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It’s happened to all of us. We forgot we left our credit card in a different jacket, call the bank to immediately cancel the card, and scramble to update our numerous accounts with the new card information, hopefully avoiding late charges because our payment method is no longer valid. With the AI-powered Facebook Messenger bot, life doesn’t have to work this way.

Developed by First Performance Global, the bot allows people to pay bills from one place, turn their credit card on or off at will, and set spending limits to fit their budget, travel and lifestyle directly from Facebook. I talked with the experts behind the U.S.-based fintech startup during the launch of the SAP Next-Gen Innovation Community for Financial Services at the SAP Leonardo Center in New York City.

According to CEO Bill Hernandez, First Performance Global tackles one of the biggest challenges holding back innovation in the payment industry ─ legacy systems.

“If a bank tries to put a new program in an internal legacy platform running private label processes, it can take 24 to 36 months,” said Hernandez. “We can tap into those transaction streams and develop innovation based on our platform very quickly. We created our Facebook bot in a matter of two months.”

How the bot works

The Facebook Messenger bot triangulates data between what you bought and where you are to prevent false positive fraud reports in real-time. Consumers can also get granular with card controls, setting limits to curb spending for themselves or children by amount, within certain timeframes and categories.

“Suppose your daughter is going off to college and you give her a credit card. You can set controls so she can only purchase food and not shoes,” said Hernandez. “The admin tool is very important for banks too. If fraud does happen, instead of just canceling your card, while they are issuing a new one, the card provider can shut it off, but you can turn it on for specific transactions.”

What’s in it for banks

Bots like this offer a lifeline to banks that are under increasing regulatory and competitive pressures. Indeed, the Facebook Messenger bot aligns perfectly with the second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) in Europe, requiring banks to share customer account data with third-party providers.

“We’re helping banks become more relevant in emerging consumer segments while still having a secure, stable, globally connected system,” said Hernandez. “The technology delivers speed-to-market and speed of transaction.”

When it comes to lost cards, Hernandez said the First Performance Global platform could save banks significantly. “Reissuing a card costs between 10 to 150 dollars for issuers. Allowing the consumer to turn off access for 24 hours, then turn it back on if they find their card eliminates the cost of creating and express mailing a new card to the consumer, along with call center resources and follow-up communication. Consider the impact to brand loyalty if the card is not replaced in flawless manner.”

First Performance Global is also targeting insurance companies and online payment services such as PayPal. “It’s not just credit cards. The platform we’ve developed can support any transaction. Faster payment schemes will eventually support loans, mortgages and other products,” said Hernandez.

He said the startup was in the early phases of integration with the SAP Cloud Platform, and looking into pulling data directly from SAP ERP solutions.

Fintech disintermediates apps

Just a few short years ago, apps were the seen as the ultimate tool for consumer convenience. Fintech is disrupting that model already. Gartner Research has predicted that 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps by 2019.

“You have to look at payments from the consumer’s point of view, and go where they are, in their preferred channel,” said Hernandez. “If I’m flying to Brazil on Saturday, I don’t want to go into various apps or dial my bank’s call center, and I may not have connectivity to log into a website. Instead, I can turn on access to my card in Brazil through our self-service platform. Consumers want fast, mobile access on leading edge social media platforms.”

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