The way FinTech adoption goes, it’s usually the consumers who first jump onto a new technology, and corporate users typically follow later. Mike Carter, chief marketing officer for D3 Banking, doesn’t expect that pattern to be disrupted when it comes to the adoption of voice recognition technology, like Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant. But, he said, there is something unique about the tool that could help it become a mainstay for small businesses.
D3 Banking announced its newest solution this week, an interface that uses Alexa to help consumers and small businesses conduct banking activity, like check account balances and transfer money between accounts. Carter told PYMNTS that he has little doubt voice recognition will continue to gain ground in its adoption rates.
“To me, it’s really exciting,” he said of the technology. “It’s an exciting time, and it’s the next step in the relationship we have with our computers and software.”
Indeed, the proliferation of internet-connected devices has reached inside the home and the workplace alike, and Amazon’s Alexa provides a way for individuals in those environments to interact with one of those devices. Carter said that such verbal interaction could be a natural fit, even for small business owners.
“With voice, you definitely take friction out of the environment for the business user, and for the small business user in particular, who may be mostly on-the-go all day,” he said. “Removing that kind of friction is huge, and that opens the door for the use of voice-activated banking. That functionality, we believe, will become richer.”
Carter noted that, while this technology isn’t necessarily in its earliest days anymore, the market is certainly in the “first quarter” of maturity. As voice recognition gains accuracy, adoption rates are likely to increase. But he did admit that, at first, the consumer is likely to jump at the opportunity. There’s no reason, though, that small business owners won’t follow suit.
“If you can accommodate it in a consumer setting, you can accommodate it in a small business banking setting,” he said of the tool. “You might want to add a level of entitlement or authentication as part of that process, but it’s still viable.”
That issue of authentication is key to understanding why voice-activated banking may take off among corporates. According to Carter, not only does a voice recognition tool like Alexa provide a platform on which consumers and small businesses can conduct banking needs — by its very nature, voice recognition is a type of authentication measure.
“There seems to be very little debate right now about the ability for voice recognition to be viable as an authentication strategy,” he said. “With that being the case, it’s a natural fit for the small business banking space.”
For small business owners, authentication is clearly critical as a way to protect company funds. But as a company grows, its authentication needs increase, too. Carter offered up one example of how voice recognition technology might be used for a mid-sized or larger enterprise.
“Say you want to transfer $100,000 to pay an inventory bill,” he said. “You may be the office manager, but you’re not at the level of authority that can approve that [transaction].” Solutions like Alexa can be used to initiate a payment and automate that request to the appropriate higher-up for approval. Such a scenario is also why small businesses are likely to become some of the first corporate users of such technology, as a small business owner is typically the single point of approval for all company transactions.
D3 is also currently working on a feature that has Alexa make voice calls for users, which Carter said could also give way to new use cases for business banking customers, either by connecting them to a banking rep or to higher-level executives that need to approve of a transaction.
The executive said small businesses are already interested in the solution, too. A survey conducted by D3 among consumers and small business owners found that voice activation technology was “by far” the tech trend these users are most interested in, largely because it reduces friction. For a small business owner that has oversight of ever single aspect of the company, including finances, removing friction could have a majorly positive impact on daily operations.
“Our indication is that its ability to remove friction is important, especially because there is a positive feeling of voice recognition as an option for authentication,” he explained. “These are twin trends that feed off each other.”
Plus, he said, for solutions that use machine learning and automation to make a business owner’s life easier, artificial intelligence overall is likely to fit comfortably in the expansion of these services.
“There are lot of opportunities to help the small business owner,” Carter stated. “I see stuff like this making it easier for them, fitting into their lifestyle. It seems like a pivotal point in that relationship.”