AI-powered phone service developed by Nationwide building society will judge you on way the you speak and use phrases it thinks you will find useful, friendly and easy to understand

AI-powered phone service developed by Nationwide building society will judge you on way the you speak and use phrases it thinks you will find useful, friendly and easy to understand


Sean Poulter | The Daily Mail | Source URL

Artificial Intelligence (AI) software that forms an opinion of people by the way they speak - in much the same way people do - is being developed by a UK finance firm.

The language and vocabulary used by customers who ring in seeking help with their mortgage or savings accounts will be used to create a profile.

The system, which is being backed by the Nationwide Building Society, will then tailor a computer generated conversation with the customer defined by their ‘voice personality’.

The AI system, developed by the company Scaled Insights, is already being used in partnership with hospitals in Leeds to help communicate with patients in the treatment of obesity and other issues.

It does not mimic an individual’s accent, but uses words and phrases it believes they would find most useful, friendly and easy to understand.

As a result, the AI conversation with someone like Prince Charles would be very different to one with another married man of 70 - someone like the Birmingham-born former Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne.

The computer generated conversations would be used by Nationwide for routine telephone enquiries, while anything more complicated would be transferred to a real person.

The system has the potential to save banks, public services and other organisations a fortune on customer service staff.

In the past, this was done by shifting call centres to cheap labour locations such as India, however these conversations were often difficult and frustrating. The new proposal would see humans replaced by computers.

Nationwide said: ‘The system analyses over 130 different variables in an individual’s speech patterns, giving each a rating of between one and a hundred.

‘It is then able to generate an impression of each person’s personality traits, much like when you listen to a new person speak and create an impression of what they’re like in your mind.

‘The make-up of people’s linguistic personalities is unique as a fingerprint, so understanding what motivates them means organisations can use this insight to offer a more tailored and personalised service.’

Traditionally, business might use simple demographics, such as age, wealth and address, to profile a customer. But, Nationwide said its new technology will provide much more specific information based on how people speak.

It said: ‘If you had two 70-year-old married men, with grown up children, who were millionaires, you would treat them exactly the same. 

'However, one could be Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and the other Ozzy Osbourne, the Prince of Darkness; both very different personalities and likely to want a very different approach from a company.’

Scaled Insights started life in Canada, but following an investment from Nationwide, its headquarters has moved to the Nexus building in Leeds, which supports start-ups owned by Leeds University.

Academics at the university have helped to perfect the neural net-based algorithms that underpin the technology. This has resulted in a partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust designed to improve the success of treatments for obesity and other conditions.

It can help guide physicians on the best treatment for patients by analysing a specific patient’s language and seeing what approach worked for previous patients with a similar voice personality.

Deputy chief executive at Nationwide, Tony Prestedge, said: ‘Digital innovation is changing financial services and other industries at a rapid pace, but consumers still demand tailored service rather than a one size fits all mentality. 

'In future, this technology could help us understand and better serve our members, which will allow us to talk to them in language that is appropriate to them all while maintaining the human service that our members expect from us for more complex discussions.’

Chief executive at Scaled Insights, Stuart Sherman, said: ‘We believe that the next steps in ‘one-to-one’ communications will rely on computer systems understanding humans as individuals, and tailoring messaging and offers towards each person’s unique needs.

‘As we apply our AI to new challenges we are proud to have a partner that is as concerned about the ethical use of our technology as we are; focused on improving peoples’ health and finances, while ensuring that the global trend towards larger organisational sizes doesn’t result in these larger organisations overlooking the humans they were created to serve.’

Nationwide, which is investing a total of £4.1 billion ($5.31bn) in technology over the next five years, said a decision on when the AI tech will be implemented has not yet been taken.


AI systems rely on artificial neural networks (ANNs), which try to simulate the way the brain works in order to learn.

ANNs can be trained to recognise patterns in information - including speech, text data, or visual images - and are the basis for a large number of the developments in AI over recent years.

Conventional AI uses input to 'teach' an algorithm about a particular subject by feeding it massive amounts of information.

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