Beyond Mobile Banking, Giving (Alexa’s) Voice to Financial Lives, Naturally

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How to bring mobile banking to the realm of the spoken word – beyond the mere recitation of account data? Beyond call and response? Fiserv VP of Digital Banking, Scott Domach, says the robust voice banking experience embraces everything from bill payment push alerts to fraud alerts, but one thing rules above all: The principle of natural speech.

How to bring mobile banking to the realm of the spoken word – beyond the mere recitation of account data, beyond call and response? Fiserv VP of digital banking Scott Domach says the robust voice banking experience embraces everything from bill payment push alerts to fraud alerts, but one thing rules above all: The principle of natural speech.

Banking is, of course, about more than account balances. It’s about juggling bills, planning, investing, saving and, in this day and age, guarding against fraud.

And as a growing number of consumers interact with Alexa, speech begets action. Ideally, those actions should run the gamut of transactions and financial services, across payments and cards.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Domach said that “we are very early in the journey with voice technology, especially when it comes to final financial technology.”

Along with that journey, he said “we have to be very thoughtful about how we do this, because there are a couple things that are going on in the marketplace right now. We have to be able to balance delivering clients’ needs on a scale that is convenient for them, while at the same time balancing security.”

Amid that balancing act, Fiserv has been working to bring a frictionless experience to financial services in a voice setting, said Domach. The company was among the entrants to the 2018 Alexa Voice Challenge.

“What we mean by frictionless is that it actually enhances the client experience,” said the executive, who added that such an endeavor seeks to find “the concerning behaviors and lets the positive behaviors go. So once you’re in as a verified individual, [the platform] actually is looking for your behaviors that would be considered not normal.”

But to create an optimal experience, cautioned Domach, a guiding principle for his and other firms holds true: Think like a user, not only in use cases for those consumers who may be relatively adept in using technology, but for those who might be inexperienced, too.

Fiserv has been designing its voice-oriented Alexa offerings in tandem with financial institutions – not based on size, but with a focus on serving the needs of FIs of all stripes that want to bring innovation to end users.

The key difference between the Fiserv submission to the Alexa Challenge and online or mobile banking – or even other voice recognition offerings – lies with natural language, said Domach. “People don’t speak in ‘press one,’” he said. “They’re going to say things like, ‘Alexa, can I please have my balance?’ But they may not use the word balance. They may use five other types of words, so we have to make sure we understand how we speak with a client.”

PYMNTS noted that navigation is different with a voice platform, as it does not have the visual cues of other commerce and financial conduits. Education remains key, replied Domach – and education is a key of the Fiserv offering.

“If a consumer doesn’t know that they can [make a] payment or do a transfer or put a hold on a card, the value of the technology just goes down,” he noted. Thus, upon download, users are guided through the process. Prompts are also part of the experience, as consumers will be asked, for example, if they are looking to make a payment. A third initiative focuses on push notifications that are designed to bring consumers back to Alexa, and to use the skills in different ways – including in the car.

For example, a notification might prompt a user behind the wheel to remember to pay two bills that are due, Domach told PYMNTS. And in turn, that user can find out when they are due and how much money is in a given account, and can even ask Alexa to send a reminder to their cell phone to pay those bills.

“It’s not online banking, it’s not mobile banking, it’s a digital user experience,” he said.

And in another instance of that digital continuum, he offered a use case that is top of mind for everyone – centered on fraud.

“Let’s say you’re driving home from a long vacation when you get a fraud alert from Alexa saying there’s been a charge on your card from Canada,” said Domach. “But you’re driving in, let’s say, New Mexico – there’s no way you made a charge there. Alexa can immediately ask, ‘do you want to shut off your card?’ You can say yes or no.”

And then, he continued, “Alexa can go out and look at your credit score and find out if your credit has been impacted by this.” Alexa can also ask the user if they want to speak to someone directly about the situation, sending their phone number to an FI that will, in turn, call the consumer.

“So again, it’s another example of Alexa acting almost like a personal assistant and as a partner with you, working with your financial accounts,” said Domach.

The go-to-market strategy for Fiserv with Alexa would be a staggered approach, said Domach, adding that “we’re going to start out with balances and transactions including strong security and basic information about the banks.” More involved activities involving the use cases would be further down the road.

“The releases should build upon each other in a logical way that will allow us to – within a very short period of time – get the majority of our functionality out there, in a usable mode to our end clients. And we’re really looking forward to the next 12 to 18 months, because we really feel like it’s a sweet spot for getting our clients to understand the concept of the full experience.”



The PYMNTS Cross-Border Merchant Friction Index analyzes the key friction points experienced by consumers browsing, shopping and paying for purchases on international eCommerce sites. PYMNTS examined the checkout processes of 266 B2B and B2C eCommerce sites across 12 industries and operating from locations across Europe and the United States to provide a comprehensive overview of their checkout offerings.