Chatbot Mia, here we go again: UBank to release third AI assistant


NAB subsidiary, UBank, has announced the forthcoming release of what is likely the world’s first home loan adviser chatbot.

Christened Mia, or My Interactive Agent, the AI-backed virtual assistant can respond to 300 of the most common customer inquiries made during the home loan application process.

Once launched, the ‘digital human’ assistant – who answers to multiple input cues, including speech, vision, and text – will be offered little downtime, available for face-to-face consultations around the clock through desktop and mobile screens.

Pitched as “cheeky” and “approachable” by its developers, UBank’s newest virtual assistant will also pepper its conversations with “fun gifs and animations”.

“Her persona was crafted with the customer in mind – they want to talk to someone smart, empathetic, trustworthy and someone that doesn’t use bank jargon,” the chatbot’s developer, FaceMe, said in a statement.   

Mia’s AI engine – based on IBM’s Watson and Cloud platforms – generates her responses through a combination of natural language processing and situational awareness.

“By bringing Mia to life, we’re giving customers a whole new way to interact with their online home loan application and completely challenging the perception of a digital bank,” said UBank chief executive Lee Hatton.

Working with NZ-based AI developer FaceMe, the new chatbot is the third such project to be released by Ubank within the last two years. Its first, RoboChat, released in 2017, provides a natural complement to Mia, assisting customers completing their home loan application forms; RoboBrain, which debuted last year, provides more generalised banking assistance. Impressively, Mia was developed in just four months.

According to the challenger bank, four out of five customers were happy to use RoboChat, which to date has answered more than 50,000 questions – roughly 86 questions per day since launch.

Yet, it is not only customers that benefit; UBank appears to have a compelling bottom-line argument for introducing more virtual assistants.

Indeed, the new chatbot will allow the bank to service its expanding customer base without necessarily requiring more staff, according to Hatton.

“That means we need to leverage key technologies like AI to tackle the typical questions customers ask so we can free up our team to address the unique situations our customers need more support with every day,” she said.

“We have a team of ultimate home loan specialists already, and are super excited about Mia offering more even support to Team UBank and our customers.”

FaceMe’s chief executive Danny Tomsett said: “Mia offers an emotionally connected experience for servicing customers making an exciting and important life decision.”

“We are very excited about the opportunity to work with UBank and further validate the evolution of digital customer experience.”

FaceMe has attracted a number of big-name corporate and government clients, including Australia’s Digital Health Agency on its My Health Record site, as well as UBS Bank, NZ-based ASB, Auckland Airport and Vodafone NZ.

Mia will be put to work at the end of February, piloted to a selection of applicants for UBank home loans.