South Africans will soon RICA via chatbot

Read time 3min 30sec
Antoine Paillusseau, CEO and co-founder of FinChatBot.
Antoine Paillusseau, CEO and co-founder of FinChatBot.

Johannesburg-based chatbot provider FinChatBot will introduce an online process that allows mobile phone subscribers to complete their Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) registration via a chatbot.

Launched in 2016 by co-founders Antoine Paillusseau and Romain Diaz, FinChatBot develops chatbots that help financial service providers to acquire and retain customers through artificial intelligence-powered conversations.

Some of its clients include insurers 1st for Women, Hollard, Telesure and 1Life Insurance.

After securing funding of $500 000 (R7 million) from local venture capital firm Kalon Venture Partners and Mauritius-based Compass last year, the firm says it is expanding beyond the financial services sector and tapping into the telco space.

The company is working on a chatbot that will allow consumers to do their Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) and RICA processes from the comfort of their home.

"As part of our vision to open new verticals and increase our market share in the next 12 to 18 months, we are expanding beyond the financial services sector," Paillusseau told ITWeb.

"We have entered into an agreement with two big telcos and we are engaging the others too. We are currently developing a chatbot that will allow consumers to take a picture of their ID or passport, which is verified against our system, and complete their FICA or RICA process online. In addition, customers can have their new SIM cards delivered within 24 hours of registration."

The RICA chatbots will be deployed on the telcos' Web sites and additional chatbots aimed at answering basic queries will be implemented across various social media platforms, such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

"There's been a lot of demand for our services in the telco space. We are looking at entering proof-of concept mode soon and we believe we will go live with the chatbots in the next six months," says Paillusseau.

"Operators will be able to increase their conversion rates, reduce operational costs and gather more data about customers, which can be used for product innovation and customer retention, reaping the same benefits as our financial services clients."

While the adoption of chatbots is still in the early stages, more local consumers are choosing to use chatbots for basic queries, Paillusseau points out.

"While we try not to oversell the technology, up to 80% of queries that come through the contact centre can be answered by a chatbot. It lowers the drop-off rate traditionally experienced by customers who engage with a call centre.

"In addition, the acquisition of new customers via an automated chat conversation has a much higher success rate than any other communication channel, mainly because sales consultants spend an average of 45 minutes on the phone but a chatbot takes an average of six minutes to sell a product to a potential client."

However, people with complex and specific queries will likely need to communicate with humans.

In the next 12 to 18 months, once FinChatBot has explored different verticals locally, it will consider international expansion, notes Paillusseau.

"In order to become a very successful business, we need to expand, but at the same time we are not looking at over-expanding, as it would be too much of a risk in such a short space of time.

"At this stage, we are not sure where exactly we would be expanding to, but we are looking at various options such Kenya or other African countries, Europe or US. We have also received a lot of interest from Canadian firms. It's really encouraging when we see international companies reaching out to a small company like ours," concludes Paillusseau.

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