Not everyone can afford a personal wealth manager, but thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology, you might never need one. MyKai, a new service launched on Tuesday, is a so-called bot that promises to help you manage your banking and financial needs all via text messaging.

Need to see your checking account balance? Just send a text to MyKai. Want to pay your buddy for that drink he got you? Tell MyKai how much money you want to send. Curious how much cash you blew through this weekend? Build up the courage, and then ask MyKai for the answer.

MyKai is the product of Kasisto, a New York City startup focused on making banking easier with the help of artificial intelligence. It all starts with its user interface bot, which is essentially your own personal customer support.

The way it works is you hook up MyKai to your bank, credit card, and Venmo accounts. You then tell MyKai your preferred method of communication--you can choose between SMS, Facebook Messenger, or Slack. Once you're all set up, you simply start messaging MyKai and get the answers you need.

"We at Kasisto are trying to redefine the way companies and enterprises interact with consumers. We think there's a lot to be done," said Dror Oren, co-founder and vice president of product at Kasisto, which has raised more than $2.25 million and has a team of about 30. "To do that, we built a state-of-the-art conversational A.I. platform and product."

And while MyKai can connect to more than 20,000 banks around the world, Kasisto on Tuesday is also launching KAI Banking, which is essentially a bundle of the company's A.I. technology. Banks and developers worldwide can subscribe to KAI Banking and use Kasisto's technology to build their own banking bots. Kasisto touts MyKai's capabilities, but the startup recognizes that when banks like Royal Bank of Canada and DBS Bank--Kasisto's first two customers--build their own bots, they will be capable of carrying out far more complex banking actions.

"What we're saying is that instead of dragging your customers into your app, why don't we bring the banking services ... into where people are already spending their time?" Oren said.

Kasisto is the latest company that's trying to solve users' problems with conversational A.I. Since last year, bot services have been popping up from all corners of the tech industry. It's one of the  trending technologies in Silicon Valley, and it's the result of two developments.

For starters, A.I. is finally, albeit just barely, capable of holding complex conversations with humans to the point that bots can be somewhat useful. Additionally, humans are tired of downloading apps--in fact, they rarely do--and among the apps they already have, most people have a dozen or so that they use on a regular basis. That includes their favorite messaging apps.

This is why many entrepreneurs are no longer focused on building apps and have instead turned their attentions toward building bots for the apps you already use. But as noted, many of these bots are just barely passable as consumer products, and as a result, many of the earliest bots have received  negative to mixed reviews.

Whether or not bot services continue to improve, MyKai for sure has a ways to go. Although the bot is indeed a helpful little assistant for the moments when you have just a few quick questions--such as "How much do I have in my savings account?" or "How much have I spent on travel so far this year?"--the A.I. service has its limits. I tried using MyKai to charge my roommates for our monthly internet bill, and despite specifying their names, how much money I was requesting, and that this was an action for Venmo, MyKai couldn't complete the task.

"Didn't catch that. Would you mind rephrasing?" MyKai said, forcing me to open up Venmo and complete the action myself.

But that isn't stopping entrepreneurs like Oren, who firmly believes A.I. will continue to improve and that bots are the way of the future. "Right now, I think we should be able to expect more from our level of interactions with banks," Oren said. "Apps have a very limited set of menus and buttons and they will never be able to offer all this wide range and answer specific questions like a bot would."

Published on: Jun 28, 2016