Voice-based banking is gaining momentum.
As consumers increasingly use voice-activated devices to search the web and control their appliances, a growing number see promise in hands-free banking.
According to a 2019 survey from Fiserv, 51 percent of U.S. consumers saw potential benefits to voice-based banking—a ten percent jump from 41 percent in 2017.
But despite the growing optimism around voice-based banking, awareness and adoption have remained low compared to other categories: In another consumer survey, Fiserv found that only 9 percent of people who used voice-activated devices performed banking functions in the last 30 days.
The disconnect may seem concerning on the surface, but the most innovative players in the financial space know better.
With big brands like Bank of America and Capital One already offering voice-based banking, this is one trend that banking institutions can’t afford to ignore.
The ripple effect of voice-activated device growth
There’s no denying the growth of voice technology. From Amazon’s Alexa to Apple’s Siri, some of the biggest names in tech have doubled down on their investments in the voice space.
It’s not hard to see why. People opt for voice commands because they’re easier to execute, they usually save time, and they’re achievable with your hands tied.
By 2023, Juniper Research expects 8 billion digital voice assistants will be in use, with the fastest growth occurring in the Smart TVs, Smart speakers, and Wearables categories.
But as consumers acclimate to using voice to do things like play music, make phone calls, and request directions, they’ll eventually embrace it to assist with other aspects of their lives—most notably, shopping.
According to Juniper Research, voice commerce—which includes money transfers and online/offline purchases—will grow to over $80 billion annually by 2023.
Amid pandemic concerns, the shift to voice commerce already underway: In June 2020, Google partnered with Carrefour to launch a voice-activated grocery shopping service in France, with plans to expand to other countries where the food retailer operates.
With voice technology extending into commerce, the financial sector will inevitably deepen its investments.
The current state of voice-based banking
One of the main barriers to voice-activated banking adoption is awareness.
When most voice-activated banking solutions first emerged, the functionality focused on inquiry-based tasks—consumers could check their balances and review transactions, but they couldn’t do much else.
This view has persisted, even in the wake of advancements in voice technology. According to Fiserv, two-thirds of consumers either don’t believe or don’t know that voice banking is possible.
Meanwhile, a growing number of financial institutions have already begun advancing on the trend:
- Capital One uses Alexa to help consumers make hands-free payments, check account balances, and review their spending habits.
- Barclays integrated with Siri to enable quick mobile payments to contacts without opening or logging into their banking app.
- In the UK, Santander updated its technology to allow customers to make payments, transfer funds, and report lost or stolen cards through voice commands.
Other banks have launched their own proprietary digital assistants like Bank of America’s Erica, a financial management assistant that can even help consumers monitor their credit.
The future of voice-based banking
If there’s one thing we can predict with certainty about the future of voice-based banking, it’s that it’s likely to evolve in ways that adapt to consumers’ lifestyles.
For example, Fiserv found that people are more likely to start a loan application on mobile when they know they can finish it on their desktops.
Datapoints like this underscore the importance of developing voice technology that’s flexible enough to meet and serve customers across multiple channels and scenarios.
For instance, if someone were filling out a loan application on their phone via voice, they might want their voice assistant to remind them about it once they’re back home. This type of request relies on natural language processing—and that technology is already here.
In a voice-based banking context, this might mean allowing consumers to use voice commands for a variety of financial transactions, from executing account transfers to establishing custom account alerts. Given a workflow solution that integrates with voice, the possibilities seem endless.
The benefits also seem plenty. For banking institutions, implementing voice technology on both the front and backend can reduce customer service costs and free branch staff to pursue other initiatives.
As big-name banks continue to gain valuable insights into what their customers want from a voice assistant, we’re likely to see continued investments in personalizing the customer experience so that hands-free banking becomes as commonplace as asking Alexa for directions.
Until then, we’re banking on voice.