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Cantina has been Putnam Investments’ trusted partner for over 10 years. We most recently teamed up with Putnam to develop a voice-enabled Intelligent Assistant that helps financial advisors do their jobs more effectively.

Overview


Putnam Investments is an investment management firm founded in 1937. For more than 80 years, they have helped financial advisors and their clients make informed investment decisions by using emerging technology and innovative data analytics and visualization tools.

One of those tools is the award-winning FundVisualizer, built by Cantina. It enables financial advisors to compare mutual funds through a variety of filtering options using interactive data visualizations. Since its launch in 2011, nearly 40,000 financial advisors have used FundVisualizer to search for and compare mutual funds, and it has dramatically increased the value that Putnam delivers for its clients.

Being a forward-thinking financial services company, Putnam wanted to embed an intelligent voice assistant into FundVisualizer to help financial advisors more easily search for and find relevant funds to better serve their clients. As a long-time trusted partner with deep knowledge in financial services, machine learning, and voice interfaces, Putnam turned to Cantina to help it design and build a beta version of the Intelligent Assistant.

Fundvisualizer Voice GIF
Screens of the Fundvisualizer voice feature

Building the intelligent assistant to help financial advisors


Prior to this engagement, financial advisors executed 100% of their FundVisualizer searches by manually searching and sifting through results to find relevant funds for their clients. This approach takes time and introduces human error.

With a voice-enabled Intelligent Assistant, search times can be significantly reduced, and financial advisors are presented with a hands-free alternative to text-based searches. Further, when augmented by machine learning and AI, this search approach can yield more personalized results for Putnam’s clients. The potential impact: less time spent researching and more time for financial advisors to interact with their clients in meaningful ways.

Because of the importance of this initiative, Putnam was looking to move fast. They engaged Cantina to help design, build, and ship a beta version of the Intelligent Assistant in less than 5 months. To do this, Cantina quickly ramped up a team and got to work with Putnam.

We started by segmenting our work process into two distinct phases: phase I (technical design) and phase II (build). Along the way, we introduced Cantina experts in voice user interfaces, experience strategy, and machine learning to help shape the voice experience and accelerate delivery for Putnam.

Phase I began with a technical assessment and an evaluation of conversational flows. Cantina used insights derived from this assessment to build a conceptual prototype that informed the build phase of the engagement. Throughout this phase we collaborated closely with Putnam to review progress, collect feedback, and ensure that our technical plan and prototype were feasible and addressed Putnam’s core needs.

After completing phase I, we transitioned into the build phase. In this phase, Cantina and Putnam worked together to engineer an Intelligent Assistant that operated well on four critical dimensions:

  1. Speech recognition: successfully converting speech into distinct words that the Intelligent Assistant could understand
  2. Natural-language understanding: successfully extracting intended meanings so that the Intelligent Assistant could take appropriate action
  3. Text-to-speech synthesis: successfully converting text into understandable machine-spoken words
  4. Visual cues: successfully embedding visual cues into the Intelligent Assistant’s user experience to accompany and reinforce the system’s responses

Choosing the right tools and application programming interfaces (APIs) was critical for this phase. Each tool and API needed to work well within Putnam’s technical environment and address the core customer needs met with the Intelligent Assistant. For example, we implemented the Google Speech to Text API because it performs well with Google Chrome and other web browsers and provides greater accessibility and a better experience for financial advisors, while integrating well with the existing FundVisualizer application. Each of these decisions, among many others, was critical for building an effective and user-friendly solution for Putnam. In the end, we delivered what Putnam needed ⎼ a fully functional beta version of the Intelligent Assistant, and a critical first step toward implementing deeper machine learning and AI capabilities into FundVisualizer and the financial advisor experience.

Group

As client expectations continue to grow, the tools to help financial advisors analyze investment ideas continue to leverage the power of new technology. FundVisualizer is leading the way with beta implementations of cutting-edge technology like natural language interaction and machine learning.

A new tool that is expected to deliver better results in less time for putnam's clients


The potential impact of this work is significant for Putnam on several levels:

  1. Time savings: The Intelligent Assistant is designed to reduce the amount of time required for financial advisors to search for and find funds that are relevant to their clients.
  2. Better results: Enhanced by machine-learning, the Intelligent Assistant is focused on optimizing results for clients and their needs.
  3. Client value: The Intelligent Assistant can enable Putnam financial advisors to deliver more value to their clients in less time and strengthen each client interaction.

In an era of rapid innovation, new tools like the Intelligent Assistant for FundVisualizer can change the game for financial services companies. Putnam is once again demonstrating its commitment to investing in emerging technology to create a better experience for its clients by integrating machine learning and voice-enabled search into FundVisualizer. We look forward to continuing to work with Putnam on future iterations of the Intelligent Assistant as well as other important initiatives for its clients and its business.

If you’d like to learn more about this work and Cantina’s Financial Services Practice please contact us. We'd love to hear from you.

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