The Bank of Scotland is piloting the use of a virtual assistant to answer common customer queries over the bank’s iPhone app.

The AI-based messaging agent has been trained to handle customer questions about account balances and unknown transactions, how to make payments and what to do about lost or stolen cards.

Customers using the virtual assistant will be able to pause mid-chat and pick up their their query at any time, without having to start the conversation again.

If the automated route fails, the customer will be given the option to transfer to a human service agent at any point during the conversation.

Nick Williams, managing director, consumer digital, at the Bank of Scotland, said: “We are experimenting with how we use artificial intelligence technology to help our customers find the information they want in the simplest and most convenient way possible.

“This is an exciting first step for us in using AI and messaging technology, and we’re keen to see how our customers like the service.” The pilot is accessible to 50,000 Bank of Scotland iOS mobile customers.

The use of virtual assistants is increasing; earlier this year Village Hotels introduced a virtual concierge, based on Amazon’s Alexa, in each room at its Glasgow site.

Meanwhile, the impact of artificial intelligence on the workforce of the future was debated at a conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week. Several speakers at the event felt that AI will spawn new businesses and industries, creating more jobs than it destroys.

But Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Google research in China and currently a technology investor, countered: “Many optimists say in tech revolutions, jobs will go, jobs will come. While there are places where jobs will be created, I’d say that’s the exception. In my opinion, the white-collar workforce gets challenged first—blue-collar work later.”