​Bank of America first announced its ambitious plans for a mobile banking virtual assistant in the fall of 2016. Dubbed “Erica,” the bank’s assistant ultimately took more than two years of development to reach customers. Erica went live in selected markets in early 2018 and was launched to all 25 million Bank of America mobile banking customers in May. Within the first two months, more than a million customers had tried Erica. Through the end of August, 3 million customers had posed more than 8 million questions to the bank’s new chatbot.

As the largest U.S. bank to launch a mobile digital assistant to its customers, Bank of America has competitors watching its moves closely to see if such investments resonate with a broad set of banking consumers. Just more than 10% of the bank’s customers have tried Erica to date — impressive adoption for a brand new interaction model. However, unlike with traditional mobile banking tasks, such as bill payment or mobile check deposit, Erica’s success should not be thought of only in terms of adoption. 

How banks position digital assistant functionality will help determine whether customers come to rely on it as an indispensable tool for helping manage their accounts — as they have with mobile banking. Or will it be seen as just another delivery method for information they already access in other ways?