Forget Me Not:
Enabling Festival 2019

If you have met one person with dementia, you have only met one person. Each individual will talk, act, remember and behave differently, not simply because of what stage of dementia they are in, but because of who they are.

Dementia does not dent the human desire for a normal and dignified life, nor should it reduce anyone’s rights as unique social beings deserving of inclusion, respect and trust. Singapore is emerging as a key node in what is a global epidemic of dementia that primarily affects seniors. The Open Vault at OCBC (TOV) has taken steps to support community partners helping those living with this condition – and their families.

In its approach to helping customers with pain points beyond banking, TOV takes the admirable approach of first removing the ‘banker hat’ and focusing on understanding the underlying problems customers face. Sometimes it is a result of inefficiencies in the industry, entrenched or traditional business models that have not been changed, or neglected and underserved customer needs.

“The growing cost of Healthcare is a problem that will affect individuals and families living in Singapore. Healthcare financing and coverage underpins this, but transparency and access to information for individuals to make better decisions on their health is important. Only by putting ourselves in the shoes of the customer, can we identify and co-develop solutions with our partners.” said Ryan Lou, Vice President of Partnerships & New Ventures, Fintech & Innovation Group at The Open Vault at OCBC.

“We know that to develop breakthrough solutions that are out-of-the-box, we need to look out-of-the-bank. Our goal is to make banking more rewarding for customers and we do that by playing a part in other aspects of the customer’s everyday lives, one of which is their health and well-being. Though they interact with us as their financial institution, we know their needs span a broader spectrum.”

In July, TOV supported Designathon We Engage 2019, a hackathon that brought members of the community together to collaborate and identify design solutions for persons with dementia and their caregivers. A core theme for this year’s Designathon is how to keep persons living with dementia engaged, with an emphasis on sound and hearing to evoke memories and trigger positive emotions. Mr Lou joined the likes of Ms Theresa Lee, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the Alzheimer’s Disease Association, Ms Lee Lee Sian, Senior Occupational Therapist, Woodlands Integrated Health Campus and Mr Rishi Gupta Co-Founder of Silver Activities as part of the panel of judges for the dementia-focused section.

The prizes for the dementia-focused designathon was given out by Speaker of Parliament, Tan Chuan Jin.

In preparation for this year’s Enabling Festival, TOV sought to engage closely with community partners, and help the participants take their ideas closer to commercialization. The Designathon, focused on potential solutions not only for those diagnosed with dementia now, but also those showing symptoms (e.g. problems with recent memory, commonly misplacing objects and facing difficulty in communicating with others). The projects that stood out were those that arrested the deterioration the condition causes by engagement.

The hackathon saw many great ideas contributed by the broader community and those living with Dementia. From students to retirees, the participants proposed impressively creative solutions from various perspectives, shedding light on how a spectrum of problems and solutions for different focus groups can be addressed.

For example, a group of students developed a soft toy plushie for patients to help trigger reminders for patients, such as taking their medication or to simply take a walk. On a more tech-focused front, one idea enabled family members to record phrases that can be played back to more severe dementia patients that ask for their loved ones every day. This helps simulate a “conversation” between them and their family. Solutions catered for patients’ families were also created, such as an educational booklet for young children to help build their understanding of dementia and what their elderly relatives are going through.

“Solving pain points beyond banking requires us to work with new partners and learn from the perspectives of different people in the industry. Sitting on the judging panel with industry experts from the Alzheimer’s Disease Association, Woodlands Integrated Health Campus, was an eye opening experience that helped us hone and identify the biggest challenges,” said Mr Ryan Lou. “We want to create meaningful partnerships that can bring to life practical community solutions that empower individuals and their families to enjoy their lives outside the disease.”

Diagnosing, treating, and managing dementia brings many challenges. There is extra emotional pressure on family members who are also their loved ones’ caregivers, and financial obligations for family members who hire external caregivers. The post-hospitalisation and post-treatment journey is equally important, if not more, than the treatment itself.

We have a world-class healthcare system, but it will be tested by the growing ageing population and rise of early onset chronic disease. Banks need to go beyond banking and plug into these growing social needs to do better for our customers. Dementia does not only affect the individual, but their families, support systems and society as a whole, and banks need to be prepared to be there every step of the journey.

A Little Less Conversation,
A Little More Action, Please

The texting generation

A 2017 Salesforce study pointed to a much higher percentage of millennials (44 percent) who prefer to communicate with advisors via text messages. This does not seem like a tall order.

After all, this ‘texting generation’ has a strong affinity for eschewing tactile face-to-face or ‘voice-to-voice’ communication for a minimized mode of interaction. Whilst brands are pushing for the development of natural language processing (NLP) to produce bots with sophisticated chat abilities, artificial intelligence (AI) enables the technology to take it a step further by making the chatbot a reliable resource and aggregator of information on-demand. And in turn, transforming a pivotal point in the customer decision journey.

Chatbots in the world of banking and finance

In the banking world, the conversation around chatbots takes on an added layer of complexity with the intricate process of balancing compliance with communication for client advice. The integral part of effectively addressing client inquiries is not simply to inform, but also to disclose – material information that the client is entitled to and should be aware of.

From an operational standpoint, AI-powered communications can help to eliminate basic human errors like the omission or inconsistent presentation of critical information. For most transactional communications, a single chatbot inquiry is estimated to save up to four minutes in call duration compared with traditional call center inquiries, according to a recent report by Juniper Research.

It is no wonder that the research house found that chatbots are expected to create over US$8 billion per year in cost savings for global banks by 2022!

The Open Vault and our Consumer Secured Lending team saw this opportunity. In April 2017, launched 'Emma' – our first chatbot and AI-powered home and renovation loan specialist at OCBC Bank. Through a prompted conversation with customers, 'Emma' collects data that will help to compute their affordability via an in-built total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) calculator. This approach 'Emma' complements the service provided by our frontline staff, by answering basic queries around the clock so that they can focus on customer engagement. In a click, cold leads turn into pre-qualified leads for mortgage specialists to follow up on. By handling simultaneous interactions anywhere the bot has increased the scalability of our business and will allow us to expand beyond our current suite of products in the future.

A little less conversation, a little more action, please

With the further development of emerging AI and NLP capabilities, there is a greater expectation for chatbots to internalise human psychology and process social intelligence. To create this personable experience, we built 'Emma' with personality.

Here’s some food for thought –

Going through the journey of innovation, many companies have found that the key to promoting mainstream adoption is prioritising certain primary features over others.

In the context of a banking transaction, we must first ascertain what would move the needle for customers to switch to chatbots as their main channel for preliminary enquiries.

Would the text-savvy millennial generation really expect chatbots to talk like humans in order to get comfortable with a chat interface? Or would they first look for the bot to display an exceptional ability to deliver the right responses with reliable accuracy and consistency?

Ultimately, an impactful customer journey needs to be accompanied by a certain situational awareness that makes customers feel as though all touchpoints are personalized and designed to address their unique sets of needs and preferences.

This is what voice assistants such as Siri, Google Now and Amazon Echo are trying to accomplish over time as they build a wealth of data on their users.

The success of 'Emma' started off with delivering a coherent and consistent customer experience. In doing so, we tapped into a massive opportunity to connect with a growing segment of text-savvy and tech-savvy customers who trust technology.

But are we on the right track? We think so. Since its launch, our chatbot application had closed more than S$100million in home loans. With 'Emma', our team can focus on the conversations that matters most – getting the bank a little more action on the home and renovation loans front!

The Open Vault at OCBC Team