Financial Services and Voice
Over the past 12 months, many financial services companies have integrated services with voice experiences. Some examples of companies that have launched services using voice technologies or platforms such as Alexa/Google Home/Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri to create voice experiences for their consumers are American Express, CaixaBank, Nationwide, Royal Bank of Canada, United Services Automobile Association, Barclays, National Australia Bank, HDFC Bank, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation.
Voice-based opportunities for businesses in the financial sector as related to customer service include providing rudimentary assistance in advising complex issues, proactive value-added services, contextual engagement and advanced advice with mass personalization, voice payment, voice commerce, conversational banking, and virtual assistants that include both the single assistants and integration of multiple virtual assistants or the firm’s own voice integrated virtual assistants. The challenges identified include lack of consumer education and value-added capabilities, isolated nature of banking, and obtaining financial institutions to agree or share a platform while going for omnichannel virtual assistants.
After a thorough search through industry reports, technical papers, press releases, and other trusted media sites, we were able to gather 10 examples of financial services companies that have launched services using voice platforms over the past 12 months (from May 2017 to present). A global approach provided examples from North America (U. S and Canada), Europe (UK and Spain), and Asia-Pacific (Singapore, India, and Australia). Every example identified used either Alexa/Google Home/Google Assistant, or Apple’s Siri. We found two lists of US banks that are using voice-related technologies. Although the lists do not state if they have launched services over the past 12 months, we utilized it as just references.
Financial Sector Voice Integration
Voice-related technologies like Google Home and Apple’s Siri have been changing customer behavior ever since their inception. Financial service companies are increasingly investing in artificial intelligence and voice-centric solutions to help their customers with increased efficiency. According to a study by Accenture in 2017, over 76% of banks in the United States alone, plan on improving customer experiences using AI and voice technology will be a primary factor in the development.
Example #1: American Express
American Express launched their Amex skill as a part of Amazon Alexa on May 11, 2017, for its customers in the United States. Amex skill is used to gather together selected experiences of the Amex mobile app and AmericanExpress.com to the Amazon’s voice service, Alexa, within digital devices like Echo Dot and Amazon Echo. Amex skill is eligible to all US customers and OPEN Card Members who have an American Express ID. Customers can link their American Express online account to the Amex skill, and by doing so, they can review their account balance, make payments, and review recent changes, through voice commands on their Alexa device.
Example #2: CaixaBank
In May 2017, Spain-based CaixaBank launched a new service that enables customers to make payments and transfer money using Siri voice commands on their iPhones. CaixaBank is the first Spanish bank to provide a voice-controlled method of payment. Once the voice command is issued, the customer’s smartphone prepares the automated action, completes the information of the recipient, references the payment, and is ready to be confirmed with a touch of a button. This service supports the transfer of money between users via Siri voice commands. The feature is available to all the clients of CaixaBank but is operational only on iPhones.
Example #3: Nationwide
In July 2017, the Fortune 100 financial services company, Nationwide, launched the SmartRide, which was added to its Nationwide skill for Amazon Alexa. The aim was to offer a new method of communication with their clients about its “safe-driving, usage-based insurance program”. SmartRide enables members to ask Alexa about their premium status and obtain an overview with information on hard brakes, idle time, night-time driving, fast acceleration, estimated discount of the program and final discount upon completion of the program. The company’s primary goal is to encourage members to inculcate safe-driving habits.
Example #4: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
In August 2017, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) launched a new service through an update for its mobile app that enables consumers to make bill payments with Siri voice commands. When the customer makes a voice command, Siri is programmed to verify the payee name from the list and the mobile app debits the appropriate amount from the user’s account automatically and finishes the operation by sending the payment. RBC is the first bank in Canada to launch the service that uses voice-enabled bill payments using Apple’s Siri.
Example #5: United Services Automobile Association (USAA)
In August 2017, USAA launched a service with a virtual assistant that performs with Alexa, Amazon’s voice interaction device. The service enables its members to ask Alexa about their balances, account details, spending, and transactions. In return, Alexa will respond with specific details from the user’s USAA bank accounts and card. As a safety feature, USAA has developed a registered voice PIN which will prevent random people from consulting Alexa about someone else’s account.
Example #6: Barclays
In August 2017, United Kingdom-based Barclays bank launched a service that enables its customers to make payments through the integration of Apple virtual assistant, Siri. Through this service, customers can issue payments using voice commands within the Barclays Mobile Banking app. However, Barclay’s customers will have to authenticate the payment transaction via TouchID.
Example #7: National Australia Bank (NAB)
In October 2017, the National Australia Bank (NAB) launched its voice-activated Talk to NAB service, enabling their customers to ask any basic banking question like how to reset their password or how to replace a lost bank card. Talk to NAB is integrated with Google Home or any smartphone that has a Google Assistant.
Example #8: HDFC Bank
In October 2017, India-based HDFC Bank launched a service that enables its consumers to ask Alexa to check and report their balances, find out the payments and due dates of their bills, and make bill payments. Please note that the service is still in the experiment/beta stage.
Example #9: Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA)
In November 2017, Spain-based BBVA launched a service that allowed its consumers to use Apple’s voice assistant Siri to transfer money between individual accounts. The service was made possible due to the development of their Bizum system. The Bizum system allows users to transfer money between cell phones using the apps of the major banks of Spain.
Example #10: Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC)
In February 2018, Singapore-based OCBC Bank launched a service that allows its consumers to use Apple’s voice assistant, Siri, to check their account balances, credit and debit card details, and make instant online bill payments. Members are required to validate their transaction, however, via biometric (fingerprints) authentication or facial recognition.
