Voice-activated biometric technologies are triggering a race to the finish line in the banking industry. Now that the technology is here to fully support it, banks are working hard to test pilot programs that integrate voice recognition into many aspects of the banking experience. There are two ways in which banks are starting to incorporate voice-recognition technology. The first is as a security measure, to confirm a customer’s identity without the use of passwords or pins. The second, and perhaps more exciting way, allows customers to have a truly hands-free experience with their bank using just the sound of their voice.

This month alone there have been a number of announcements about voice-enabled enhancements at some of the industry’s leading banks. Capital One and Amazon have teamed up to introduce voice-activated banking through Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, embedded in devices like Amazon Echo and Fire TV. Capital One customers can perform various transactions such as checking balances, making payments, and more just by speaking to Alexa and asking questions such as “Alexa, ask Capital One when is my credit card payment is due?” or “Alexa, ask Capital One to pay my credit card bill.”

Santander also rolled out voice banking this month, allowing customers to speak to the bank through the mobile app and ask questions such as “Where did I spend the most money this month?” Advanced features such as making payments or setting up alerts are expected to roll out later this year.

Moven, the digital-only banking and financial wellness startup, is an example of a brand at the forefront of combining technology with financial services and has been exploring the integration of voice recognition with devices like Amazon Alexa. According to Moven’s co-founder and CEO, Brett King, “Voice is going to be a huge growth area over the next 5 years particularly as personal AI becomes a feature in your home and on your smartphone. However, the key will be integration with services like Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Now. Customers won’t go into a banking app to check their balance or do a transfer … with voice, they’ll just ask Siri.”

Voice-recognition as a login feature is a logical place for banks to start experimenting with this technology, and a way to ease customers into the practice of speaking to their phone instead of on it. A number of banks are already using voice-recognition security to eliminate the need to remember more passwords or PINs. In January, Charles Schwab sent emails to customers with the subject line, “Introducing our voice ID service for accessing your accounts.” According to Mintel ePerformance/eDataSource, these emails garnered impressive read rates, averaging 54.5%.

As this trend starts to pick up speed, it is crucial for banks to think about the importance of keeping pace with these market and technology leaders. In today’s mobile-driven society, it’s especially important for financial brands to be flexible with their mobile apps and to put the work into enhancing them to keep up with consumers’ needs. And in the case of voice recognition, there are many needs being answered, including security, convenience, and flexibility. As Mintel Technology and Media Analyst, Bryant Harland, states, “Successful mobile apps strengthen consumer engagement with brands, as has been showcased by successful apps like Starbucks’ loyalty app and PayPal’s financial services app. However, many apps falter because they fail to address users’ core needs; branded mobile apps need to be flexible and updated to keep pace with users.”

Lily Harder is the Vice President of Research for Mintel Comperemedia. Lily specializes in the financial services industry, researching and presenting on the latest industry trends, competitive intelligence insights and newsworthy developments.

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