Banking ‘brain’ developer Kasisto raises $22M to expand

While the hype around chatbots and digital assistants may have reached a crescendo years ago, banks and the technology companies serving them are now investing in the “brains” behind digital conversational assistants, which can be applied across many use cases, including chat and voice. 

New York-based Kasisto, a conversational AI company which developed the banking “brain” KAI, is a technology provider that works with large institutions, including JPMorgan Chase, TD Bank, Emirates NBD Bank, DBS Bank and Mastercard.

The company this week confirmed the closure of a $22 million Series B extension funding round to expand KAI’s capabilities, bringing the total amount raised to $51 million. The new funding includes a $7 million investment from Napier Park Financial Partners.

“The strategy here is to touch as many parts of the financial services industry with intelligent virtual assistants as we can,” said Kasisto co-founder Zor Gorelov. “It goes from consumer banking, helping users manage their money with retail accounts, to wealth management, helping users with portfolios and equities, and financial goal-setting, and it is stretching into corporate banking, helping chief financial officers and treasurers with questions about cash management, risk or liquidity.” 

See also: Canada-based Manulife Bank is betting on conversational AI to hook customers 

KAI is able to have conversations with customers, and through its insights, client banks can build tailored solutions. KAI’s expansion to corporate banking included a recent tie-up with JPMorgan to allow treasurers and finance chiefs to use AI tools. In addition, the company last fall launched KAI Business Banking virtual assistant, which helps clients automate reporting, reviews, approvals and access corporate finance insights. 

According to Kasisto, KAI represents the maturity of the technology supporting digital assistants, and its evolution is emblematic of how far the industry has progressed beyond early chatbots, to which only simple tasks could be delegated. 

“Everybody jumped into [chatbots] and people got excited, but it’s turned out to be a lot harder to build,” Gorelov said. “The chatbot mania was based on general purpose, very simplistic chatbots.” 

While KAI has its roots in consumer banking, Gorelov explained that the AI tool will continue to grow additional use cases in financial services. The company also plans to expand its customer base beyond its big-bank clientele. 

“We will continue to expand geographically, but our products are mature enough where we can make intelligent conversational assistants available to banks and financial services organizations of all sizes,” he said. “There is no reason for Bank of America to have [digital assistant] Erica and have all these advanced capabilities, and for smaller banks not to be able to have the same — or richer — set of services.”

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