Financial Sector Voice Opportunities
Artificial intelligence is being implemented in various industrial sectors. Platforms that use voice-based interfaces are becoming increasingly used in numerous financial sectors and have become a preferred mode of engagement for many digital consumers. Voice engagement is enabled in devices like Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, and Google Home that use technologies such as artificial intelligence, natural-language processing (NLP), and machine learning. The next generation virtual assistants will be able to help consumers access their financial portfolio, goals, trends, and banking history through their voice-activated devices. Over the next 5 years, consumers will more likely “demand voice-based interactions in banking” and in the next decade, over 50% of all banking interactions is expected to be made through voice-first devices.
— Faster and Accurate Support
Voice experience has the ability to become a “third pillar of a financial institution’s distribution network”. Conversational technology uses real-time analysis to develop contextual conversations in a way that humans normally do. With the help of cloud-stored big data, individualized engagement is possible. Services that provide rudimentary support to advise complex issues, conversational AI systems that cater to improving the customer service departments, can be transformed to become more accurate and fast in services. According to a study conducted by CapGemini, over 49% of consumers believe, that voice devices are faster and more accurate than humans.
— Provide Value added services proactively
This particular type of engagement enables a new sector of personalization where current internal data and external data is combined with historical interactions. The insights obtained from the interactions between machines and humans have the potential to yield value-added benefits proactively by financial services companies.
— Provide Mass Personalization
The integration of advanced analytics, predictive models, and big data is leading to personalization at a “mass level”. This reinforces consumer experiences while raising expectations of the financial services companies based on the rate at which the services across the industries are delivered. “The best-in-class” companies will be able to integrate voice-based platforms to go beyond the basic rudimentary services and will include contextual engagement and advanced advice. According to Mashable, Samsung was reported to have partnered with three of the largest banks in South Korea to develop voice command banking facilities for South Korean users.
— Elevate to Conversational Banking
This technology will help financial services providers to reach digital and heavy users of messaging apps, especially millennials. According to the managing director of Accenture Interactive, Mark Sherwin, the advancements made in voice recognition technology is gradually spreading its reach throughout the world, becoming more sophisticated. Financial services companies have the opportunity to work on better engagement with the help of voice-activated conversations. In doing so, will lead to the overarching of the brand. The success of the financial providers will be determined by those organizations that can properly automate and integrate voice-activated platforms across their channels and “with real-time insights”.
— Voice Payment
According to BI Intelligence, 18 million consumers in the United States have made payments via voice commands and the figure is expected to rise at a CAGR of 31% by 2022. It is expected that voice banking and voice-initiated payments will hold ample advantages with organizations that implement them first since there are numerous financial services providers that are experimenting with the Internet of Things, voice assistants, and AI. It is expected that most financial institutions will transfer from general dialogue to operating transactions and making payments via voice commands.
Nuance and Personetics are considered leaders in launching voice assistants. Personetics developed a virtual assistant, Ally Assist, in their Ally’s mobile banking app, while Nuance provides voice assistants in mobile banking apps at Santander Bank, USAA, and others. Some banks like German bank N26 and UK bank Monzo provide P2P payments with voice-assistant Siri. Although voice experience capabilities are currently at the early stages around the world, financial firms can offer improved experiences that provide a direct relationship with the consumer.
— Voice Commerce
Based on a study conducted by CapGemini, in the next three years, over 40% of all consumers will utilize voice assistants instead of apps and websites, as opposed to 24% today. The study also suggests that 31% of consumers will use a voice-activated device rather than visiting a bank branch or a store, compared to 20% today. Bixby, which is integrated with Samsung’s Galaxy S8, enables users to make financial payments and transactions by voice commands via Samsung Pass and Samsung Pay. Capital One launched a new skill which enables their users to conduct their banking transactions via voice commands, including operations like checking balances, making payments, and reviewing transactions.
— Single Virtual Assistant integrated across multiple devices
Financial institutions believe that in the near future there will be a high order of connectivity across different devices and types of interactions. U. S Bank has been developing programs that use virtual assistant technologies with the aim to provide consistent services across multiple platforms and devices.
— Omnichannel Virtual Assistants
Financial services providers will offer omnichannel virtual assistants in the near future, according to Zor Gorelov, chief executive of Kasisto. Through the use of an omnichannel assistant, consumers will be able to ask Alexa for their account balances, transaction details, and account details. Alexa will then respond with a detailed overview and offer to send a copy of the details through the member’s mobile app. At present, most banks are looking to work with Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa. There are a few challenges to the use of omnichannel virtual assistants, one being that the major providers of the technology like Amazon, Apple, and Google would have to agree on the same standard of work to “make their platforms interoperable”. Another hurdle is for financial services providers to share the same platform so that consumers can perform transactions at different banks with the use of the same virtual assistant. Banks will also look into building their own voice-based services that speak of the bank’s brand values.
Although voice capabilities are on the rise leading to initial success, the growth rate will reduce due to the lack of value-added capabilities and the lack of consumer education on the related technologies. Companies would have to use education as a means of promoting these new methods of interaction. Without consumer-centric benefits and education, customers are more likely to use chatbots than voice assistants in financial channels. It is also found that the isolated nature of banking can pose another challenge in the seamless use of digital assistants in financial services.
To wrap up, we have identified 10 examples of businesses in the financial services sector that have integrated voice experiences in the past 12 months. American Express, CaixaBank, Nationwide, Royal Bank of Canada, USAA, Barclays, NAB, HDFC Bank, BBVA, and OCBC are the banks that have successfully launched services with the integration of Alexa/Google Home/Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri. Voice-based opportunities for businesses in the financial sector as related to customer service include fast and accurate financial support, proactive value-added services, mass personalization, elevation to conversational banking, voice payment, voice commerce, single virtual assistant working across multiple devices, and omnichannel virtual assistants.