Each month, over two million banking transactions and services are performed using the OCBC Mobile Banking app. Since 19 August 2019, the app has offered an AI-powered voice-based virtual assistant – which has helped with over 20,000 requests made via voice. In half of these requests, the customer was seeking information about spending categories and budgets; another 30 per cent concerned past banking transactions. Other mobile banking services that were performed using voice included locating ATMs, paying bills and changing banking PINs.
The new voice-activated banking service, which was developed and trained over 13 months and is called the OCBC Banking Assistant, ‘lives’ in the OCBC Mobile Banking app. The customer speaks to the Assistant as if conversing with a human assistant – and the requested banking task gets done.
Sourced through The Open Vault at OCBC, OCBC Bank’s Fintech and Innovation lab, the technology that powers the Assistant had been tested and is available for use outside Singapore. However, it had to be re-engineered for the local context – and integrated into the OCBC banking system – so that bills could be paid and account information provided seamlessly. The Assistant also had to be taught how customers in Singapore talk and ‘understand’ all the potential requests from customers. Unstructured phrases commonly used in Singapore, such as “How much I spend on dining”, “Can show my spending pattern?” or “Can pay my bill?”, could have been stumbling blocks. So the OCBC Banking Assistant was put through its paces to ensure it would accurately pull up the requested information or launch the right service for the customer to complete the transaction using the OCBC Mobile Banking app.
The OCBC Banking Assistant was also taught to incorporate “logic” in its responses. If the customer wants to pay a bill but does not mention the bank account to debit, the Assistant will prompt him or her accordingly. Or suppose a customer has specified an account name in making a request. The Assistant will take this cue and omit information about other accounts.
OCBC Bank was the first financial institution in Singapore to enable customers to use their voice for banking in 2018. From February 2018, customers could talk to Apple’s Siri to check their bank balances and credit card information, and to make e-payments. The Google Assistant was integrated with OCBC Bank’s services in April 2018, enabling anyone to speak to the Google Assistant – on a smartphone or a Google Home device – to initiate a conversation about planning for retirement or a new home, saving for a child’s education or getting the latest financial market updates.
“Voice-based conversational banking is one of our high-conviction bets as we shape the bank of the future,” said Mr Aditya Gupta, Head of Digital Business, Singapore and Malaysia, OCBC Bank. “Ordering up and carrying out commonly-used banking services just by talking to their smartphones will make it much easier for our customers to manage, move and multiply their finances on their own terms. We are bullish on the conversational AI and natural language processing technology and will continue to invest in enabling more voice-activated interactions over time.”
To use the OCBC Banking Assistant, customers simply log in to the OCBC Mobile Banking app and click the “Banking Assistant” icon. They then speak to the OCBC Banking Assistant conversationally by pressing the microphone icon – for example, by saying: “Pay $100 to Titanium card from 360 Account” – and then confirm the transaction summarised on the screen with a spoken “yes” or “confirm”. Customers have the option of typing their requests should they prefer not to use their voice.
The OCBC Banking Assistant is available to all OCBC Bank customers using version 11 of the OCBC Mobile Banking app. The OCBC Banking Assistant was developed by OCBC Bank in partnership with Clinc, a US-based AI Fintech company that is a global leader in conversational AI, and whose founders are leading AI scientists. Clinc is a Fintech engaged through The Open Vault at OCBC, OCBC Bank’s Fintech and Innovation lab.