WWDTD: What Would Dick Tracy Do (for Banking)?

AI and virtual personal assistants have jumped from the world of science fiction into the real world - but what can they do for the banking sector?

In the mid-20th century, imaginations were captivated by the famous cartoon detective Dick Tracy interacting with his “two-way wrist radio.” While Artificial Intelligence (AI) voice digital assistants have existed in our minds through science fiction for many years, the technology has finally come into play in real life through commercial applications. An estimated 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana at least once a month this year, according to eMarketer, a 128.9 percent jump over 2016.

Voice-enabled devices, such as the Amazon Echo with virtual assistant Alexa, allow consumers to conduct a query into data by speaking, rather than thumbing through a structured menu to find the information they’re seeking. This breakthrough – at last mainstream – has been particularly well-received, because our voice is one of the most natural communication channels that we have as human beings (not to mention that it brings an even greater level of convenience to the couch).

A world of possibilities

While the use of these devices was initially limited to non-sensitive tasks like checking the weather, trivia questions or ordering a pizza, consumers can now tap their AI devices – either at home or on the go – to handle their personal bankinghands-free.

In addition, by implementing voice biometric technology as a capability of conversational AI bots, potential security concerns with using a voice assistant for banking needs are alleviated. Allowing users to authenticate with their voice, without having to say both their PIN and account numbers out loud, is the breakthrough that was needed to make voice assistants safe and practical for personal banking.

For instance, sitting around the dining table for family dinner, a son can’t say, “Hey, Alexa, what’s my dad’s checking account balance?” Even if he knows his dad’s PIN number, he can’t gain access via the voice-enabled device without the matching, unique voiceprint. This advancement has unlocked new possibilities for financial institutions, big and small, giving them the chance to gain a competitive edge in customer experience without increasing risk by being able to cater to the demands of high-value customers.

While the various digital personal assistants are all unique as trusty sidekicks, they are the same in that they are relevant and desirable in today’s fast-paced world. Banking customers and credit union members want to take advantage of applications utilizing a voice interface (created by technologists or financial institutions themselves), so they can avoid unnecessary keystrokes while on the go.

The potential of VPA banking

Thanks to AI personal banking with voice biometric authentication, customers don’t have to go to a computer or mobile device, log on, and then fat finger their personal ID. Instead, they can simply ask their virtual assistant, “What is my checking account balance?” From account balances to making payments, reviewing transactions, and receiving automated financial planning advice, properly authenticated users can securely conduct bank transactions and access financial account information.

With virtual personal assistant (VPA) banking, the AI engine analyzes the user’s request and interaction history against data from the financial institution’s core processor, including customer segmentation triggers, such as balance and spend. It then pulls this data together to give the user the information that was requested, and the AI engine can even be proactive to predict the customer’s needs and deliver advice from the financial institution.

VPA personal banking should be part of every smart financial institution’s omnichannel customer service strategy. While ATMs, telephone banking, internet banking and mobile banking have been important 24/7 self-service tools for many years, VPAs will soon rival these other interaction channels. In fact, Ovum research predicts that the use of digital assistants will increase ten-fold by the year 2021, as compared to 2016.

Pushing the proverbial envelope with VPA personal banking is the technology that financial institutions need to offer to compete. After all, Dick Tracy doesn’t have to be the only one with wow factor.

Written by Michael Boukadakis

Michael Boukadakis is the founder and CEO of Enacomm, a provider of intelligent customer interactions technology.

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