Manulife Bank debuts chatbot as part of challenger approach

The AI-powered financial tool is part of a push to draw millennials away from the Big Five banks.


Manulife Bank has debuted an AI-powered chatbot as part of a digital user experience it is using to lure younger clients away from Canada’s biggest banks.

Currently, the chatbot – dubbed “MAI” – offers users the ability to get information about their bank balances, insights into how much they’ve spent with specific retailers and within certain categories, as well as information about Manulife Bank’s ABMs and other financial products. Manulife Bank is planning to debut more features in the near future, such as insights to help clients better manage their money, offer personalized saving and investing tips and remind them about upcoming bill payments.

Manulife Bank has been operating for more than 25 years, but last month, it launched its “All-In Banking Package,” a digital-first, low-cost offering meant to compete with the offerings of Canada’s Big Five banks. The package is meant to combine all the “essential banking needs” into a single offering. It includes a bank account with unlimited transactions, a high-interest savings account, a no-fee credit card and travel insurance, as well as one free year of Amazon Prime and two free months of audiobook and podcast service Audible when customers make ten or more purchases in each of their first two full months as member. The offering comes at a flat rate of $10, but that fee can be waived if customers grow their savings by $100 in a month.

All of this is delivered wiManulife Financial Corporation-ALL-IN- Manulife Bank shows bankithin a new banking app, which – in addition to the chatbot – includes a customizable dashboard, personalized financial insights and an account sweep feature that will automatically deposit funds into higher-interest accounts

Manulife’s own research has shown that while millennials – Manulife Bank’s main target with the offering – are less satisfied with large financial institutions, 80% of them currently bank with one of Canada’s big banks. While the messaging around the “All-In Banking Package” has focused on being an alternative to what it has called the lack of transparency, high fees and minimum balances of major banks, the offering will be competing with other digital-only offerings, such as Scotiabank’s Tangerine and Tangerine’s Simplii.

Rick Lunny, president and CEO of Manulife Bank, says the chatbot reflects the “clarity, simplicity and value” that the company is hoping to deliver with the new offering.

“We sought the input of Canadians, user tested, prototyped and reimagined the customer banking experience to offer [...] a complete digital banking package infused with artificial intelligence that works together to help you understand and maximize your money,” Lunny said.

Manulife worked with Kasisto to develop its chatbot offering. Kasisto is a company that specializes in developing conversational platforms for the financial services sector, having previously worked with TD in Canada, as well as DBS Bank, J.P. Morgan and Mastercard globally.