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How chat is revolutionising the digital onboarding experience

September 28, 2020 at 4:56 PM

Principa’s onboarding chatbot solution; Atura allows lenders to engage a customer effectively through an application process while accessing necessary data and decisioning calls using Principa’s SmartSuite software.

The digital revolution

“Digital” has been a financial services buzz-word for some time. Most South African lenders Principa works with have been working hard to adapt to a digital existence for several years. Some have been successful, others are still working on the challenge - and most have only partially adapted.

For onboarding, the partial adapters have generally come unstuck when it comes to compliance matters such as income and ID verification steps as well as application drop-off. Digital web-forms are highly beneficial as they are conveniently accessible 24hours/day, but they are generally linear and fail to engage adequately with the applicant particularly where the application needs to deviate from the standard application process. Applicant drop-off is a frequent problem with a low “starter rate” (i.e. the percentage of applicants who end up opening a loan from those who start the process) reported.

“Whilst “digital” originally inferred either web-apps or websites, an increasing number of lenders are now adopting chatbots as a digital onboarding channel.”

The rise of the chatbot as a digital onboarding solution

Whilst “digital” originally inferred either web-apps or websites, an increasing number of lenders are now adopting chatbots as a digital onboarding channel. There are many advantages to using chatbots including:

  • that it feels like a conversation and the application flow can deviate from a linear process,
  • that data can be validated on-the-go,
  • selection options can be displayed and selected more easily with buttons,
  • an agent can also be called upon to assist further with the application (they take over from the chatbot but use the same chat channel).
  • Chatbots can be available on multiple channels whether it be any page of a website, on mobile applications, or on the lenders’ social media pages

As a result chatbots should lead to less drop-off.

“…customers are becoming increasingly willing to engage with “very helpful” chatbots.”


Attitudes towards chatbots have improved

It is difficult to ignore the huge volume of chatbots being made available. At one stage they were seen as clumsy new technology, but now customers are becoming increasingly willing to engage with “very helpful” chatbots. According to an Accenture report, 57% of executives said that chatbots bring significant ROI with minimal effort. Chatbots are the present for some companies and the future for many others. We expect them to evolve in time from the current text orientated technology we have today to a future where voice-activated bots grow increasingly popular.

“Chatbots are the present for some companies and the future for many others.”

Choosing a chatbot

The chatbot market has become quite commoditised in recent times with several chatbots available to lenders. There are some important considerations when it comes to choosing and deploying a chatbot. This list of seven key factors is a most helpful guide and while most chatbots can tick off most of this list, it is worth focusing on item 7.

“It is worth considering that a chatbot is of little value without the IP that is deployed in it.”

At Principa we believe that when choosing a chatbot it is essential to consider the domain specific IP and the domain expertise of the vendor. We have invested a significant amount of capital and time deploying our extensive credit IP into our chatbots.

Principa’s Smart-chat onboarding environment

As we developed our IP, we recognised three key areas where bots can augment our existing software. To answer these key areas we have developed a chatbot that can assist with the following:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Customer service
  3. Collections self-service

Each solution is powered by Atura (based on Microsoft Azure chatbot framework technology) and integrates directly with Principa’s FinSmart universe.


Atura is an artificial intelligence chatbot that uses cloud technology to deliver the right answers to your customers via any device. 


For on-boarding Atura is integrated into both BridgeSmart (a data-orchestration layer that connects into credit bureaux and internal databases) and DecisionSmart (a business rules management system). BridgeSmart calls the bureaux and interrogates internal data sources. DecisionSmart executes rules and scorecards from the data captured by the chatbot and, for example, the credit bureau data.

The full application process can be catered for by incorporating:

  1. Capturing of application information
  2. Validating this information
  3. Calling of necessary data services through BridgeSmart
  4. Calculation and application of rules, scores, affordability etc. with DecisionSmart
  5. Capturing/photographing of documents.
  6. Compiling pre-agreement quotes

Integration with Principa’s loan origination system, AppSmart for a comprehensive loans origination experience is also possible.

Qualified lead generation on your website

As well as on-boarding new customers, a shorter version of the solution can be used to qualify leads. A customer enters name, ID, phone number, and gross monthly income. A call is then made to the bureau by BridgeSmart. On returning from the bureau, a score cut-off and policy rules are applied by DecisionSmart. The decision engine also calculates affordable monthly instalments and the loan amount that the applicant may qualify for. The customer is then presented with a pre-qualified offer that they can choose to accept. On acceptance, the application can continue through chatbot or through another channel.

Chatbots are the NOW of customer onboarding

Chatbots are growing increasingly popular among many businesses. In lending, the digital onboarding process has become essential and chatbots have a significant role to play. To find out more about how Principa can assist your company with digital onboarding with chatbot, please contact us here.


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Thomas Maydon
Thomas Maydon
Thomas Maydon is the Head of Credit Solutions at Principa. With over 17 years of experience in the Southern African, West African and Middle Eastern retail credit markets, Tom has primarily been involved in consulting, analytics, credit bureau and predictive modelling services. He has experience in all aspects of the credit life cycle (in multiple industries) including intelligent prospecting, originations, strategy simulation, affordability analysis, behavioural modelling, pricing analysis, collections processes, and provisions (including Basel II) and profitability calculations.

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