Voice Banking: What’s Old is New Again

Capital One was the first U.S. bank to integrate with Amazon’s Alexa platform.

I am as excited about Alexa/Cortana/Siri/Google as the next geek (except maybe for this guy) and look forward to seeing many examples at Finovate in 2 weeks. We already own a pair of Amazon Echos and we’ll probably get more. Our biggest uses: music, the grocery shopping list (which still requires a visual to use when shopping), and as a kitchen timer. We love it. But is it a great interface for financial services? I’m not sure.

1987 AT&T advertisement

Roll back the clock three decades. Voice banking was the newest thing. It offered 24/7 access to bank balances and transactions. No more waiting for a paper statement, queuing up at an ATM or even going to a branch.

However, when the Internet arrived in the late 1990s, routine automated queries began migrating from the phone, where it was tedious and time consuming to “listen” to data, to the wonderful new visual medium. Users could comprehend a series of numbers much, much faster visually than orally.

So when I see the hype around voice banking, it’s hard not to think that we’ve just gone backwards in UX by two decades. I don’t think the current crop of voice products are all that compelling for day-to-day banking. Sure, “Alexa, what’s my balance?” is easier and faster than calling a toll-free number or even logging in to mobile banking. But most customers looking for their balance also need to understand the transactions that created it. And for that a visual aid is much better than a recital of a bunch of figures.

To add value, voice interfaces must handle requests AND deliver results that are not better served with visuals. (Note: We are not talking about voice commands for mobile or desktop banking which do add value for almost any task.) What might those use cases be?

  • Annotating transactions:
    Trigger: “Alexa ask me what my recent purchases were for?”
    Alexa: “$12.77 at Pizza Press yesterday?”
    User: “Lunch with Charlie at school”
    Alexa: “$64.12 at Office Depot on Monday?”
    User: “Business expense for office supplies”
  • Second factor for online/mobile banking
  • Alerts (assuming Alex could proactively start a conversation with you)
  • Routine customer service questions (such as Capital One example above)

Bottom line: For marketing and convenience reasons, financial institutions will Alexa-enable a wide variety of tasks such as transaction queries, transferring funds, authorizing payments, and so on. But few of those tasks are handled more effectively by two-way voice communications. Sometimes, it may prove more convenient (e.g., think of a busy parent trying to avoid an overdraft while making dinner for their 3-year old). But even if they can use Alexa, I think most people will pull out their mobile phone for the majority of banking tasks, very likely using voice commands to simplify the input process.

Author: Jim Bruene (@netbanker) is Founder & Senior Advisor to Finovate as well as Principal of BUX Advisors, a financial services user-experience consultancy. 


Photo credit

Finovate Alumni News– November 29, 2011

  • Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Finovate-F-Logo.jpgContra Costa Times describes how PayNearMe works for the underbanked.
  • The Motley Fool examines how Dwolla compares to credit card payment options.
  • Banking Technology interviews Jonathan Assia, eToro CEO.
  • Business Weekly reports Voice Commerce plans to expand with more staff and a larger office building.
  • The CBS Early Show recommends using BillShrink to help you calculate how  much RAM, storage, & data you need.
  • Cartera Commerce powers Navy FCU’s card-linked offer program.
  • cbanc Network partners with HEIT, a Computer Services company, to survey FI strategies.
  • eToro Partners reaches out for regional partnership applications.
  • My Peer-to-Peer Lending Site’s blog profiles LendingKarma.
  • Failsafe Payments adds SafetyPay to CertoConnect.
This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Alumni News — Week of June 27, 2011

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ActivePath
A top Brazilian card issuer implemented an ActivePath solution. Link
AlphaClone
AlphaClone incorporated new sentiment scores into its stock view pages. Link
Bills.com
Bills.com released the results from its Consumer Money Survey that gauges money attitudes and behaviors. Link
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Blaze Mobile
Blaze Mobile was awarded a patent for NFC on stickers. Link
BOKU
BOKU released 1-Tap Mobile Billing for the Android and took it live in 56 countries. Link
Braintree
Braintree received $34M in Series A funding from Accel. Link
Currensee

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Reuters outlined the benefits of Currensee. Link
Credit Karma
Credit Karma CEO Ken Lin advised consumers how they should deal with credit card offers. Link
doxo 
doxo won the Stevie Award for New Product of the Year for financial services in the 2011 American Business Awards. Link
Dwolla
Dwolla said its Grid payment network is more secure than Visa and MasterCard’s card networks. Link
Dynamics
Dynamics raised $35M for computerized smartcards and payment systems. Link
eToro

