Judges’ Choice Winner: Microsoft Financing Assistant Bot

Published: Jul 2018


Photo of Sharon Fang and Dennis Crispin, Microsoft.


Microsoft’s treasury team has built a robot, named Leonard, that has enabled it to optimise resources by dealing with stakeholder questions. By using AI, Leonard is constantly learning and will increasingly add value to Microsoft making it an indispensable member of the treasury team.

Dennis Crispin

Senior Manager Ecosystems

Washington, US

Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.

Building the Digital SME

The challenge

Microsoft’s Worldwide Payment Solutions (WPS) team had a simple yet time consuming issue: it was receiving too many queries from the business over email that required a manual response from the team.

Therefore, in an effort to optimise resources and make it simple for its stakeholders to learn more about what the team does and how it does it, Microsoft set about finding a way to automate this process.

The solution

The team decided to employ a chatbot as part of the group’s digital transformation strategy.

The strategy was simple, build a bot that could start with a simple question and answer capacity and go from there. Using the Azure Bot Service, the team’s Finance Rotational Analyst was quickly able to transform an antiquated and clunky Excel-based FAQ library into a fully functional Q&A chatbot.

The initial version of the bot, called Financing Assistant and nicknamed Leonard, used natural language processing (NLP) to interpret questions from users and respond with useful answers about Microsoft’s financing programs, internal tools, and policies. Active learning – an artificial intelligence component that helps ensure proper responses are given and keeps the bot continuously learning – was built into the bot as well.

In just a few weeks the WPS team deployed Leonard as an internal contact in Microsoft Teams, the chat-based workspace that combines workplace chat, meetings, notes and attachments.

The team then integrated the bot into its new financing approval workflow and documentation tool single point of contact (SPOC) to give users an additional channel in which to interact with the bot. As part of the SPOC integration the bot was trained with additional skills such as viewing personalised reports, checking the status of financing requests, as well as cancelling requests. Additionally, the chatbot learned to communicate with other bots, specifically the bot of its sister team Worldwide Credit Services and users also gained the ability to communicate with the bot through speech by using Azure Cognitive Services. As some of the data in the bot may be sensitive, Azure Active Directory was utilised so the bot knows who it is chatting with and can direct responses accordingly.

The bot can also help users de-stress by telling them workplace-appropriate jokes. Interestingly, the joke feature gets users interacting with the bot and then they quickly become comfortable with more technical and policy scenarios.

I would like to say “ども ありがと” (domo arigato) to the judges for selecting my nomination as the winner in the Judges’ Choice category. It is certainly a great honour and I hope this will help inspire other finance organisations and treasury departments to consider robots as part of their digital transformation strategy.

– Dennis Crispin, Senior Manager Ecosystems, Microsoft

Best practice and innovation

Advancements in artificial intelligence coupled with substantial growth in messaging apps, outpacing the growth of social networking apps, had made the future of chatbots look extremely bright. A chatbot presented a tremendous opportunity for the WPS team to better serve its internal stakeholders, the Microsoft sales teams, and eventually Microsoft’s customers and partners by creating a bot that can be deployed on any website and interact with any other bot in the Microsoft landscape.

“At Microsoft, we consider ‘impact’ to be the core measure of performance and success,” says Dennis Crispin, Senior Manager Ecosystems at Microsoft. “The Financing Assistant has had a huge impact already. What is most exciting is that the future is very bright for the Financing Assistant as plans are under way for it to learn even more impactful skills, expand to additional channels, and service exponentially more users.”

Key benefits

  • Time savings.
  • Efficiency gains.
  • Enables WPS to better support the wider business.

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