Is Voice Assistant Technology the Future of Banking?

Ask anyone you know: what’s the longest you’ve had to stand in line at your bank? Chances are high that you’ll hear a number of stories detailing long, frustrating experiences at their bank that left them feeling irked and ignored the longer they stood there.

Banks and financial institutions have a unique opportunity to use technology to create a tailored approach using empathy and automation for the delicate and sensitive nature of finance. And this begins with how users search for information to meet their specific needs.

Over 50 percent of users do at least one voice search online per day. Experts estimate that the current market share of virtual digital assistant/voice assistants will triple by 2021. Our world is becoming ever-increasingly connected and automated. Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have shifted the way we view our daily list of to-dos by enabling us to manage our time and tasks more efficiently. Over one-third of people say that digital assistants are part of their daily lives.

Voice Assistant Technology

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Currently, much of VA technology is being used for devices that manage mundane and simple tasks, such as:

  • Finding restaurant reservations and maintaining our home’s temperature
  • Using home assistants to include items on our shopping lists while our hands are full
  • Setting a timer while we cook
  • Making basic search queries for the weather forecast

However, can the emergence of VA technology be the bright future that banking needs? How will this technology enable banks and financial institutions to better serve their clients in the short and long term, without creating unnecessary barriers to our personal, human interactions?

From then Until Now: AI and Finance

Robots assisting customers with their banking needs is not a recent innovation. Indeed, anyone who has had to repeat themselves on the phone in order to be understood through a series of voice commands, or those who have been denied a bank loan because of a restrictive computer program, can attest to the fact that AI and automatic technology have been around for years.

The Banking Technology Vision 2017 report from Accenture states that not only do 80 percent of all bankers believe that voice-assistant technology will revolutionize their industry, but they believe it will do so within three years. While that timeline may seem short, the reality for many banking leaders is that they’re already starting to see the benefits of using VA tech for both customer interactions and data management.

We’ve seen tremendous advances in the field of natural language processing (NLP, for short). Users have gone from the example above, where customers would find themselves frustrated and despondent at the near-fruitless interactions with their banks, to the natural and organic conversations that we carry on with Alexa and Siri, experiencing moments of ease and delight.

When implemented well, voice-assistant technology brings customers and banks closer together. Here are a few examples of companies creating meaningful transactions and interactions with VA technology while considering the needs and wants of both their company and their customers.

Leading by Example

As a leader in the financial and banking industry, you need to meet your users where they are. And for the vast majority, that means reaching them through their mobile devices. It’s not difficult to find apps that are already making strides in tailoring their customers’ experiences while managing their financial portfolios.

Apps such as Mint (budgeting app from Intuit), Venmo (digital wallet to send payments), and Stash (investment and savings app) offer something that has been missing from much of banking: personality. Users can have a more organic interaction with these apps, empowering them to make smarter financial decisions, becoming better customers.

Tomorrow’s AI-Enabled Banking, a recent report from IPSoft highlights the fact that “73% of millennials would rather trust their finances to tech companies like Google, Amazon or PayPal than to their own bank.” That’s no small matter, and banks should be paying attention to numbers such as these.

Leading by Example

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Financial institution Cap One recently partnered with Amazon to allow users to access their bank accounts and account info with their voice. In addition, Santander enables their customers to make payments and authorize transfers using their voice within their SmartBank app.

Products, services and customer care interactions are increasingly being injected with a sense of humanness, regardless of the level of automation involved. These interpersonal relationships between you and your customers may be the difference between winning or losing to your competitors, both to existing competitors and to new market players.

People and Data: What to Prioritize in VA Technology

Voice-assisted tech is growing in popularity simply because it is easier to use. With that advantage, your company can focus on three key areas to consider when implementing (or enhancing your current) VA technology platform and mobile app: security, accuracy, and platform.

Security

Security (and privacy), while ubiquitous for banking institutions, is an ever-present concern when new technology (or any technology) is involved. Be forward-thinking in your approach to speech recognition software (and updates), password requirements, and situational consideration of privacy (for example, the option to simply display, rather than recite, confidential financial information on the screen when in a public place).

Accuracy

Despite all the advancements and innovations, VA will never be 100% correct all the time. Put safeguards in place for those times when things break down to ensure customers aren’t feeling lost or frustrated. Create a plan to handle misunderstandings when someone’s voice commands aren’t understood clearly by a bot, to prevent would-be disastrous mistakes that could cost both you and your customers significant losses.

Platform

While customers can move from app to app with ease depending on their needs, large enterprises require a strategic, considered approach to choosing the right platform for their users. For many, Facebook chatbots are the simplest and fastest form of reaching their clients, but that avenue is often too informal for most banks and financial institutions. In this regard, consider a customized yet manageable approach to your back-end technology. If you plan well, your users will continue to grow with you and your technology without you being limited in the future to the popular platforms in today’s market.

You can effectively harness VA technology in your banking app to leverage not only the existing knowledge base and familiarity with technology that consumers possess, but also to maintain a formidable competitive edge, establishing your company as a leader in the marketplace. AI and VA technology offer you the flexibility to meet customer needs with fewer resources in less time.

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Nikunj Sanghvi Nikunj is passionate about technology, design and mobile and stays up to date with current trends in these domains. He leads our Sales and Business Development efforts in the US, out of our San Francisco office.

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