Bank of America Breaks Company Record for New Patents in 2020 Led By AI and Digital Banking
Bank of America broke its record for new patents in 2020, with 444 granted patents and 722 applications filed. Those numbers are among the highest for the financial services industry for the year, according to the latest list from the Intellectual Property Owners Association. AI and machine learning patents making up nearly one in five of the total.
In total, Bank of America now has around 4,400 patents held and filed, placing it in the 15 holders of banking-related patents. This year continued the company’s growing use of AI for services for customers and staff members. Bank of America’s new Life Plan product uses predictive AI to give personalized financial advice based on client preferences, while a new internal AI-powered service checks for errors and shares recommendations to a client service representative as they work with a customer.
“Bank of America clients benefit every day from our focus on innovation,” chief operations and technology officer Cathy Bessant said in a statement. “Continuing to build our patent portfolio is one way that we measure our success. Invention happens across our company at an ever-increasing pace, and our 2020 patent performance set records for our firm. Hats off to our teams for their creativity and brilliance.”
Bank of America also gained new patents related to the voice-activated virtual financial assistant, Erica. The AI responds more like a human now, thanks to improved command dialogue software. Erica’s userbase has grown to 17 million, and it has answered more than 230 million requests since it debuted in 2018. The pace accelerated in 2020, with a 67% year-over-year growth and more than 135 million requests, and 58% of interactions taking place last year. A good chunk of those interactions revolved around the COVID-19 pandemic. The bank taught Erica more than 60,000 phrases and questions related to the virus to help field questions on the subject.
Bank of America’s push for new and improved voice and AI technology is part of a larger trend in the industry. Some are producing their own virtual assistants like the voice assistant U.S. Bank launched last summer, and Russia’s Tinkoff Bank has been promoting its Oleg voice assistant for a while. There are also companies using existing voice assistants, such as the Alexa and Google Assistant voice apps created by ICICI, one of India’s largest private banks. On the other hand, Russian banking giant Sberbank took the concept to the extreme by transforming its focus from finance to tech, with a smart display and voice assistant now on sale.