed to deliver innovative, practical solutions for providers. Their one size fits all products have not been capable of integrating seamlessly with complex legacy technologies or adapting to the varied business requirements of companies in this sector. Core applications have also not been strategically aligned with clients' future marketing and business initiatives. Fintechs might have bright ideas, but ultimately they lack focus on delivering practical products and processes that can be manufactured affordably and integrated with ease. By constantly focusing on this, ABAKA is winning clients' successfully.
How will you continue to improve your services to pension scheme clients over the coming year?
ABAKA's mission is to democratise the use of Artificial Intelligence so that providers of all sizes can leverage this powerful technology and help their customers achieve their lifestyle goals.
Until today, this technology has only been available for large organisations and Enterprise-like software solutions. This is why we have recently launched a new suite of affordable Products which allow financial services firms of all size to ‘Plug in and Play' a financial advice chatbot as a service solution.
The new offering provides AI-powered chatbot ready to go solutions for financial advisors, wealth managers, retail banks or retirement providers. It offers a more cost-effective option for firms that can be easily deployed and installed into their businesses with very little integration. ABAKA's chatbot new affordable product offering expands the company's Enterprise product portfolio as it continues to revolutionize how financial services firms help customers plan for the future through our proprietary Artificial Financial Intelligence™ technology platform. Our ambition this coming year his to be able to scale up this offering to a whole range of new clients that currently find innovative technologies still too expensive.
Engagement is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry and now, more than ever, businesses are facing a need to incorporate new, digital ways of engaging their customers. The COVID-19 Crisis and lockdowns across the globe have only emphasised just how critical it is for businesses to develop digitised and hyper-personalised ways of acquiring, communicating, guiding and advising their customers.
Our Conversational AI chatbots provide critical solutions for firms to engage and activate their customers in financial planning in the new normal. We find that about 30% of customer enquiries through our chatbots can be turned into a sale without a human intervention, and chatbot interactions drastically reduces the costs and times to service a customer by easily capturing prerequisite information. Our new Plug and Play products provide these powerful Artificial Finance Intelligence solutions to businesses of all sizes and across a wide array of sectors within financial services.
ABAKA was shortlisted in the Technology Innovation of the Year, Pensions Communication Initiative of the Year and Retirement Innovation of the Year categories of this year's UK Pensions Awards. Find out more about the awards here.
Contact and Corporate Details
111 Buckingham Palace Road,
Tel: 07904 293411
Email: [email protected]