Rajesh Chokhani has a blueprint to improve the financial health of both companies and their employees. Execute that successfully and you have a key differentiator in today’s tight labor market.
Chokhani is the president of BOND.AI, a human-centered AI platform supported by the Empathy Engine. The Empathy Engine helps financial institutions and employers understand user behavior. That allows them to gently guide employees to better financial health.
The causes of low financial health
While COO of Welspun Pipes, a company that builds pipes for the oil and gas industry, Chokhani often met with all of his staff groups. During these sessions, he learned there is a significant financial literacy deficit throughout the workforce.
Chokhani was on BOND.AI’s board when the business model was B2B-focused. He immediately saw its potential as a tool for improving employee financial health.
“There is a huge wide huge gap in financial education and literacy when it comes down to the workforce,” Chokhani said. “Whether the people are high school, college… or professionals, I see that financial education and literacy is a big gap. It’s our education system that doesn’t require any mandatory credits for financial accounting and literacy.”
The pandemic-induced shutdown gave BOND.AI time to hone Chokhani’s idea. Tying in a network of community banks, credit unions, and enterprises with employers allows them to offer financial health services to their employees. This comes at a good time, as companies need differentiators to retain employees in today’s tight labor market.
Financial health options as a differentiator
“The employer can stand in front of their workforce and senior management can say ‘we care for your financial well-being, your finances and your family’s financial well-being’,” Chokhani said. “Here’s a tool in your hand, the BOND app where you can look at your financials,… take the help with everything in your financial ecosystem that impacts you positively or negatively and make the right decision when it comes to your financial world.”
Companies offer it voluntarily. Employees sign up for a BOND account and link their existing accounts. The service is free to companies and their employees.
Then the magic happens, Chokhani explained. BOND analyzes accounts and spending patterns and provides participants with one suggestion each day that will improve their financial health. Coming in the form of a “nudge” on their smartphones, the method is designed to blend into the user’s well-established digital lifestyle.
Perhaps a user has a regular coffee habit. They might receive a note that spells out how much they can save by reducing their spend by a couple of cups each week. If they ignore it, down the road they get a similar message telling them how much that $12 each week plus interest would have grown to.
Chatbots and data extrapolation
By integrating with financial institutions, customers can receive options for financial services like refinanced mortgages that save them money. How much is clearly described in the app.
The key driver behind these insights is a conversational chatbot, Chokhani explained. Instead of sending a message from a limited menu of actions, the conversational chatbot allows for more personalized interactions. Users received a score on a 100-point scale that indicates how well they are doing.
Non-financial data can be leveraged to improve financial health too. Perhaps the user prefers a certain airline that is affiliated with a credit card that offers better benefits than the user’s current card. The Empathy Engine can notify the user and asks if they want to apply for it.
Viewing data as a personal asset
With the many social media companies making billions off of personal data and keeping it for themselves, it’s about time consumers’ data benefited them, Chokhani said. He views it as a third asset along with fixed and current assets.
For financial institutions, it means using that data to offer better product matches. That results in happier customers, better retention rates and lower acquisition costs. Financial institutions and businesses pay BOND.AI to leverage that data.
The many corporate benefits from improved financial health
There are corporate benefits behind happier employees, Chokhani said. One of the biggest causes of employee absenteeism is financial-related issues. They can be as simple as not having gas or transportation money and vehicle trouble; ones that can be solved or at least lessened by freeing up more money. Someone misses a day of work, they are so many more dollars behind. Paying unnecessarily high-interest rates worsens the problem.
“Our goal is 90% of that revenue comes through sharing the consumer information through the enterprise business model goes back to that particular consumer as a data paycheck,” Chokhani said. “This is just one simple business case, but there are many more. Somebody walks in and says they want to show a product to consumers…
“We don’t want to sell the data; we want to hold it closely and say if they want to show a product to consumers, they will have to pay this much per consumer. We will take the material, populate it on the app and give 90% of the money we collect back to the consumers as their data paycheck.”
Tony is a long-time contributor in the fintech and alt-fi spaces. A two-time LendIt Journalist of the Year nominee and winner in 2018, Tony has written more than 2,000 original articles on the blockchain, peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding, and emerging technologies over the past seven years. He has hosted panels at LendIt, the CfPA Summit, and DECENT's Unchained, a blockchain exposition in Hong Kong. Email Tony here.