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Meet Wendy, Westpac’s ‘digital job coach’ backed by AI

Westpac unveiled a “early version” of a ‘digital job coach’ called Wendy that allows first-time job seekers to get advice from a human-like avatar using Soul Machines, IBM and Google start-up technology.

Over the weekend the bank unveiled Wendy, which it said is the result of six months of work. The technology underpinning this comes from three vendors.

“Wendy’s ability to ‘think’ is powered by IBM Watson’s AI conversation engine, her ‘listening’ and ‘speaking’ skills use Google Cloud Services, and her lifelike, perceptive appearance [was] created by fast-growing New Zealand-based start-up Soul Machines,” Westpac said in an article in its internal publication Westpac Wire.

Anastasia Cammaroto, Chief Operating Officer of the business group at Westpac, said in a short social networking statement that Wendy was “one direction” the bank might be supporting work seekers for the first time.

“Finding your first job can be overwhelming – what do I wear, what do I say, where do I search are all questions that increasingly younger people have to deal with,” Cammaroto said.

“We can provide support beyond text and with no perceived judgement – an area that our research has highlighted as an issue.

“We will continue to evolve Wendy into more areas of help so keep watching this space.”

Other Westpac technology staff indicated that at some point in the future, Wendy is likely to expand to financial education.
Westpac said the appearance and manner of Wendy is the result of extensive research, analysis and focus group workshops.
Users who access Wendy are instructed not to share personal details. The platform also states that it would “temporarily capture your image and our conversation,” but notes “the video will be destroyed at the end of our conversation, and the transcripts will be destroyed after 90 days.”

It demands consent from users to be at least 14 years old and based in Australia.
iTnews studies showed that Wendy couldn’t give a ton of guidance to help us obtain a career in technology or IT.

“I mustn’t have been taught that yet,” she eventually proffered. “I’m always learning new things and I hope to answer your question in the future. Until then, here’s what others have been asking me.”

Wendy did offer to help us “learn about tax” (which, she conceded, “might not feel as exciting as skydiving”).

And Wendy tried to guide us in a specific career path to the suggested utterance, ‘Tell me a random truth.’

“Ten years ago, being a content creator was barely considered a job,” she said.

“Now, thanks to social media, it’s a realistic opportunity to make a career out of your passion. It doesn’t even take much to get started either.”

Pressed on the possibility of a content creator role at Westpac, Wendy described competently a typical recruitment process that one might expect when applying for a corporate position.

Westpac consumer bank innovation leader Annie Shu told Westpac Wire that a team of “around six [people is] analysing Wendy’s conversations, training her to respond and finessing her vocabulary.”

“It requires the right people to help guide her, and we’re conscious of training her in the right way to ensure she is ethical and avoid AI bias when training her,” Shu said.

“It’s almost like raising an infant. The minute they are born, they know absolutely nothing.

“Every aspect of what Wendy sees, what Wendy hears, what Wendy talks about, needs to be trained, and trained correctly so she learns and grows the right way. But the pace of her growth is really exciting.”

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