Blog post

The Rise of Voice Technology in Financial Services

Learn how voice technology is revamping financial services by making them an omnipresent part of consumers’ routines

February 05, 2019

8 mins read

From the tweety whistles of R2-D2 in Star Wars to Samantha’s deep voice in Her, science fiction movies have significantly impacted our expectations of the capabilities of real-world voice assistants. And then, Siri debuted. Although it could hardly handle something more complex than playing a song or showing the weather forecast when it debuted, it brought speech recognition into consumers’ everyday lives.

As artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) technologies progressed at breakneck speed, they enabled new capabilities for Siri and paved the way for new voice assistants such as Alexa and Cortana. Smartphones and cars answering our spoken questions are no longer science fiction.

Voice technology has already reached a maturity and comfort level sufficient to change how business–consumer relationships are built. We can ask a computer to order a pair of sneakers, book a hotel, or schedule a romantic dinner with our spouse. Voice-enabled virtual assistants are gaining more recognition every year, and the financial sector can benefit from applying voice technology in three use cases:

  • Voice-driven customer service
  • Voice-based banking
  • Voice-enabled payments

Voice-driven customer service

Customer service is an area financial institutions usually overlook. Automated response systems made customers so frustrated they desperately pressed zero to talk with a human after a long wait. Chatbots seemed to crack the code by enabling 24/7 instant replies. But the thing is that people speak three times faster than they type. So customers often use chatbots just to get connected with a live assistant. But instead of getting connected, they get stuck in a loop of the chatbot’s answers.

Discover key elements of an exceptional customer experience that can boost customer retention, loyalty, and profitability in the financial sector.

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When leading brands pamper consumers with exceptional digital experiences, financial services providers can’t afford irritating their customers. Luckily, voice technology has evolved enough to bring value to banks and financial services.

Modern AI-powered voice chatbots can accurately mimic human intonation, understand speech patterns, and make data-driven decisions in real time to create silky smooth and highly personalized customer experiences while coping with the complexities of financial services. Instead of searching for a routing number or outstanding payment due date, consumers can quickly get relevant information simply by asking out loud.

Voice interactions can be a precious customer data set conveying valuable information. Voice technology can identify customer sentiment based on tone of voice or word choice. When an NLP-powered chatbot recognizes annoyance in a customer’s voice, it can immediately direct them to an assistant.

However, to gain a stellar competitive advantage, financial institutions should expand voice technology beyond transactional activities and reimagine the customer journey across various channels, products, and services with end-to-end integration. Voice-driven customer service can provide convenience in the account opening process, proactively find the next best offer, or deliver tailored financial advice rather than relying on the customer to visit a branch or call a personal assistant.

The true opportunity lies not in addressing basic support questions with a chatbot, but in truly integrating all branch transactional activities with voice interaction technology.

PwC

The Turkish bank Garanti has developed a Mobile Interactive Assistant (MIA) that allows customers to interact with its mobile banking app by voice, creating the impression of a conversation with a person. MIA can also tell customers about promotions and discounts at nearby businesses. It can even anticipate users’ needs by analyzing their habits. Providing an omnichannel experience is among MIA’s most remarkable features. If a request cannot be addressed on a smartphone, MIA offers other ways to solve it. For example, when a customer says they have lost their credit card, MIA asks: “Would you like me to call Alo Garanti to cancel your card?”. When the customer says “yes,” the app connects them with the call center without requiring them to authenticate again.

Voice-based banking

Digital-only banks eliminate the need to visit branch locations by enabling customers to get whatever services they need by tapping their smartphone screens. With voice-activated banking, customers don’t even need to hold a phone. Thus, branch-free banking evolves into hands-free banking.

The Rise of Voice Technology in Financial Services

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With the omnipresence of virtual voice assistants, people are getting used to multitasking on the move. Convenience is the primary benefit of voice-based banking. Rather than logging in to a mobile banking app, customers can ask questions without stopping what they’re doing.

As voice assistant software solutions become more sophisticated, they’ll go further than simply letting people find their account balances conversationally. With voice assistants in banking software, customers will also be able to communicate with financial institutions, handling more complicated tasks like issuing invoices, paying taxes, getting loans, and renewing insurance policies.

Digital banking will become less visible because it will be embedded in other daily activities with the help of AI, voice interfaces and other emerging technologies.

