Tech Time: Real Talk About Voice Banking and the Omnichannel Experience

Illustration of person speaking with sound waves over a background of 1s and 0s and padlocks
By Siva Narendra

4 minutes

Debunk the hype around conversational banking services to ensure this channel is functional, familiar and safe for members.

Credit unions recognize that their relationship with members is the cornerstone on which they have built their success. This loyalty stems from members’ connection to the branch experience over the years and sometimes across generations. Thus, credit unions are better suited to anticipate and meet members’ expectations for new innovative banking services they will use however, whenever and wherever they live, work and play.
These business and technology trends should be on your credit union’s radar in order to meet evolving member expectations and maintain that loyalty and competitive advantage:

Voice and Conversational Banking

More than 26% of U.S. consumers own a smart speaker and/or voice assistant of some sort, according to a 2019 report from and Voicify. Voice interaction capabilities built into phones, speakers, cars and other devices mark a paradigm shift in the way people interact with their devices. With predictions that 50% of all searches will be done by voice and 30% of searches will be done without even a screen by 2020, now’s the time for credit unions to consider how they meet members’ and prospective members’ expectations for voice and prepare for conversational banking services. It starts with being able to secure and protect voice banking and voice transactions from any wrongdoing (or from doing it wrong):

  • Smart speakers lack security: Most voice-enabled devices are lacking in built-in security. And remember, they are always listening. “As a credit union with a membership footprint in California’s Silicon Valley, providing secure as well as easy-to-use technologies are key drivers for us,” says Margarete Mucker, EVP/operations at $8.5 billion Star One Credit Union in Sunnyvale, California. Luckily, industry vendors can help. “Tyfone provides us with a vendor partner and technology platform that is both future-leaning and security-conscious in terms of data protection, authentication and compliance. This is important since security is our top priority, especially with the evolution of voice banking.” 
  • Smart speakers are dumb: You can’t talk to a speaker as if it actually knows what you’re saying is meant for the smart speaker. It has a microprocessor, not a brain, and artificial intelligence for smart speakers still has a ways to go. Thus, it can’t distinguish who’s talking to whom and you can’t have a real conversation with it; you must repeatedly remind it of its name and speak simple commands that have been programmed into the smart speaker for it to understand your instructions. Remember this when developing new voice banking capabilities, such as an Alexa skill. Design straightforward voice commands that will improve peoples’ experiences and expectations for said devices: “Alexa, open banking with my secret phrase.” “Okay, Google. Pay mortgage from my checking.” “Alexa, pay my credit card balance due …”

While we are getting closer with AI, far-field voice controls, speech recognition and natural language processing, it will be years before we are able to have a conversation with a device like you would a member service representative.

What’s Next?

Time goes by fast, especially when credit unions rely on digital solution providers under multi-year contracts. It is essential for such providers to keep a close eye on what is up-and-coming in digital banking. “Personal digital identity, blockchain and augmented reality in financial applications are the next emerging trends that Tyfone and its best-in-class partners are [researching], along with other significant technology innovations. Tyfone’s flexible omnichannel platform makes it possible for us to execute quickly with our credit union partners to deliver new banking services to meet the needs of their members,” says Prabhakar Tadepalli, co-founder and president at Tyfone, Portland, Oregon.
It’s easy to get swept up by all the exciting new emerging technologies and their possibilities. However, credit unions that control their own digital banking destinies will be more successful than those who let third-party service providers lead them by the nose into uncertainty and insecurity. Remember, who knows the members, their needs and banking preferences best—the credit union or vendors?

“As the digital landscape has changed, our memberships’ technological acumen and desires have changed as well. It’s why in October 2017 we switched from a template-driven, siloed, non-responsive online banking system to a nimbler, customizable and truly omnichannel banking solution. It met our needs in terms of [user experience and user interface] by combining browser, mobile app, and, coming soon, voice banking—all under one code set and hardware system with innovative security capabilities … that can meet our future technology needs,” says Fred Shuherk, senior web services manager at Star One Credit Union.

The Branch and Digital Banking Experience Should Be Virtually the Same

“We are providing members the same superior member service experience whether they walk into one of our locations, speak with a service representative, or they bank with us from their computer, tablet, watch or through voice-enabled devices,” says Terry Leis, president/CEO of $1.5 billion Credit Union of Colorado, Denver. That’s the omnichannel experience future-thinking credit unions strive for.

When walking into a credit union’s branch, members enter a safe, comfortable and welcoming environment and expect to have a familiar and personal customer service experience. Credit unions like Star One CU and CU of Colorado have recognized that they can develop stronger relationships and build loyalty among members by creating and delivering virtually the same branch-like experience across all their physical locations, as well as the digital banking services members use now—or in the AI and 5G future.
Siva Narendra is co-founder and CEO of Tyfone Inc., Portland, Oregon. Tyfone’s digital banking platform provides credit unions with everything they need to allow members to easily bank on any channel from mobile apps, browsers, wearable devices to voice assistants and smart speakers. With a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Narendra has led Tyfone in creating an award-winning digital banking experience and reputation for innovation backed up by more than 138 patents issued to date. 

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