Indian Federal Bank Releases Feddy Virtual Assistant for Alexa, Google Assistant, and WhatsApp
The Federal Bank in India officially launched a virtual assistant accessible by voice through both Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. The AI, known as Feddy, is part of a growing trend of banking-focused virtual assistants, a trend that accelerated in the wake of COVID-19 and the limitations put on in-person banking.
Feddy serves to answer questions for banking customers who want to know the basics like the nearest branch for the bank, how to open accounts, or how to receive statements at any time, regardless of whether the bank is open. What makes the virtual assistant stand out is that it’s not limited to a website text interface. Alexa and Google Assistant can both be used as intermediaries, answering the questions when the right voice app is installed. Users can ask Alexa to “ask Federal Bank” for answers and receive them vocally. The bank didn’t stop with just Alexa and Google Assitant either, adding WhatsApp and Google Business Messaging as opening gambits.
“Federal Bank, guided by its philosophy of ‘Digital at the Fore, Human at the Core’ has continuously come out with highly innovative and extremely user-friendly facilities,” the bank explained in announcing Feddy. “The latest innovation in this line is “FEDDY”, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered Virtual Assistant. “The AI is backed by state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms to help customers with banking related queries 24×7.”
Feddy has been undergoing some limited pilot tests on Alexa and Google Assistant since late last year, but the end of the soft open and wider release with the voice assistants was timed for the bank’s annual report. The bank made a special microsite for the report, with Feddy acting as an interactive guide to the information. It functions as both a useful tool and a good way to demonstrate the tech’s capabilities, much like how the bank’s FedSelfie enables users to open their accounts by taking a photo of themselves while showing off the app’s facial recognition functions.
Banking on India
Plenty of banks are creating and promoting virtual assistants. User growth has fueled the addition of many more features to some of them as a result of the pandemic. Bank of America recently reported that its virtual assistant Erica is more popular and used more often than ever. And U.S. Bank last year launched a voice assistant for its mobile app to allows users to carry out their banking requests using conversational language and imitating the experience of talking to a bank teller.
Indian financial and political leaders have recognized the same potential for virtual assistants. India-based ICICI Bank created its own Alexa and Google Assistant voice apps in April last year. The Indian government is interested enough in the tech to pursue its own voice assistant in a partnership with conversational AI startup Senseforth. There’s a lot of opportunity with WhatsApp chatbots in the country as well. One built last year by the government to answer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and fight misinformation was accessed by more than 30 million people, breaking the record for most users of a chatbot on the platform. Feddy isn’t likely to see those numbers immediately, but it’s a hint of how the industry is progressing, and what may come next. According to Federal bank CEO Shyam Srinivasan, the Bank’s “digital innovations of today are at the cusp of redefining the banking paradigm of tomorrow, and that that bank plans to keep “harness technology to serve the society better.”