Artificial Intelligence (AI) and voice technology have gone a long way to transforming our personal lives in the last few years. From talking to Google, Alexa and Siri, we can control much of what we do without even lifting a finger. Whilst the case for using voice is quite clear in these applications, there are other industries where it could be advantageous but, voice remains largely untested.
One such industry is banking. As something that we need to manage every day, there are several use cases that would help us be more efficient. Perhaps we could make payments or transfer money via voice commands for example. In a report from Waracle, the statistics around voice emphasize just how much consumers have adapted to the technology. It shows that:
• According to Google, 20% of all searches are now voice
• 31% of smartphone users are using voice tech at least once per week
• 30% of all web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by the end of 2020
With that in mind, it is important that industries like banking gear up for voice technology. Around one-third of consumers in the US use mobile banking more than any other mobile app, making voice the perfect compliment.
Voice in Banking
Banks are already testing features that use AI-based voice recognition and have been utilizing prototypes since around 2014. Although slow to take off, the market influence of Alexa and Google Home has helped some banks take it to the next level with a surge of pilots during 2018 and 2019. Payment companies like PayPal and Venmo are also experimenting with using Siri to make payments via conversations.
According to Deltec Bank, Bahamas- “As more institutions start to integrate the technology, using AI and voice in this way will ultimately be fundamental for maintaining a competitive advantage.”
Voice Account Servicing
The most common use case for voice banking is in allowing customers to use speech for checking account balances, transaction history, and other details.
UK-based Natwest Bank has deployed a solution using Google Home that lets customers ask “What’s my balance?” or “What’s my latest transactions?” The Google device will give the answer verbally and also send it to the smartphone of the customer.
Voice data can also be mapped to existing machine learning models within banks. A clear example of this comes with frequently asked questions. These common queries tend to have definitive responses that do not necessarily need input from a human agent. Banks can deploy common queries into voice-activated devices to ensure customers can get responses whenever they need them. Many are already doing this with online chatbots and therefore have the existing technology.
It has been estimated that the implementation of voice technology could be worth up to $3bn in the US alone through redirecting simple customer requests. This is from requests that currently take over 50% of call center time. From the banking perspective, this gives more scope to invest in products and technology rather than having to be concerned about the cost of operations.
HSBC bank launched its voice technology in 2016 called VoiceID and have prevented fraud losses of over £300m. The technology can identify the individual characters of their customer’s voices to provide access to telephone banking. Customers are only granted access to their accounts if they use specific phrases.
Voice Activated Payments
The Royal Bank of Canada was the first in the country to enable bill payments using Siri. The objective was to offer customers the most convenient way to pay and support their ever-changing needs. Payments are secure and protected by TouchID meaning all customers need to do is type the amount of money they want to send and select who it is going to.
Garanti Bank in Turkey launched a voice-based assistant called “Mobile Interactive Assistant” (MIA). To use the technology, customers need to just say who they want to send money to and the name of the establishment. The app will also tell customers about account history and balances. Customers can even cancel their credit cards by asking the app which will automatically put them in touch with customer service. Results from Garanti say that of customers using the app, 60% report high satisfaction with the operation.
Naturally, with new technology comes the concern around data privacy. An article from The Guardian reported that Google workers are able to listen to what people say on their AI home devices. However, in cases like NatWest above, the bank confirmed that Google would not be storing banking passwords and instead would use separate voice pins with the technology.
Nonetheless, without due care, there are risks that other people may be able to hear your balance or transaction history. Security company Kaspersky has warned people of the risks that recordings could be stored by vendors even though they say otherwise, given that is a selling point of voice-activated technology. The company has also questioned whether voice technology solves a problem in banking or creates additional ones.
The growing take-up of smart speakers does suggest that voice banking would be something consumers want. The main problem it solves is around multi-tasking, in the same way, that people use voice-activated devices for turning on lights, music or appliances. For example, you could check your balance whilst ordering a product on your mobile to ensure you have enough money.
Another advantage is for vulnerable customers. Partially sighted or blind customers can check their account without needing to use a screen and could be revolutionary in that instance. The same applies to people who struggle with technology and can instead just start a conversation without the need for machines.
Banks will need to have clearly laid out security and privacy terms to gain initial trust.
As voice technology has become very intuitive at understanding customer intent during conversations, the time for industries like banking to investing has come. Customers want to work with trusted companies that can cater to their needs and the statistics certainly suggest that voice is one of those. As well as enhanced customer experience, the potential for reduced costs means an exciting future for banking.
Disclaimer: The author of this text, Robin Trehan, has an Undergraduate degree in economics, Masters in international business and finance and MBA in electronic business. Trehan is Senior VP at Deltec International www.deltecbank.com. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text are solely the views of the author, and not necessarily reflecting the views of Deltec International Group, its subsidiaries and/or employees.
About Deltec Bank
Headquartered in The Bahamas, Deltec is an independent financial services group that delivers bespoke solutions to meet clients’ unique needs. The Deltec group of companies includes Deltec Bank & Trust Limited, Deltec Fund Services Limited, and Deltec Investment Advisers Limited, Deltec Securities Ltd. and Long Cay Captive Management.