NLP based chatbots can help banks improve the customer experience so lines can be shorter, and staff can focus on attending to more complex queries (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP)

NLP based chatbots can help banks improve the customer experience so lines can be shorter, and staff can focus on attending to more complex queries (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP)

Commercial AI-powered NLP chatbot by CIMB now available to Malaysian SMEs

NLP, or natural language processing, is a sub-set of artificial intelligence (AI), where computers can comprehend text and spoken words just like a human can. It’s not exactly new tech though — it’s been around for a long time but has recently seen an increase in uptake and real-world, customer service applications.

This trend of using AI, especially with chatbots is picking up steam in the banking and financial services industry (BFSI), especially since these institutions deal with customers all the time. Recently, Malaysia’s CIMB Bank Berhad and CIMB Islamic Bank Berhad (CIMB) introduced a commercial NLP-powered chatbot for small and medium enterprise (SME) customers.

Dubbed “EVA”, it is the first in-market chatbot for commercial banking in Malaysia. According to CIMB, EVA was developed in collaboration with, a Singapore-based AI financial technology company. 

EVA’s NLP powering the customer service experience 

AI chatbots such as EVA are essentially electronic relationship managers. For BFSI institutions, customer service is a crucial part of the business chain. Customer satisfaction is dependent on security, rapid responses, and reliable services, which helps brands to build digital trust

As these chatbots are available 24/7/365, customers can expect instant and consistent answers to their questions on all SME products as well as COVID-19 relief programs.

EVA can handle a large number of simultaneous queries, through NLP technology. EVA offers the “Eligibility Check” feature to suggest the most suitable products, efficiently substituting lengthy communications and correspondences with the Bank’s representatives. Customers also benefit from one contact point internally when they leave queries and their contact details, enabling a representative from CIMB to reach out to them directly for more complex issues. 

Victor Lee Meng Teck, CEO, Group Commercial Banking, CIMB Group said, “The introduction of the EVA chatbot for Commercial Banking customers comes at an opportune time given the critical need for customers to bank safely during the pandemic.

“It acts as first-hand support in answering their queries without having to wait to speak to a Relationship Manager, thereby reducing turnaround time and providing a smoother experience for them.”

Leveraging on the bank’s ASEAN network, EVA is an extension of CIMB Bank Singapore’s chatbot for SME customers which may be introduced to other regions in the future. 

AI and customer service: a match made in heaven?

A McKinsey report, AI in banking: Can banks meet the challenge?, identified four key outcomes that banks can achieve with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). They include higher profits, at-scale personalization, distinctive omnichannel experiences, and rapid innovation cycles.

Nearly 60% of global banking leaders have implemented at least one AI capability, with the most common (36%)  being robot process automation (RPA) for structured operational tasks. Interestingly, 32% of them have implemented virtual assistants or conversational interfaces for customer service, and 25% use machine learning (ML) for fraud detection, underwriting, and risk management operations.

Over in the Asia Pacific, the digital banking landscape is still in its early stages of growth, although with extremely promising prospects, especially in the Southeast Asian (SEA) region. Countries such as the PhilippinesIndonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore have all seen encouraging growth in the digital banking and fintech sectors.

Whilst BFSI players here will stand to benefit greatly from AI-powered chatbots, it has myriad applications in multiple other customer service-heavy sectors, such as e-Commerce, retail, B2B (business to business), and home services, amongst others.

However, NLP does come with several challenges — they primarily include speech recognition, natural language understanding, and natural language generation.

With over a dozen major languages being spoken in the ASEAN alone, establishing strong trustworthiness and providing personalized digital experiences are becoming key factors for success, and something that SMEs should also carefully consider when choosing a chatbot provider.