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AI-Powered decision-making is transforming how small businesses choose banks

iStock 1545325603 - Global Banking | Finance

AI-Powered decision-making is transforming how small businesses choose banks

By Solomon Lax, Chief Executive Officer at Revenued

Over the past decade, financial comparison sites such as Bankrate, the Points Guy, and NerdWallet have become the go-to platforms for small businesses seeking information about banking products and financial services. Simultaneously, these sites have taken advantage of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies and played a pivotal role in shaping SEO and search behaviors. The breadth of content generation has influenced search engine algorithms, guiding them to prioritize and reward platforms that deliver the most information. The symbiotic relationship between financial comparison sites and search engines has contributed to the perpetuation of their dominance in online searches related to banking and financial products. And their dominance makes it easy to lose sight of how generic and devoid of nuance the information presented on the platforms tends to be.

But the SEO trap is ending. Today, we are in a narrow window where artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing search, and the banking industry has an opportunity to not only help shape this significant transformation but leverage this technology. AI’s potential in guiding small businesses toward the most suitable banking partners is shifting the competitive landscape, breaking the cycle of SEO-driven one-size-fits-all solutions, and creating new opportunities for banks. This piece will first describe the ongoing competitive landscape shift, facilitated by AI tools, that will challenge traditional comparison sites and will outline strategic approaches banks must leverage in this critical window of technological advancement to achieve direct access to potential customers.

Escaping the Filters: AI is Transforming Banking and Credit Card Selection

AI’s ability to offer customized recommendations resides in its capability to analyze vast amounts of data, including traditional sources like banking products, interest rates, fees, and customer service ratings, as well as untapped data sources, such as customer banking data. With the ability to analyze specific business needs and deliver better recommendations, AI platforms shift the competitive landscape away from filter and content-based sites, which primarily focus on presenting commentary and data without extensive customized insights.

The content-driven nature of traditional financial sites, which are geared toward maximizing clicks and advertising revenue, may compromise the depth and accuracy of the information provided. AI’s entrance introduces a new paradigm where the value of generic SEO-optimized content is devalued.

Product comparison can and should provide more than a broad catalog for banks to present rates and fees. When powered by AI, product comparisons are capable of predictive analysis and tailored advice. We can now answer complex questions that simpler matrix-based filters, using one or two criteria like APR or rewards, can’t address. For example, with access to a small business’s bank account, bank fees can be analyzed and compared to alternatives. Then, their seasonal cash flows can be compared to their industry peers and suggest lending products. The AI-driven approach provides a more nuanced understanding of a small business’s unique needs, transforming how they choose their banking partners.

How Banks Can Successfully Adapt to AI-Powered Offers

Amid this transition, banks find themselves at a critical juncture. Banks must employ the following strategies to successfully capitalize on AI-powered decision-making and its potential for great growth.

  1. Partner with AI Developers –Partnering with AI developers is critical to stay relevant and develop AI tools that can reach small businesses with customized solutions. AI developer partnerships should also be part of an AI risk-mitigation strategy, as the ethical and regulatory landscape for AI is rapidly changing. Banks can help ensure that proper controls are in place to reduce costly missteps from ill-conceived or underdeveloped AI solutions.
  1. Enhance Data Analytics Capabilities –The true power of AI lies in data, and banks own the data necessary for machine learning (ML) models to generate tremendous value. By enhancing data analytics capabilities, banks can unlock the potential of ML models to offer precise and insightful recommendations. As an example, cash flow analysis currently used by fintech businesses for underwriting can also be extended to recommend the best products.
  1. Leverage Data Analytics to Customize Product Offerings – While neobanks have been disruptive by competing on no fee, no overdraft, and accounts customized for industry verticals, traditional banks hold an advantage in their credit performance data, which can be leveraged to better tailor lending solutions for small businesses and create customized loan products.

As AI reshapes the landscape of banking advice for small businesses, banks must adapt to stay relevant. Banks should be aware that the window of opportunity to take advantage of this transformation is limited. Banks currently own customer data necessary for the development of AI models behind a data wall. This will soon change with open banking. Once open banking begins, a bank’s customer data will be more broadly available, and competition for current customers, powered by customized offerings, will only increase. Banks should invest in AI and data analytics now, forge strategic partnerships that can leverage their current data responsibly, and focus on customized offerings before the offerings of the next fintech firm lure their customers.  

Solomon Lax - Global Banking | Finance

Solomon Lax

About Solomon Lax

Solomon Lax serves as the Chief Executive Officer at Revenued – a leading fintech that offers a small business card and Flexline based on machine learning scoring that is based on small business cash flow independent of FICO. Revenued also publishes a small business weather report with cash flow analysis and relative bank fee information derived from a panel of over ten thousand small businesses. Follow him on LinkedIn for strategic insights on fintech, credit cards, and small business financing. 

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