ASB has announced plans to launch an artificial intelligence digital assistant designed to help staff support small-to-medium (SME) business owners in New Zealand.

Josie, created by ASB in partnership with New Zealand technology company FaceMe, is in her final stages of development and due for a mid-2018 launch, according to ASB.

The use of a human-like interface will be a first for Australasian banking.

ASB executive general manager retail banking Russell Jones says ASB is looking for SME business owners to help build Josie's knowledge of what's required when setting up a successful business.

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"ASB has a sound understanding of our SME customers' wants and needs. Josie's technology is new territory and we want to ensure she provides customers with valuable business guidance," Jones says.

"Our SME customers have been asking for easy access to relevant information so we're engaging with New Zealand's large SME population to understand the range of questions they have when setting up and managing a business."

SME business owners, including those who aren't ASB customers, will be able to interact with Josie in Auckland-based business hubs.

"We're excited to develop this technology, but more importantly we're eager to see what Josie will help our customers achieve. Globally, New Zealanders are known for innovation and entrepreneurship: we have brilliant ideas but sometimes lack the knowledge for profitable execution. This is where Josie will help," Jones says.

Jones says Josie was created to foster the success of business in New Zealand.

FaceMe CEO and founder Danny Tomsett says the brands that succeed in the future will be those whose artificial intelligence (AI) can provide customers with enhanced, personalised service.

"We believe great customer experience follows meaningful conversation, so AI must respond to customer needs with empathy and personalisation. Customers don't want to talk to a lifeless robot incapable of understanding their needs beyond keywords," Tomsett says.

Tomsett says Josie's knowledge will develop with information through human interactions over time, similar to that of a human mind.

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"One of the biggest misconceptions about AI is that it's designed to 'replace humans'. Great AI should be designed to enhance what humans do and how they operate. ASB understands this, and they're leveraging the technology as a tool to empower their staff and create great outcomes for SME owners."

ASB welcomes feedback for Josie from SME business owners here: Josie@asb.co.nz.