This week’s tech news, filtered for financial services execs

June 6

Hello and welcome to Insights Distilled, a weekly email briefing that curates tactical technology news for financial services execs. Every Tuesday morning, we send you the top five stories you need to know – and explain why they matter. Our tech news roundup helps you stay on top of the innovations driving business agility in your industry. To get next week’s edition in your inbox, sign up here.


This week’s edition covers a wide range of technology topics, from the cutting-edge – including generative AI and virtual reality – to the simple-yet-effective, like operational transformation and poker as a means for persona. growth.  

Let’s dive in: 

  1. Banking on GenAI: Westpac demos new bespoke GPT tool
  2. Virtual rules: How BofA is deploying VR training for employees
  3. Booking boost: Capital One just bought a luxury travel app
  4. Simple solution: Citi has a tech system to prevent “fat-finger” errors
  5. Poker power: This former Wall Streeter helps women gain more confidence at work

Australia’s Westpac plans to give its bankers access to Kai-GPT – a large language model tailored to the FinServ industry – to speed up its mortgage operations and aid customer service reps. 

Startup Kasisto created a banking-specific large language model (LLM), which it says is more bespoke, easier to customize, and less likely to “hallucinate” false info than generalized AI tools – and Westpac is its first user. 

Westpac is increasing its focus on generative AI through a deepened partnership with chatbot developer Kasisto. 

Kasisto just announced Kai-GPT, a custom LLM trained on data and documents specific to the financial services industry (versus the broad training set of OpenAI’s model, for example). Its specialized approach will provide FinServ clients with a more accurate, transparent, trustworthy, and customizable GenAI experience, the firm says.  

To make the tool even more targeted, Westpac will also train Kai-GPT on its own proprietary content. Employees will be able to correspond with a conversational chatbot to enhance their work, whether in the mortgage lending process or for general customer service.  

The specialized, layered LLM will “formulate these really rich, wonderful answers, but in an accurate and concise way,” according to Westpac CTO David Walker

Westpac has worked with Kasisto since 2020 and co-led its $15.5 million funding round late last year. The startup also counts JPMorgan Chase, Standard Chartered, BankSouth, and TD among the customers for its original chatbot service.  

For more ways that FinServs are experimenting with this hot new technology, check out Distilled’s latest report.  


Bank of America uses virtual reality to train its bank tellers on how to handle robberies, as well as dozens of other skills.  

Creating teachable moments in virtual reality can lead to immersive, focused, and memorable training programs for bank employees, which are ultimately more effective than the status quo.

Bank of America has ditched written guidelines and online videos for some of its most crucial employee trainings. 

Instead, the bank uses virtual reality technology to immerse employees in 3D environments where they can practice skills and build knowledge in real-time.  

For example, one of the bank’s training modules mimics a bank robbery, where employees must respond to having a gun pointed at them or being passed a threatening note demanding money. They’re coached and then given the opportunity to act out the scenario in VR.  

VR trainings offer an immersion, focus, and emotional resonance that’s rarely achieved through text or video-based curriculums. 

“When you’re in VR and you’ve got someone pointing a weapon at you or screaming at you, asking you to do something, it’s somewhat duplicating that feeling that you would have in real life, because of the level of immersion,” Bank of America SVP Mike Wynn told Insights Distilled. “I want someone to feel a little anxious or a little nervous in a fake environment, because I don’t want them to feel that way for the first time if it ever happens to them. That’s why VR is so powerful as a modality, because it gets you to feel as if you’re in that moment, so that you can develop some level of muscle memory.” 

As a measure of the success of the trainings, Bank of America has seen a significant drop in 911 calls by its bank tellers, because they’ve learned how to deescalate situations more effectively than before.   

BofA launched its first VR training course in 2020 and now has 19 types of VR modules, including executive trainings, interviewing courses, empathy-building exercises, and practical instructionals for processes like opening or closing a bank branch.  

The bank works with an ever-evolving group of hardware and software partners, Wynn said, as it vies to provide the most comfortable experience possible for its employees. (On the hardware side, Apple made a splash Monday when it announced its first VR headset.) 

Other banks have crafted their own experiments with the metaverse, too: Sociéte Générale and Deutsche Bank host client presentations in virtual reality, while BNP Paribas lets its users check their account activity and transaction records in VR.  

“I think we’re still just scratching the surface of how we can leverage VR to give people a very different experience, whether it’s exploring how we use it for mental health or collaborative team experiences,” Wynn said. “There’s so much more that can be done.” 


