Startups are full of surprises, sometimes even for the people who found them. Such was the experience of FluidAI co-founder and CEO Abhinav Aggarwal. When he and his brother and co-founder Raghav Aggarwal got into business together, they knew they wanted to do something in “frontier technology” in the space.
“So we build this beautiful AI platform.”
The surprises started when the potential buyers for that platform – which today is known as FluidAI – turned out to be banks, which is not what the brothers Aggarwal were expecting at all.
“But when we showed it at a couple of events, it was the bankers that were very excited about the possibility and the opportunities presented,” Abhinav Aggarwal says.
That enthusiasm turned into a partnership with India’s largest bank, which brought a few global banks and U.K. banks on board, and Middle Eastern banks on board – and then the remaining four banks in India’s top five on board – in an experience that Abhinav Aggarwal noted was best described with the word ”snowballing.”
“And this became our space – because there is so much exciting work.”
Not bad for two MBA dropouts who got their start winning a TechCrunch hackathon
Banks have two separate but related difficulties as they attempt to find their way into the digital age. Difficulty one is that their consumers are evolving, which means their relationships with their consumers has to evolve as well to meet their needs. That is no easy work. Second, those evolving relationships are throwing off and taking in ever larger amounts of data, and managing, processing and leveraging that data isn’t exactly terribly straightforward.
“Banks always had huge amounts of data, and the biggest question that would come is that we have such rich data but we have no use for it,” Abhinav Aggarwal said.
But fluid FluidAI wants to solve those problems and get the data down off the virtual shelf so it can be put to meaningful work for FIs
Building Better Services
Customers are increasingly drawn to a self-service model in financial services these days, and the degree to which they can interact in a swift and seamless way with technology instead of through a more time-intensive face-to-face interaction in a retail location is usually also the degree to which they like dealing with interacting with their bank at all.
FluidAI’s technology, which allows consumers to interact entirely with AI using voice and gesture is inherently attractive to financial services institutions. AI that is that responsive offers the key technological component necessary to offer things that have long been in the works in banking, like teller-free branches or highly digitally enabled locations, actually possible.
Moreover – the data engine they built is able to sit on top of all that “beautiful” data and find ways not only to organize and use it but also learn increasingly how to do that activity better and more efficiently.
“Our platform can now enrich and give value to all that data and the investments they’ve done into setting up these big data stores.”
Baked In Facial Recognition
In the status quo, consumer-first interactions with their banks are about establishing identity, and it is a very front-and-center part of the experience. The consumer has to swipe a card, enter a PIN, enter a password or some other mildly invasive thing that breaks up the flow of the experience. The beauty of facial recognition, Aggarwal notes, is that identity step essentially moves to the background from the user perspective.
“It is a broken experience at the end of the day. So what our technology is able to do is recognize a person when they walk into a branch. We know who the customer is, if they have been at the branch before and what their relationship has been. It just opens up a whole new way of interacting with the customer.”
This means the customer is having a better, more personalized and more seamless experience. The customer is getting the right offers at the right time and getting the interaction that is actually most relevant to their needs.
It may sound a bit like science fiction – specifically the movie “Minority Report,” but the ability is now here and can unlock better experience.
“We can now have a customer open a bank account in under 30 seconds.”
That doesn’t mean enabling this kind of capacity is easy. Compliance is a big hurdle because when it comes to biometric identification in banking, there is no room for error. And that means having to account for a series of very complicated scenarios – up to and including situations like identical twins.
“We’ve now got the technology to banking compliant, which means there is never a false positive test where the wrong person is recognized on the ground.”
Working With Mastercard Start Path
The attraction for Mastercard and FluidAI was pretty solid from the word go, said Amy Neale, Mastercard’s vice president of Start Path, upon joining PYMNTS’ Karen Webster and Aggarwal’s conversation. It was based in how FluidAI has really found ways to create entirely new experiences for banking customers with its tech.
“We were excited that FluidAI has a deployable solution to digitize a bank branch,” Neale said. “FluidAI and Mastercard – we share an appreciation for the fact that the way customers engage with banks and merchants is changing, so the opportunity to see FluidAI in action was super. We met after hours, and he pitched to us with a real association of the solution that made the whole thing come to life.”
Moreover, Neale noted, FluidAI provides banks and their customers the ability to really redefine an omnichannel experience that manages to offer a really frictionless blend of digital and physical transacting. That’s useful in banking, Neale noted, and beyond in the commerce ecosystem.
“From our point of view, for FluidAI it isn’t just issuers but retailers as well – the experience is really relevant in the retail experience. FluidAI is a great embodiment in that omnichannel offline and online blending.”
LIke most start-ups, FluidAI, now enhanced by its relationship wiht Mastercard’s Start Path program, is looking toward expansion.
“Our major goals over the next year is to scale out globally, set up new offices in the U.S., Netherlands, etc.,” Aggarwal said. “By the end of the year, we like to see this platform that stretches across multiple economies and having many banks on our platform. In terms of scale, we’d like to hit 100 banks.”
And as it pushes for that scale Aggarwal says the goal is also to level up its AI itself, making it smarter, sharper and “more human” in its ability to provide service.
“We’re going to hit the ground running with FluidAI,” Neale says. “Through Mastercard’s network, we are going to help it scale and reach its full potential.”
“Minority Report,” here we come.