You: – “Alexa, what is my account balance?”

Alexa: – “Your account balance today is 75,500 Dollars!”

The above might have sounded imaginary or bit fantastic last year, but it has become a reality today in many US homes!! CapitalOne was the first bank to enable voice banking in Alexa. AMEX is next and others are queuing up.

Echo (Alexa) from Amazon is probably the most important invention, since mankind invented the wheel (and of course MS Excel)! What it has managed to do is to turn the entire “customer engagement” experience head over heels. It has not only created a new channel to involve with, but it by itself has become the most coveted device in US households. It’s just only a matter of time before it explodes into other corners of the world and changes the way we live (and with whom we live!).

Convenience trumps Privacy. Well, that is what seems to be the inference looking at the booming sales of personal assistant devices across the world. People used to freak out earlier when they felt someone was listening to their conversations or were spying on them. But, with the correct brand positioning, Amazon has managed to sneak inside your house and is now listening to you, 24/7. Thanks to Alexa!!

What’s so special about Alexa? To begin with, it has made natural language processing feel “natural”. It has resolved the complexities of “hearing, translating, processing, instructing, executing, and responding” to human commands and bundled it inside a device that can sit anywhere in your room. Voice has never had it so easy before Alexa.

Not to be left behind, Apple has come out with HomePod bundled with Siri, positioned as hi end speakers, with superior sound and spatial awareness. Google already has Google Home and Microsoft has got Cortana.

All this leads to one thing. The way we interact with computers has changed. Computers have become more human. They have now got a Voice. This would set off another round of convergence where from screen / touch based interactions, we will now move to sound based / conversational engagement.

Banking would have a profound impact due to Voice. Payments is the first casualty. Apple has already enabled Siri to send payments using voice, from iOS10 onwards. Amazon ecosystem developers are creating newer skills to make this experience more immersive and personal.

In the near future, we should be able to carry out complex tasks like Account Opening also using our voice, with e-KYC biometric integration and voice authentication!!

Padmanabhan R

Career Banker, Galleried Photographer and Travel Columnist. Also develop banking applications in free time. Finished my CA and have done my tour of duty with organizations like Times Group, ICICI Bank and Yes Bank, before landing up in Clayfin to create digital banking channel solutions.

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