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Tech insights: Your Own Telegram Banker: A Low-Code Solution That Enables Quick and Convenient Access to Banking Data
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Your Own Telegram Banker: A Low-Code Solution That Enables Quick and Convenient Access to Banking Data

13 September 2022, by Shannagh Hare

Michael Oosthuizen’s elegant but simple solution leverages Investec’s Programmable Banking APIs to create a chatbot that can be programmed to respond to financial information queries – without writing a line of code. Michael built his solution for the 2022 Programmable Banking community hackathon. You can check out Michael’s demo here.

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Simple access to important information

Financial planning is planning for your future. It’s less about being rich and more about having peace of mind, about knowing that you will be able to provide for your present, anticipated (and hopefully) unanticipated needs.

However, it isn’t easy to plan without visibility into your finances. Sometimes that means sitting down with a financial planner, reviewing your income, expenses and investments, and mapping them out in detail. But sometimes, it means a quick answer to a simple question. You can dig through your online banking or mobile banking app, but what if you could just ask someone that question – say a chatbot?

That’s the premise behind Telegrammetry, a programmable banking solution that enables quick and convenient access to financial data. Developed by Michael Oosthuizen, a senior software engineer at PhishFort and a member of the Programmable Banking community, Telegrammetry allows anyone who can use a spreadsheet to program this bot to respond to everyday banking queries – in the most natural, organic manner possible.

The bot in question runs within the instant messaging service Telegram. “We chose Telegram because it’s both easy to integrate with and because its stance on privacy is more highly respected than, say that of WhatsApp,” says Michael.

Using low-code tools

The solution is made possible by integrating with Investec’s API and OpenAI’s GPT-3 API. It also uses a low-code tool, Spreadsheet Banking, which connects Investec’s API to Microsoft Excel. Setting up the bot is simple: you create a bot through Telegram and name it, then enter that username into your Banking spreadsheet. While setting up the bot, Telegram will also send you a bot token, which you paste into the spreadsheet, and then you click the appropriate cell to switch your Telegram bot status to ON.

Then it’s on to the Telegram configurator sheet. “This is where all your bot behaviour is defined,” says Michael. “The sheet is easily configurable using dropdown menus and structures the information in a data tree.” In keeping with the philosophy behind the solution, you don’t need to write a single line of code to operate it. Despite this, it remains highly flexible, with anything you write as an Excel formula becoming a data view that you can engage with conversationally.

How the Telegram banker solution works

In the Telegram configurator, each row is a menu option, and you can program as many as you like. Each option has an action, such as showing child options or returning a value. “Say you’re interested in querying the largest amount of money you’ve spent in the past month,” explains Michael. “Once you’ve set that up on the table, any time you want this information you simply go to Telegram, tap on the Main Menu, then Transactions, then Maximum Transaction. In a matter of seconds, you’ve got your answer, without having to open your online banking or banking app.”

The bot can also list information, such as all your cards, along with their associated account number, cardholder, transaction limit, allowed vendors and activation status.

“The coolest feature is that we’ve implemented an artificial intelligence to answer questions that are more difficult to format in the spreadsheet,” says Michael. “You can pose an arbitrary question to the bot and, interpreting the information contained in your spreadsheet, it will give you a response.”

Pieter Heyns, a startup advisor at FireID, says that interacting with this sort of data through a chat tool is potentially very powerful. “I like that you can build these menus without using any code, so it’s a solution that businesses could potentially use to query information without needing developers to set it up for them.”

Get involved in the Programmable Banking Community

If you have questions or just want to say “hi” to the Programmable Banking Community core team, you can pop us a mail at community-investec@offerzen.com, and we will get back to you.

If you want to see more about what the community has been up to, you can:

OfferZen-developer-finance-guide

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