8 FOCUSREPORT/Advances in FintechAFebruary 2020 CU Times article, “Voice Tech Is Quiet, but Credit Unions AreReady to Get Loud,” opened with:“It’s taking longer than expectedfor people to warm up to buyingthings with their smart speakers,according to new research.” Whilethis may be true (depending onwhose expectations you’re measuring), it’s important that creditunions not miss the forest for thetrees.
With financial services, voicetechnology is going to be so muchbigger than using a smart speakerto buy something. And its significance is so much greater than thenovelty of members being able touse their Amazon Alexa or GoogleHome to ask, “What’s my accountbalance?” For credit unions, themagic of voice technology isn’tabout the device … the magic is inhow it transforms your members’relationships with their moneyand you.
Yes, consumers will be empowered to purchase, subscribe, buyand reserve using their voices, butthe biggest draw of artificial intel-ligence-backed voice technologyis the ability to engage memberslike never before. And technologythat enables intelligent interactions with members when they’reaway from the branch is evenmore important amid and afterthe pandemic.
To illustrate, let’s focus on just
one use case, that of Personal
Financial Management. Credit
union members want
to understand and
track their financial
situations, which re-
quires easy access
to information and
For many years, creditunions have beenworking hard to gettheir members to takeadvantage of PFMtools within onlineand mobile banking, which deepen amember’s relationship with his orher financial institution. And yes,there are some members who canactually squeeze every bit of valuefrom these tools for each monthly,quarterly and annual reconciledstatement. These members categorize, export files, sort, pivot,forecast and play with the numbersto their hearts’ content, all in aneffort to deepen their understanding of their finances. But, sadly, forthe vast majority of members, thisdeep understanding feels unattainable. The work is far too tedious,analytical and time-consuming.
Fortunately, for members whoaren’t “math people,” there’s anew interface in town. The voicechannel can serve as the bridgeto cross the chasm of intimidationand engage more deeply. Leveraging something as easy to use asvoice, credit unions can maximizeaccessibility for their members –and as we all know, the more accessible you make something, themore members are going to use it.
People are hungryfor analysis of theirmoney behaviors andpatterns. Give them aglimpse of this deepinsight into their finances, and they’llwant more – it becomes part of theirregular routines.
In its simplest form,AI-backed conversational voice technology for credit unionswill eliminate theneed for members to hunt and peckthrough menus to find detailed information about their saving andspending. There’s no longer theneed to dig into an online portalor create a spreadsheet. Instead ofwriting a macro Excel function aswide as a computer screen, creditunion members would be able toask a simple question using natural language, such as “How muchshould I budget for take-out basedon my spending on restaurantsover the past six months?” (Andfor those readers visualizing thatmacro Excel function right now:Good job! You be you, but knowthat you’re in the minority. As forthe rest of the world, this voice-enabled “easy button” is in need,and the trend toward the voice interface is growing.)
Consumers are already pro-
gramming themselves to find
things using their voices. They’re
ditching button-pressing in fa-
vor of speaking to control their
entertainment experiences, for
example. From Amazon Fire TV
to Apple TV, more and more con-
sumers are saying, “Play ‘West-
world,’ Season Three, Episode
One on HBO Go.” These changing
consumer habits in non-financial
aspects of everyday life are set-
ting the stage for voice tech to take
hold in personal finances.
What’s more, in the near future conversational engagementwill not be limited to interactionswith an individual device. TheAmazons, Googles and Apples ofthe world are right now laying thegroundwork for our everyday reality to be controlled by continualvoice commands with technologies we have yet to experience.These companies want you tochoose them to provide the operating system for your life.
Alexa is already integrated intomore than 100,000 smart homeproducts from over 9,500 brands,with hundreds of millions of Al-exa-enabled devices in customers’ hands worldwide. And voice-controlled, cloud-computingsoftware will soon be built intonearly every new gadget, vehicleand building. Multi-device triangulation in the Internet of Things– several devices within your environment communicating withone another and working together– will make it possible for you tostep into the shoes of Capt. JamesT. Kirk aboard the USS Enterprise:Nearly wherever you are, information will be available based onthe “context of you” – location,content type and historical preferences – and presented to you audibly or visually in a multi-modalexperience, just like Star Trek.
Enhancing the security of thisnew voice-driven reality, multi-factor authentication will takeinto account a consumer’s behavior, location, devices and otherbiometrics. Thanks to artificialintelligence and biometric technology, users will not even berequired to speak to verify theiridentities and initiate interaction.Persistent authentication willenable this widespread conversational engagement to work seamlessly across devices so it’s in flowwith daily life.
Consumers – especially the 82million millennials and more than90 million Gen Zers – will expecttheir financial information to besecurely plugged into their chosen cloud-computing platformso that they can participate in thisnew world. To attract and retainyounger members, credit unionsmust embrace next-generationtechnology and compete. Tech-enabled convenience is often themajor selling point for challengerbanks vying to win the loyalty ofcustomers.
Credit unions adopting smartspeaker technology see the biggerpicture; they’re not only meetingmembers’ new needs today, butalso laying a foundation for thefuture. And as KayCee Murray,Numerica Credit Union’s SVP ofIT, explained during her interview with CU Times, people maynot know what they’re missing,but they immediately understandas soon as they experience it forthemselves. AI-powered voicetechnology unlocks a whole newworld of money management …help consumers keep a finger onthe pulse of their finances, andthey’ll be hooked.
Voice-directed financial technology today is in its adolescence;we’re at the beginning of something that’s much bigger than“buy this” or “what’s that?” In theearly days of the internet, peopledidn’t really get the point of having an online store. It wasn’t until the number of internet usersexploded and new ways to drivetraffic to a website emerged thatpeople understood. They didn’tsee until it was already there.
So, don’t make the commonmistake of assuming that lower-than-expected adoption figuresat the outset mean that voice willfade away. It’s full steam aheadfor conversational engagement,evidenced by new habits formedout of necessity due to the coronavirus threat and major movesin Silicon Valley before the pandemic even started. The goodnews is that credit unions can geton board now to stay ahead of thecurve, rather than risk being leftbehind. n
Voice Banking Is So Much Bigger Than Smart Speakers
Michael BoukadakisCEOENACOMMTulsa, Okla.