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Take Five: Summit gives voice to banking

If voice banking catches on locally, Amazon’s Alexa won’t be the only one leading the charge. In what could be a sign of things to come at a financial institution near you, Summit Credit Union recently unveiled a voice banking service featuring Alexa’s now familiar voice.

If voice banking catches on locally, Amazon’s Alexa won’t be the only one leading the charge. In what could be a sign of things to come at a financial institution near you, Summit Credit Union recently unveiled a voice banking service featuring Alexa’s now familiar voice. The service allows customers to access their accounts, check balances, deposit checks, transfer money, make payments, and otherwise manage their finances through an Amazon-enabled device such as the Echo family of smart speakers — and do so hands-free.

Assuming they already bank online, all Summit customers will have to do is download the Alexa app, search for Summit Voice Banking in the Skills menu, and set up a voice passcode. After that, it’s a matter of saying, “Alexa, ask Summit Credit Union to …,” without touching a screen or clicking a button. In this Take Five interview, Kim Sponem, president and CEO of Summit Credit Union, explains why Summit decided to become one of the first financial institutions in the nation to offer voice banking and what the future holds for this technology.

IB: How long did it take to prove this concept and what was that process like?

Sponem: The Siri voice assistant was launched in 2010, and since then voice assistants have been refined, developed, and launched by many major companies — Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and Samsung’s Bixby, to name a few. Those companies proved that voice was a viable technology that the public wanted, and Summit’s take on voice was to bring it into the realm of controlling members’ finances and not just turning on and off lights. Summit put in a lot of time and effort refining what you could say to the Voice Banking Skill and how it would reply.

IB: Is it your expectation that this will spread pretty quickly throughout the banking, credit union, and financial sectors?

Sponem: While we are one of the first credit unions in the country to offer voice banking, we have seen other financials offer voice banking skills and expect more and more to provide this service to their customers. Voice technology continues to be increasingly popular, so we expect more members to take advantage of this convenient way to bank with Summit.

IBWhat additional future applications might we see with voice banking technology?

Sponem: I can see the internet of things colliding with voice assistants in a very useful way. Amazon is already entering this realm with its Alexa-enabled microwave. As voice assistants are embedded into more and more everyday items, like cars and the light switches in your home, members will be able to talk to their car to ask Summit what the balance is on their holiday gift account as they pull into the shopping mall, or what is the available credit on their home equity line of credit when their garage door opener finally goes kaput.

IB: How about other future possibilities on the technology front, especially as it pertains to the financial services that credit unions provide?

Sponem: We are already enabling members to manage transactions through voice, and the next phase is to provide members with the tools to manage their financial goals with a voice assistant. So, not only can you ask the voice assistant in your car what the balance on your eating-out budget is, but also how much you’ve spent in the past month on fast food as you pull into the drive-thru.

IB: Will your customers someday be able to say, “Alexa, make me rich”?

Sponem: More likely is “Alexa, ask Summit Credit Union how I can plan to own my money and be financially successful.”

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