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Big Banks Hope Early Bet on Alexa Will Pay Off


When Ally Bank was testing the usability of its service for Amazon’s digital voice assistant, the direct bank saw a risk for Alexa to interpret “high yield” as “high heeled.” Ally fine-tuned the code on devices like Echo to properly understand the utterance. It also tweaked the code so that Alexa didn’t misinterpret CD as “compact disc,” fund wasn’t heard as “fun” and Ally wasn’t “allied.”

After a number of months of testing and refining an alternative way to bank, Ally Bank launched Ally Skill. “It was ready for prime time,” said Diane Morais, president of consumer and commercial banking at Ally Bank. Since mid-November, a customer can ask Alexa — in their own words — what their balance is, what the price of something costs in hours worked, and notably, to move money.

As natural language processing devices become ubiquitous, some banks have taken a lead in testing and developing the technology, seeing its potential to reshape how clients communicate with financial service providers. These early movers view launching service capabilities on Alexa — known as skills — as a way to engage someone with an even easier way to bank: Instead of pulling out a phone and launching an app, a customer can simply say what he wants to do, just like commanding a genie from a lamp.

In recent months, what has been a curiosity in banking is gaining momentum in time for the holidays. Since Capital One announced its skill in March of 2016, U.S Bank, American Express and several credit unions announced Alexa skills in addition to Ally. Others have been testing Alexa, including bank innovator USAA. Even smaller banks are readying to launch skills. FIS, one of the biggest bank vendors that has been testing Alexa since 2016, said about a dozen of its thousands of bank customers are on track to roll out a bank skill for Alexa by Christmas. Most recently, Amazon announced Alexa for business, and Capital One is one of its launch partners.


Read more at American Banker.

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