Several other local banks have already launched their own app-based chatbots for customer enquiries this year, such as HSBC’s Amy and Hang Seng Bank’s virtual assistants HARO and DORI, in an attempt to slash costs and reduce the need for live call centres and branch visits from customers.

But Citi’s offering will be the first Facebook Messenger-embedded chatbot to let customers access their own financial records and potentially conduct transactions in future. It plans to roll out the service worldwide following its launch in Singapore in March.

“I would say Facebook is the No 1 priority for us, since it has around five million users in Hong Kong, around half of which are very active. So it’s a digital hotspot for people, very much like shopping malls,” Ng told the South China Morning Post in an exclusive interview.

Chatbots are machines which use AI-based technologies such as natural language processing to answer queries from customers. They could potentially help save global banks more than US$8 billion per year by 2022, according to a report by Juniper Research.