- U.S. Bank this week plans to roll out a virtual assistant in its mobile app to let customers manage their money with voice commands. The U.S. Bank Smart Assistant can provide information about account balances, upcoming bills and spending history, and handle tasks like money transfers, according to an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer.
- The U.S. Bank Smart Assistant uses natural-language processing (NLP) technology to understand human speech, differentiating between statements like "I need to transfer money" and "I want to transfer $500 from my primary checking to my vacation fund next Monday." U.S. Bank tested the voice assistant with employees before this week's rollout.
- U.S. Bank highlighted how its voice assistant provides better access to banking services for people with disabilities such as blindness. The bank touted the technology as part of observing on July 26 the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that prohibits discrimination based on disability, per its announcement.
U.S. Bank, which is one of the 10 biggest banks in the country with $533 billion in assets, is rolling out an in-app voice assistant as the coronavirus pandemic drives a surge in mobile banking. With many bank branches closed during lockdowns and consumers spending more time at home, mobile banking registrations tripled in early April while mobile banking traffic jumped 85%, per Fidelity National Information Services data cited by CNBC. The growing popularity of mobile banking underscores the need to provide customers with a broader range of services that emulate speaking directly to a bank teller or call center employee.
The bank has dabbled in voice technology for years, including the 2013 rollout of its Nina virtual assistant for a group of payment card customers, and in 2018 was the first bank to offer voice-powered services on Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google Assistant. As U.S. Bank notes, voice-powered technology can help to serve a broader range of customers, including people with disabilities. The introduction of its U.S. Bank Smart Assistant comes as more people adopt voice-powered tech. Consumers worldwide will interact with voice assistants on 8.4 billion devices by 2024, Juniper Research forecast.
Voice assistants also can make interactions more efficient since the average person only types 40 words a minute compared with speaking 130 words a minute, Ankit Bhatt, SVP and chief digital officer for consumer services at U.S. Bank, said in an interview with American Banker. The publication reported that U.S. Bank's rollout of a voice assistant is considered unusual because many banks that introduced chatbots in the past few years quietly stop using them amid lacking customer interest. Bank of America stands out as an exception with its Erica voice assistant that has 14 million users and has seen surging usage growth during the pandemic, CIO reported.