American Banker

The Rise of Voice Technology in Financial Services

Source: PwC Consumer Intelligence Series voice assistants survey

If you ask people to think about someone using a voice assistant to get financial services, they most likely will describe someone in the kitchen making dinner. While that’s a valid scenario, there’s a more promising use case for voice-activated banking: connected cars.

Imagine driving home from work on Friday and thinking about the weekend ahead. Wouldn’t it be nice if your car reminded you about a bill due that day or to transfer funds to cover an upcoming payment? And wouldn’t it be even nicer if you could do that right away by just giving a voice command?

According to TechCrunch, the share of cars featuring in-car connected services is expected to reach 60% by 2024. This growth should come as no surprise, as many people spend much of their lives in the car looking for hands-free ways to kill time. Also, people usually hesitate to use voice assistants in public, and a car is private space for many, so security concerns aren’t a barrier. Since drivers already do many things from their smartphones, integrating payment technologies into connected cars promises to be a lucrative business opportunity — worth around $230 billion according to Digital Drive Report 2019, to be exact. And OEMs have already embarked on adopting voice payments. Honda has partnered with Visa to allow drivers to pay for everything from gas to parking and food with a voice-powered infotainment system. Meanwhile, Amazon is becoming an active automotive industry player by promoting its Echo Auto device for customers along with embedded voice connectivity offerings for OEMs.

Voice-based payments

Connected car payments are the logical answer to customers’ demands for multiproduct integrated experiences, known as ecosystems. Other examples of scenarios taking advantage of embedded payments in ecosystems include ordering and paying for groceries by voice via a smart fridge and automatically getting billed for a vanilla caramel latte when a coffee shop system recognizes your voice.

The majority of tech-savvy users have already accepted virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. The adoption of voice technology in banking and finance is a natural evolutionary step for them. Several FinTech leaders are already helping banks and financial businesses gain a virtual voice. At the same time, industry disruptors are developing their own solutions to leverage voice payment technology. Here are some examples:

  • KAI, a conversational AI platform from Kasisto, is used by JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard, Wells Fargo, and others.
  • Cognitive Banking Brain from Personetics serves over 50 million bank customers in the USA and across Europe and Asia.
  • In 2017, the Royal Bank of Canada, Barclays, and Santander introduced voice recognition payments via Siri.
  • Ally Bank has been interacting with its customers via Ally AssistSM since 2015, continually improving it to better recognize speech and provide more accurate answers.

The Rise of Voice Technology in Financial Services

Source: PaySafe Group Lost In Transaction Study

Today, voice payments are limited to minor eCommerce transactions, but machine learning algorithms for voice technology are improving. Soon, customers will feel comfortable enough to make more expensive and complicated purchases by voice.

Benefits of voice technology for banks and financial services

Minimize the risk of fraud

Unlike passwords and PINs, you can’t forget, lose, or steal biometrics. That’s why fingerprints and face recognition have stepped in for passwords, and voice technology adds another layer of security. Keeping information private while going through authentication procedures is a challenge for voice-based banking. But combining voice with contextual factors, such as geolocation or the unique rhythms detected by a smart watch, will create secure future payment solutions. 

HSBC prevented fraud losses of over £300 million by launching VoiceID back in 2016. Used by over 1.6 million UK customers, this voice biometrics system can identify unique characteristics of a customer’s voice to provide access to mobile banking services. When customers say their account details, they include the phrase “My voice is my password” to verify with the system and be granted account access.

Impressive new features to retain customers

For always-on Millennial customers, logging in to a banking app on a phone is the norm, so they expect silky smooth experiences from their banks. By adopting voice payments, established banks and newcomers alike can get a differentiating feature, building up customer lifetime value. Voice assistants can help customers understand current offerings and products and receive special offers through casual conversations whenever they feel like it. 

Striving to get the attention of the most tech-savvy customers? Learn how to leverage digital banking with the most business value.

Read more

Better KYC

Adopting biometrics for KYC management in banking and financial services will help verify customers without adding steps to the customer journey. It doesn’t eliminate the need for checking government-issued documents — which, by the way, can be easily forged. Yet voice biometrics can prevent the creation of multiple fake accounts by a single person. It’s an opportunity to systematically improve customer security and, therefore, lower the chance of fraud and money laundering across the industry.

Final thoughts

Voice recognition in banking is already transforming the way we search, shop, and travel. In time, it will reshape the entire way we interact with financial institutions. Virtual assistants and digital concierges will become our right hand in the everyday routine — at home, at work, in the car, and while traveling and shopping. All we have to do is develop voice-based financial software people trust.

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