The Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) has announced a partnership with IBM’s AI platform Watson to introduce a virtual advisory service named Luvo.

The pilot project, which is currently being rolled out to a select group of customers, employs Watson’s Conversation technology to deliver a cloud-based chatbot service. The solution is expected to reach approximately 10% of RBS customers in Scotland by December this year, before rolling out to NatWest customers in England and Wales.

Using the virtual advisory platform, customers will be able to deal with certain financial queries online – such as notifying the bank that they will be travelling abroad or updating address information.

According to IBM’s press release, Luvo will be able to manage these requests in seconds and direct any complex questions to a human operator. The idea being that Luvo takes frequently asked questions, freeing up human advisors for more in-depth queries. The bank will advise customers that they are interacting with a robot and that they can opt to speak to a human advisor at any time during the communication.

RBS is also considering the addition of Watson analytics suite Alchemy Language, adding the capability to analyse how a customer is feeling from how they phrase their questions and change Luvo’s customer service approach accordingly.

‘As the cognitive system continues to learn over time, RBS will be able to expand Luvo’s capabilities to more complex areas such as providing increased personalisation and using predictive analytics to detect possible issues before they arise to make a recommended course of action,’ said IBM in today’s press release. ‘Luvo is a great example of how IBM Watson can be used to augment the intelligence of employees and improve the experience of customers,’ it added.

For a banking group voted the most hated among UK customers this year, the move to robo-advisory could be a risky step. While RBS maintains that the innovation will improve customer experience, cost-cutting seems to be a key argument for the move – with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), who approved the project, suggesting that the chatbots would ‘play a major role in driving down costs.’