Capital One just bought an AI-powered luxury concierge app as it ups its bid to become a premium destination for booking trips.  

Travel remains a top-spending category for US consumers. By providing an exceptional in-house booking experience where customers can spend their credit card points, banks are building loyalty while also carving out additional travel spend for themselves.  

Capital One continues to ramp up its tech-driven and luxurious travel offerings.  

The bank just bought Velocity Black, an AI-powered digital concierge that provides experiences like Wimbledon tickets, ski safaris, or swimming with sperm whales. Its artificial intelligence-powered offering lets customers receive recommendations, book experiences, and snag travel upgrades through instant messaging.   

Velocity’s “deep service expertise and unique tech platform” complement Capital One’s existing services, according to the bank’s SVP of experiences, Matt Knise. The acquisition builds on Capital One’s recent investment in travel booking portal Hopper and its collaboration with dining-focused platform SevenRooms, and marks the bank’s further appeals to an affluent customer base historically dominated by rivals like Amex.  

Capturing the loyalty of wealthy clientele through top-of-the-line tech and exclusive experiences is in vogue, and other big FinServs have been beefing up their travel products through partnerships, acquisitions, and investments as well. 

Here’s a non-exhaustive rundown of recent moves: Amex invested in hotel booking company Selfbook, JPMorgan bought luxury travel agency Frosch, Citi is partnering with and invested in car rental startup Kyte through its VC arm, and US Bancorp bought travel platform TravelBank.  


Citi’s new trading tech slashed “fat-finger errors” by 86%.  

Citi’s latest technology improvement isn’t sexy, but it sure is effective: The bank invested in a system that scans 95 million monthly trades to catch human errors – and it’s already preventing what could be costly mistakes.

Citi’s SMART system is dramatically reducing human error in its trading division, CEO Jane Fraser revealed during a talk at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions conference on Friday.   

The technology aims to provide an antidote to the typing or execution errors that have led to tens of millions in losses for the bank in the past.  

“All of our trades that aren’t completely straight-through processing go into the SMART system to check for any fat-finger errors,” Fraser said. “As 95 million trades a month go through the system, the error rate, unsurprisingly, has fallen by 86%.” 

That anecdote exemplifies Citi’s larger focus on reshaping its digital processes to be more efficient and safer.  

The bank is investing “heavily in operations and in the technology teams,” Fraser said, “Because they’re the ones that are doing the heavy lifting of making sure that we get to single processes, and that we get to single technology architectures where we may have been fragmented before.” 


This former Wall Streeter is partnering with FinServs like Morgan Stanley and Bank of America to use poker to help women improve their job performance.  

A tech firm aims to help women at financial services firms learn to play poker, because it helps them build the skills they need to succeed at the office.

Playing poker can make you more effective at work: That’s the thesis of a platform called Poker Power that provides instructions and strategy to women, who don’t learn the game growing up as frequently as men do.  

President Erin Lydon worked on Wall Street for years and realized the hard way that she didn’t have the same ingrained negotiating instincts as many of her male peers when she missed out on earning a higher bonus. 

Poker Power aims to change that status quo by educating women on the game while coaxing them to see how their newfound skills translate to the real-world. Playing poker can help people learn how to better negotiate, read their peers, spot patterns, know their value, take calculated risks, and gain confidence.  

“Through the repetitive gameplay of poker, you can learn to translate those skills and strategies to the workplace,” she told Insights Distilled.  

Poker Power has over 200 corporate and high-education partners in total, including Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and other FinServs, Lydon said. The firm teaches sessions either in-person or through Zoom paired with its proprietary platform, and as one-off lessons or longer classes. 

“Part of our primary clientele is in the financial world,” Lydon said, including banks, private equity firms, and VCs. It’s critical that women in the industry “are gaining as much skill and strategy from the game of poker as possible that they can then bring back to their own businesses.” 

Quick Bits:

Personnel news: No, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has “no plans” to run for office, while Goldman Sachs’ global head of private banking, lending, and deposits, Nishi Somaiya, got a shoutout from COO John Waldron at a recent conference for being one of the firm’s next-generation leaders.” 

Money moves: Mastercard is partnering up with Italian open finance platform Fabrick on embedded finance capabilities and contributing to the firm’s €40 million funding round. Meanwhile, software firm Bond Financial Technologies is reportedly being courted by Fidelity National Information Services (FIS). 

Crypto corner: Charles Schwab, Nomura, and Standard Chartered are reportedly getting into the crypto exchange and custody business, while TD-owned Cowen is shutting down its digital asset unit.



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