Fintech Voice

How Friction and Risk Are Bringing Voice Tech to Finance

Today’s opening keynote for VOICE19 brought together leaders in financial services technology to discuss how voice technology is shaping and being shaped by the finance and insurance sectors. Moderated by Voicebot founder Bret Kinsella, the panel included Mark Jamison, the Global Head of Innovation and Design for Visa, Sunayna Tuteja, the Head of Strategic Partnerships & Emerging Technologies for TD Ameritrade, and Adam Kaye, the Vice President of Architecture in the Global Business Technology Solutions department for Prudential Financial.

Frictionless Friction

“We’ve just been exploring [voice] in a bunch of different ways,” Jamison said. “What we found is that because it’s this unique thing, that humans interact with it in ways that you really have to think through the use cases, and in some cases actually add friction or confirmation throughout the process so that humans feel comfortable actually using this channel.”

Visa’s standards for how its partners use voice can make an enormous impact because it works with 16,000 organizations. There’s been some reluctance by customers to actually use voice because of uncertainty about authentication. So, Visa started including extra assurances that people’s identities are being confirmed. Counterintuitively, slowing the process down sped up adoption.

“They probably had some payment credentials on file [with a merchant], but we needed to stop say, oh by the way we are going to use your JP Morgan Chase Sapphire card for this. Is that okay? And so, by adding friction in the process of confirmation, that gives consumers the confidence to actually do the transaction.”

“The question is what are we learning in terms of consumer adoption and behavior because we recognize that a lot of these things are still in their nascency and its perpetual beta,” said Tuteja. “We have to start here and we have to iterate.”

Internal Improvements

For Prudential, the first step to integrating voice technology starts with themselves according to Kaye.

“We’ve been focusing some of the attention internally, how do we bring voice to our employees,” Kaye said. “We’re here in Newark, there’s a lot of construction, a lot of snowstorms. How do we notify the people when there are problems? If we’re going to go out to the entire industry, we’re taking that step internally first to see where are the roadblocks, where are the challenges, where are the opportunities? Getting people comfortable with the process first is a big step.”

Prudential has been experimenting with using voice platforms to improve office life. The company has tested using voice assistants for scheduling meeting rooms for example. As they improve how voice works for them, they can then consider ways to bring its potential to consumers. At the moment though, the main connection between Prudential’s voice technology and consumers is when they ask their voice assistant for the balance in their retirement account.

On the Go

For TD Ameritrade, voice and other technology are considered tools to breaking down barriers in financial services, Tuteja said. The opacity of the financial services is a challenge that voice can help defeat.

“What we really obsess about is not just the technology, but how do you commercialize it in a way that more Americans can feel empowered to enter the capital market with confidence,” Tuteja said. “The whole confluence of audio, voice, AI, and [machine learning] is something that we believe actually works really well for us to deliver on that thesis of breaking down barriers.”

The projects are often not exciting at first glance, but it is powerful. TD Ameritrade became the first financial institution to allow stock transactions by voice last year. Tuteja said the demand wasn’t specifically for voice, but for a way to be connected to financial markets while moving around. Voice technology did just that.

“What we wanted to do was to make sure that access to financial markets and financial information is part of your lifestyle, that it’s not chore number 62 on your to-do list,” Tuteja said.  “Well, what better way to do it than to bring it to the modalities that you’re using every day as part of your life and lifestyle.” That perspective led the company to announce voice interactive integrations with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Echo Auto this week. The new solutions offer access to financial information while driving.

One Voice

All of the panel’s members agreed that the way voice technology is evolving means not being afraid to take risks. The companies that want to succeed will need to be okay with solving new problems as they arise.

“The winners have to be comfortable with not perfect and ambiguity,” Jamison said. “Unlike every other technology… you have today, the way you win is by getting the data set and learning it. The ones who win are the ones who get to market early, who test and pilot and learn through these customer interactions.”

That doesn’t mean ignoring security concerns, of course. When it comes to financial institutions especially, keeping customer data safe is vital. But, as voice technology continues to prove its capabilities and popularity among consumers, even the more reticent organizations can start to explore its possibilities.

“It took a long time for us to get where we are as a company, comfortable with what’s out there,” Kaye said. “That being said, I think that there’s a level of security that some of the vendors out there bring to the table and leveraging some of what’s out there that’s been proven has made us more comfortable.”

Still, taking the leap is definitely a part of trying out any new technology, and the need for data makes it absolutely essential to push out voice projects knowing they aren’t completely done.

“I think the whole notion of approaching this with a perpetual beta mindset is really critical,” Tuteja said. “At some point, you’ve got to take it out of the lab and put it in the wild…This technology is in its nascency and there are no playbooks. You’re writing the playbook as you’re shipping your project.”


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