The world’s best digital bank 2023: Bank of America
A massive budget and a focus on in-house development have made the bank a digital innovator.
When Euromoney named Bank of America the world’s best bank in its 2022 awards for excellence, a big part of that was a reflection its digital achievements and ambitions.
We pointed to the US bank’s success in delivering cutting-edge digital offerings to retail customers as well as corporate clients, highlighting the likes of CashPro, a market-leading payments and transaction suite of services that meets the needs of chief financial officers and treasurers of firms ranging from small businesses to multinationals.
Among its other standout tech successes were Zelle and Zelle for Small Businesses, platforms that helps clients to complete payments quickly and efficiently, to friends, family members and small businesses; and Erica, which the bank describes as the “most advanced AI-driven financial assistant in the industry”.
Digital, like money, never sleeps. Every year, banks must either deliver new services to keep clients locked in or find ways to hone and improve existing offerings. BofA’s annual technology budget is $10.7 billion, of which more than $3.6 billion is dedicated to new initiatives.
“Our super talented technology teammates bring their unique experiences and diverse backgrounds together each day to ideate and deliver purpose-driven digital solutions that help our clients live better financial lives,” says Aditya Bhasin, BofA’s chief technology and information officer. “Their passion for client-focused innovation is enabled by our company’s annual investment in technology development and new capabilities.”
But it is what the bank does with the money it spends on tech that counts. Over the past decade, it has tended to focus less on buying in technology and more on innovating in-house. It is a top-300 company for granted patents in the US since the start of 2012; it ranked 75th overall and nationwide in 2022.
Those patents are scattered across its growing tech domain. The bank boasts 716 artificial-intelligence patents, some granted and some pending. Of these, 71 are specific to Erica. The platform saw a record 167 million client interactions in the first quarter of 2023: in total, customers spent 3.1 million hours ‘conversing’ with Erica in 2022, up 31% year on year.
This achieves two main purposes. First, it allows customers to choose whether to speak to a person or not. BofA reckons one in three Erica users, presented with the option of speaking to a representative or completing their enquiry digitally, choose to engage with Erica’s AI-enhanced chat function. Second, it allows the bank to deploy valuable financial and human resources to other parts of the organization.
BofA’s core technology services and platforms go from strength to strength. Last year, we noted that the bank was processing more Zelle transactions than cheques. In the first quarter of 2023, customers sent and received 275 million Zelle transactions, worth a total of $84 billion – a record and up 29% year on year. The number of business owners using Zelle rose 17% year on year in the first quarter, processing 29 million transactions, worth $17 billion.
CashPro continues to experience “tremendous growth”, the bank says. The app processed more than $1 billion in total transactions on more than 200 separate days in 2022. Last year, it fulfilled $655 billion in payments, up from just $40 billion five years earlier. Total logins jumped 52% year on year in the first quarter of 2023.
New to the platform over the awards period is a QR code service that lets clients sign in to CashPro via their mobile device, reducing the need for password resets.
Our technology teammates bring their experiences and backgrounds together to deliver digital solutions that help our clients live better financial lives
A host of other new or expanded digital services also stand out. BofA Life Plan lets clients set and track their progress toward everyday and long-term financial goals, adjusting them as their priorities shift. The service is available in English and Spanish.
Clients can also glean information and tips from Better Money Habits, a financial education tool that helps them make sense of their money. At the end of 2022, more than 10 million customers had used Life Plan, adding more than $51 billion to their BofA accounts.
Collaborative Onboarding Experience (COBE) is a fully digital and paperless account-opening and onboarding system that shows how the bank harnesses technology to find efficiencies and common purpose across business lines and divisions. The platform spans and integrates banking and investment accounts, and slashes onboarding from days to hours. More than 229,000 accounts have been opened using COBE since its launch in early 2021.
“At Bank of America, we take a client-first approach to innovation and are delivering new, innovative solutions that provide clients, no matter the size of their relationship with us, the convenience to bank with us when, where and how they want,” says chief digital officer and chief marketing officer David Tyrie. “Our decade-long investment in digital allows us to evolve with our more than 56 million digital clients to provide them with a personalized, seamless and integrated experience and to help make their financial lives better.”