If voice is universal, so, too, is money — or, to be more accurate, finance.
And a universal duality, perhaps, may be voice-enabled finance, if Fiserv’s vision rings true.
For the PYMNTS 2018 Voice Challenge, Fiserv’s own video submission showcased voice-enabled banking that moves beyond the confines of mere spoken commands.
In an interview with Brian Abele, director, Segment Solution Strategy at Fiserv, the executive explained the submission of Alexa as a financial assistant aims to help consumers connect technology to their financial lives.
The Echo “echoes” (pun intended) account information but also displays via screen that info for those who wish it not to be spoken — think account balances and mortgage balances. The company has said that the skills were developed using the LEX platform and are transferable across any device Amazon creates.
Abele told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster that the voice assistant market is nothing if not fluid, noting the shift in competitive dynamics that has shown Amazon’s market share shifting to 70 percent from 90 percent in its battle with Google, Apple and others.
Forget huge changes in the landscape a year from now, predicted Abele — the arena may look completely different six months from now.
Consumer demand is changing too. Interoperability is actively sought by consumers, said the executive.
“We see that in financial services, and we see it all over the place. Consumers want to be able to pay a bill, wherever they are with whatever they have … including an Echo that’s sitting up there on the [shelf] corner,” he said, noting the Echo is a game changer, based on what the device brings to the table in terms of functionality, and with an attractive price point.
The Fiserv entry to the Alexa competition this time around, said Abele, operates in a visual capacity, with audio and video capacity.
In one hypothetical illustration, he offered this scenario: “You are in the baby’s room … rocking the baby, and you’re putting them down. You can get a display of a pending bill payment that you need to make. And you can have it not spoken to you because you don’t want to wake the baby up. By having that multimodal capacity, the Echo gives you all kinds of different freedom to be able to do that.”
In other use cases, he said, “Live video is something that has had a lot of interest … in the industry as a way to be able to service through a branch with a video teller — but again from the confines of your home.” Video chat can help consumers ask questions with video-based advisers so they drill deeper into finances.
Voice is ideal for financial information, said Abele, because “it’s just such a natural thing; it’s something that we hear every day. You can see how the next set of experiences are going to revolve around the voice and how [companies] can be better and smarter inserting them. I think the early stages are right now.”
Even the most popular Amazon skills, he said, are games. “They’re fun but they’re informational because it’s kind of a very simple sort of question-and-answer response.”
Initial skill launches, said Abele, are information-based and very simplistic, but financial conversations are three or four questions deep. Think of the platform, then, as driven by conversation rather than mere interaction.
As for narrowing down services, there’s a plethora from which to choose.
“It’s a good problem to have … we’ve got a pretty wide funnel … there’s a comfort level there, especially in a highly regulated industry like ours where having the right security controls around information … means giving you the foundation for having trust built up into that conversational experience … later on [the consumer may say], ‘I’m getting value from this stuff. I want to go to the next step up.’”
Discussing the functionality, Abele said in the digital age, text is natural as a form of communication for millennials and other demographics.
“It’s something that people do on a regular basis. With text, there’s that comfort level of, ‘I’m making a text, I’m sending a text, I’m getting information that I need out of that conversation, but without having to remember specific commands or specific formats. Text conversations have turned into — for all users — very natural conversations.”
Using Alexa as a springboard to financial conversations, said the executive, has spurred interest from financial institutions of all shapes and sizes, but early adopters are likely relatively smaller players.
“The firms oriented toward innovation are not necessarily the biggest ones. When it comes to a technology like this, you can definitely get some traction being early to market [or] first to market. They want to be out there, they want to be talked about and they want to be cutting-edge. So, for a smaller institution that has that viewpoint, they definitely see it as a way for them to stand out and look as innovative as possible,” he told Webster.