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Reuters outlined the benefits of eToro. Link
eWise
gotoBilling, Inc. added eWise’s Secure Vault Payments as another payment platform. Link
Expensify
The Wall Street Journal listed Expensify as a must-have mobile tech tool for entrepreneurs. Link
Fiserv
Fiserv entered into an agreement to acquire CashEdge for $465 million to advance its digital payments and channel strategies. Link

Guardian Analytics

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Yahoo! Finance reported that Guardian Analytics’ FraudMAP is helping financial institutions meet FFIEC guidelines. Link
HelloWallet
HelloWallet was added to Mercer’s Outsourcing business benefits administration. Link
Intuit
Intuit purchased Mobile Money Ventures’ web banking technology to augment its mobile banking capabilities. Link
Kony Solutions

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The American Business Awards selected Kony Solutions as the Most Innovative Company of the YearLink
Lendio
The Launch blog highlighted Lendio. Link
Outright
Outright rolled out a new report function allowing clients to view sales by state. Link
PayPal
PayPal reached 100 million active users. Link

Profit Stars
Profit Stars introduced its new Remote Deposit Anywhere solution. Link
Prosper
  • Former Lending Club director Joseph Toms joined Prosper as its Chief Investment Officer. Link
  • The San Francisco Times reported on Prosper’s growth. Link
Q2ebanking

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Q2ebanking was noted as a service to help community financial institutions meet FFIEC Guidance. Link
SimpleTuition
SimpleTuition expanded its student loan payment options by partnering with Discover Card. Link
SmartyPig
SmartyPig was recommended by Mint.com as a way to save for impulse purchases. Link
TradeKing
TradeKing implemented SunGard’s MarketMap to deliver market data to its active trading platform. Link
UBank
Mashable highlighted UBank’s feedback forum. Link
Voice Commerce
Voice Commerce launched a payment solution for the iPhone. Link
Wikinvest

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PC mag reviewed Wikinvest’s mobile app. Link
Xero
Tech Day assessed Xero’s Debtor Daddy service. Link

Alumni News– Week of June 20, 2011

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AlphaClone
AlphaClone launched a new feature that measures sentiment. Link
BillFLO
Taulia acquired BillFLO. Link
Bills.com

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Bills.com shared money-saving strategies for recent college graduates. Link
BrightScope
BrightScope was highlighted on the Tuscon NBC news channel series, “4 Your Money.” Link
CashEdge
Ally Bank began offering CashEdge’s Popmoney service. Link
Continuity Control

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LEVERAGE, the Service Corporation for the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, began offering Continuity Control’s CreditUnion Assistant program. Link
CreditKarma
Credit Karma introduced its Approval Odds service to help avoid being declined for a card. Link
Currensee
Currensee reached $6 billion in trading volume and $12 million under management. Link
doxo
The MakeUseOf blog reviewed doxo’s online filing cabinet. Link
Dwolla
  • Dwolla CEO commented on the Bitcoin virtual currency debate, exchange, and hysteria.  Link
  • Dwolla’s fees were compared to PayPal’s. Link
  • Silicon Prairie News discussed Dwolla CEO’s comments on Bitcoin. Link
eWise
eWise Payo’s smartphone app won the Editor’s Award for Consumer Focus at the 2011 Cards International Awards. Link
Expensify

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  • The Dallas News highlighted Expensify. Link
  • Expensify was listed as one of 25 tools to help you manage spending by cmvlive.com Link
HelloWallet
HelloWallet posted a short video series explaining its wealth-tracking service. Link
Jwaala

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KEMBA Financial Credit Union implemented Jwaala’s platform. Link
Lending Club
  • Lending Club is approaching its financial breakeven point. Link
  • Reuters commented on Lending Club’s P2P marketplace. Link
Lendio
Lendio helped banks increase business loans by finding qualified borrowers. Link
Mortgagebot

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Mortgagebot and Business Solutions extended their Tech Alliance to provide mortgage application solutions at preferred terms. Link
PayNearMe
PayNearMe facilitated 7-Eleven’s partnership with Greyhound for cash transactions. Link
Prosper
Reuters commented on Prosper’s P2P marketplace. Link
Receivables Exchange

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The Receivables Exchange won 2011 “Management Team of the Year” at the Stevie Awards. Link
Strands
Strands Personal Finance landed in the 2011 Red Herring Top 100 North America list. Link
TradeKing
TradeKing announced its free webinar series on trading advice beginning July 12th. Link
Voice Commerce

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Voice Commerce launched its CashFlows app. Link
Xero
Getapp.com reviewed Xero’s cloud-based software. Link