Voice Activation

Voice-Activated Tracker: Let’s Talk About Banks

This week’s voice-activated tracker is all about the banks, baby.

In recent weeks, a number of financial institutions and FinTech providers have begun testing, introducing or adding upgrades to voice navigation functionalities for their banking customers.

As these accuracy stats for language process and voice recognition continue to climb, expect that more banks will follow this industry trend — especially given that banking customers vie for faster, more convenient modes of navigating digital banking interfaces — not to mention a means to improve on the industry push toward voice tech as a security measure, part of a broader interest in and adoption of biometrics capabilities à la HSBC and Barclays.

Mary Meeker, partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has said that voice recognition accuracy has surpassed 90 percent and is approaching the 99 percent threshold. Further, insight from Javelin Strategy & Research indicates that over half of all mobile banking users across demographics have expressed interest in using voice commands as part of their digital banking experience.

While the Javelin report indicates that the level of consumer interest in voice-enabled mobile banking is not being met on the development end by financial institutions, there are some notable announcements as of late indicating that the industry is working to deliver voice tech to their customers.

PYMNTS wrote last week, for example, about Santander Bank’s voice functionality upgrade to its SmartBank mobile application, starting with the iOS version, which allows consumers to execute a variety of more complex banking tasks via voice. Santander mobile banking customers can now make payments, execute money transfers, check their account balances, report lost or stolen cards, and inquire about spending patterns and particular transactions, all just by using their voice.

Given the mainstream progress of the voice-enabled device market, it’s reasonable to expect that more financial institutions moving into the digital space will enable voice as a means of mobile application navigation. Consumer interest in voice navigation is only expected to grow they adapt to the capabilities elsewhere in the device market (and especially if they get sick of glitchy chatbots).

Banks have a few options when it comes to adapting voice. They can create a native interface themselves, leverage a third-party Fintech provider’s capabilities, or go the device integration route like what Capital One did last year, for example. Santander went with the former, while FinTech startup D3 Banking recently unveiled an intelligent voice banking interface.

In addition to enabling customers to bank using voice navigation, the interface API will allow financial institutions to collect and analyze data from these voice interactions to personalize responses and marketing efforts. D3 Banking also reportedly plans to be developing a voice calling feature for the technology, allowing for a direct voice connection between customers and banking representatives.

Mark Vipon, CEO of D3 Banking, said in an announcement, “Voice assistants may be a novelty, but voice recognition technology is becoming increasingly advanced, and artificial intelligence will play an integral role in banking’s user experience. By offering voice-activated banking for our consumer and small business solutions, we are breaking down the barriers of friction and need for special knowledge from end users.”

Likewise, as is the case with other financial institutions, the FinTech company plans to leverage its voice recognition software toward developing biometric banking security. Though the technology will first integrate with Amazon’s Alexa, other virtual assistants, like Google Home, will be added to the D3 Banking lineup.

In the latter camp, U.K. challenger bank Starling has apparently begun experimenting with the prospect of integrating its API into Google Home — even before the smart speaker is available on the U.K. market. A video recently posted to YouTube shows Starling staff performing a balance and spending history inquiry and making a P2P payment using voice commands.



The pressure on banks to modernize their payments capabilities to support initiatives such as ISO 20022 and instant/real time payments has been exacerbated by the emergence of COVID-19 and the compelling need to quickly scale operations due to the rapid growth of contactless payments, and subsequent increase in digitization. Given this new normal, the need for agility and optimization across the payments processing value chain is imperative.

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