NAB-owned digital bank UBank has unveiled a new virtual mortgage AI to streamline how first home buyers and refinancers apply for a home loan.

The program, called RoboChat, is now available on the home loan section of UBank’s website and has been trained to guide potential borrowers through the mortgage application process.

RoboChat has been built with the IBM Watson Conversation API and gives real-time input to questions around the types of loans on offer, mortgage terms, interest rates, and additional features such as redraw facilities.

The AI is still currently in training, however, and will continue to learn as it engages with customers through the bank’s website.

Integrated with UBank’s current live chat functionality, the bot will use natural language to answer hundreds of questions around 40 home loan topics.

It has been enhanced using data collected from consumer questions submitted via the LiveChat platform and has been iteratively trained and tested by dozens of users, including the analysis of thousands of questions and responses.

UBank hopes the process will be as human and as enjoyable as possible with the bot even coming inbuilt with a number of tongue-in-cheek responses to select questions.

Whether consumers wish to use the chatbot is a matter of preference, Jeremy Hubbard, head of digital at UBank, told Australian Broker.

“RoboChat will give real-time answers to specific questions about the home loan application form. So, if you have a question about the term of our loans or the difference between a variable or fixed rate, RoboChat can answer it within seconds. And, it’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you’re looking for more specific support or a question fitting to your individual situation, one of our experienced advisors can assist during our business hours – either via LiveChat or on the phone.”

As the AI continually learns over time, this is like training one of the bank’s new advisors, Hubbard said. This means RoboChat follows the same quality assurance protocols as all the bank’s team members.

“For example, during this training phase, we are monitoring and reviewing conversations and then re-training Watson based on any key learnings.  And, if at any point there is a question that RoboChat is unable to answer, it will prompt customers to get in touch with UBank’s customer service team asking, ‘Would you like to chat with a real person instead?’”

The bank’s goal is to deliver a simpler, better and smarter form of banking to its customers through a more streamlined application process, said CEO Lee Hatton.

“If you’ve gathered all of your paperwork, the form can be completed in as little time as it takes you to have your breakfast. And, securing one of the most competitive rates in the market could help a customer save thousands of dollars in interest over the life of a loan.”

UBank said the new technology will not affect the size of its customer service team despite offering a streamlined approach to the home loan application process.

“RoboChat will be a very welcome addition to our team of customer service experts,” Hatton said. “UBank will still have experienced staff on hand to chat on the phone, via email and our live online chat offering, RoboChat will provide an added option for those needing quick online responses or those that are close to finalising the form.”

The bot will provide support to consumers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.