United Bank for Africa (UBA Group) kicked off the first session of the week-long Social Media Week Lagos 2019 with the announcement that its chatbot Leo now covers 17 African countries and has one million subscribers. Leo was launched in January 2018 to enable customers of the bank have access to select banking services including account opening, loan applications, account balance checking, cheque confirmations, bill payment, account freezing and instant notifications.
Described as an “alpha version” by digital enthusiasts, Leo has surpassed one million users on the bank’s mobile app, in just 12 months because of its numerous benefits and acceptability, a feat its close rivals have not been able to attain. The AI-driven virtual assistant, which also has Facebook and WhatsApp banking capabilities, was first unveiled in January and today, one year later remains the preferred chat banker in Nigeria and across Africa where UBA is present , because it has clinically leap frogged others in every sense of it.
“The formulation of this product is consistent with the bank’s customer first philosophy, where we are doing things not the way we like, but focusing on what the customer want, where they want it and in the exact platform they want it,” Kennedy Uzoka, UBA’s managing director said at the unveiling of the chatbot in 2018.
The bank’s head of online banking, Augustine Abolusoro, in a presentation titled Game of Bots at Social Media Week 2019 disclosed that Leo is not just the first artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbot in Africa; it is also a multi-lingual chatbot with capability to speak languages like English, French, and Portuguese. The company plans to include Yoruba and other Nigerian languages very soon.
“Leo was developed with best in class AI technology: Natural language processing and machine learning,” says Abolusoro. “It enables financial inclusion.”
He continued, “As we continue to advance our work on AI-driven developments, it is important that we listen to our users today and further enhance Leo to align to client feedback in order to better meet and anticipate needs and even give them increased value as Leo clocks one,” Abolusoro added. This milestone reflects the bank’s continued focus on providing industry-leading digital capabilities as part of its high-tech, high-touch client experience. Everything learnt over the last one year of Leo’s work will help UBA improve on its digital offerings, says Abolusoro, Head of online banking, who assured customers of “nothing short of the very best innovation in the coming months”. In May 2018, Mark Zuckerberg thrust Leo into global limelight when he used the chatbot as an illustration of how businesses were leveraging Facebook to connect better with their customers.
“Leo is doing incredible things,” Zuckerberg had said of Leo during his presentation.
Abolusoro noted that as a result of the feature, Leo which is also available on Facebook-owned WhatsApp has gained one million subscribers. Till date it has hosted 70 million conversations.
While 5 per cent of the subscriber population is within the age of 65 and above, an overwhelming 72 per cent are between 18 and 34 years.
“The Leo platform has the same kind of authentication you find on all our digital platforms,” Abolusoro said regarding concerns around privacy and cyber security.
In 12 months since he was launched, Leo has won several awards, including the Euromoney Award which aptly validates his dominance in the digital banking space. Euromoney is a globally renowned organisation which appraises more than 20 global product categories, best-in-class awards and the best Banks in over 100 countries around the world, recognising institutions that have demonstrated leadership, innovation, and momentum in the markets in which they operate.
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