The Michigan Engineer News Center

Prof. Jason Mars is bringing smart banking to market

Ann Arbor-based spinout Clinc, which was founded by CSE Profs. Jason Mars and Lingjia Tang, along with their former students Michael Laurenzano and Johann Hauswald, in 2015, is leading the pack of intelligent banking assistant solutions. | Medium Read
EnlargeJason Mars
IMAGE:  Portrait of Jason Mars. Photo: Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing.

As they become more capable, intelligent personal digital assistants are transforming the ways in which we interact with technology. This is true in the financial industry, where many firms are now moving toward artificial intelligence-driven smart banking, a more advanced approach to customer service, to gain valuable information about their clients and to improve customer service. Smart banking uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to personalize consumers’ banking experiences, increase productivity, improve fraud detection, and improve customer recommendations.

Leading the pack of intelligent banking assistant solutions is Ann Arbor-based spinout Clinc, which was founded by CSE Profs. Jason Mars and Lingjia Tang, along with their former students Michael Laurenzano and Johann Hauswald, in 2015. Their flagship product, called Finie (for “financial genie”), is being adopted by a number of banks.

Prof. Mars, who has led the company in building on research findings from studies at UM into a company with a category-leading commercial offering, was named #2 in Bank Innovations’s “10 Most innovative CEOs in Banking 2017” list.

Finie allows customers to talk to their bank accounts in a natural and conversational way to get real-time and instant financial insights. It is considered the world’s most cutting-edge voice-controlled A.I. platform for banking. The platform utilizes the world’s most sophisticated natural language processing engine and the most advanced scientific discoveries in A.I. research.

EnlargeFinie, the financial genie
IMAGE:  Finie is an artificial intelligence platform for banks that helps customers talk to their bank accounts in a natural and conversational way to get real-time and instant financial insights.

“What is really awesome for us as a company is that Amazon, Google, and Apple are creating these intelligent assistants, and that’s creating this expectation and need in the market for having conversational A.I. experiences,” says Mars. “It’s creating this environment where banks are like, ‘oh’, this is probably the next generation of how our customers are going to want to interact with us.”

Cinc’s Finie is composed of five A.I. engines, called the Clinc Eco, that the researchers have built from scratch that come together to create one financial brain that learns from experience. This A.I. technology goes beyond what it used for Siri or Alexa to create a more natural human language understanding.

“What our technology brings to the table is our ability to understand you like a human would understand you, so you can be super messy, you can change your mind and what you say,” says Mars. “The transition between conversational A.I. being recreational, to something that is actually a meaningful part of your life, is having that reliability as if you were talking to a person.”

Finie integrates well with mobile apps and digital products. Financial institutions use a suite of APIs and Finie uses the data from the apps directly. This makes it easier for Clinc to partner with institutions and implement Finie for consumers to use.

The startup is now working with some of the biggest financial institutions around the world and currently has 14 partnerships.

It was recently announced that USAA members will now be able to bank via Amazon Alexa, which uses artificial intelligence built out by Clinc. Customers can now sign up to test the pilot and have natural conversations with Alexa about their finances and the chatbot will understand and balance information.

Clinc has also partnered with the largest private bank in Turkey, IsBank, to roll out Finie to its 5.5 million customers. The bank will integrate Clinc’s technology into its two mobile apps, so customers can use the personal assistant to complete a number of banking tasks, receive advice, and ask financial questions.

Earlier this year, Clinc also announced that it had closed a $6.3 million Series A round of financing. The additional capital is allowing them to expand their research efforts and help more consumers connect with their financial data in personalized, impactful ways with minimal effort.

This expansion also includes growing the Clinc team and office space. The startup will expand to a new 2500 sq.ft. office space in downtown Ann Arbor in December, and they are projected to grow to 100 employees in the next 3-6 months.

The company also set up an office in the Bay area, and in the future they hope to expand to London and Canada.

With the company’s rapid growth, it is clear that smart banking is the future as more financial institutions seek to improve customer relationships, compete with their peers, lower costs and increase revenue.

Jason Mars
Finie, the financial genie
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