Thursday, 07 December 2023

Community First Credit Union debuts nation’s first bilingual banking bot

NORTH COAST, Calif. — Community First Credit Union has beat the big banks by launching the first bilingual banking bot in the U.S.

“Maggie,” powered by artificial intelligence, has been helping Community First members since April of 2020 by making account transfers and payments, checking balances and answering debit card issues, 24/7.

Now, Maggie can understand, answer and carry out commands in Spanish.

“In our five-county footprint, a significant portion of our members tell us they are more confident when banking in Spanish,” said Scott Johnson, CEO of Community First.

If one of Community First’s members queries Maggie in Spanish, the banking bot instantaneously uses Spanish during the remainder of the transaction or chat session.

There is no need for a fork-in-the-road to indicate if you want an English or Spanish language experience; Maggie ascertains the language you’re using based on your initial question or directive.

“Maggie is smart with language detection,” said Ravi Shankar, CEO of ACTIVE.Ai, the firm that Community First employed to assist with its banking bot. “It’s all about making it easy on the user and giving the user a seamless experience, which Maggie can now do in two languages,” he added.

An announcement of Maggie’s bilingualism was included in the October newsletter to the credit union’s 60,000 members.

Since then, a question in Spanish (which translates to, “What is your routing number?”) was the third-most asked question of the month.

“So we know members are already tapping into Maggie’s Spanish-language abilities,” said Johnson.

In addition to Spanish-speaking Maggie, Community First is the only Redwood Empire-based financial institution with a complete version of its website available in Spanish.

It also remains the only local bank or credit union with any banking bot powered by artificial intelligence.

“The fastest growing demographic group in our marketplace is Hispanics. They account for 25.2 percent of the population we serve, and 29.1 percent of our employee base. We make it a priority to have bilingual staff in every branch and office, and we felt we needed to do the same for our online banking users,” Johnson explained.

Community First is a not-for-profit financial cooperative founded by local teachers in 1959. It has 60,000 local member-owners, $741 million in assets, and has provided nearly $3 billion for local home and car loans since its inception. In addition to providing traditional consumer banking products at its 11 area branches and via online and mobile devices, it also offers products that no one else offers in the United States.

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