The Customer Effect

A Maine credit union is testing an Alexa skill for banking

  • A Maine credit union launched an Alexa skill for banking, a first among credit unions in the U.S.
  • The industry has high hopes for voice-enabled customer experiences, but the channel is still in early stages of development.
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A Maine credit union is testing an Alexa skill for banking

A Maine credit union took a leap into voice banking this week — the fourth banking institution nationally and the first credit union to launch an Alexa skill for customers.

Town & Country Federal Credit Union is starting its Alexa skill rollout with simple commands like account balances, transaction history, information the credit union’s routing number, hours and branch locations. Additional functions, such as bill pay — a feature that Capital One, USAA, and U.S. Bank have already rolled out — will follow.

According to the credit union’s president and CEO David Libby, it’s a way to respond to demands from an increasingly younger customer base while helping older customers transition to new technologies.

The credit union is one of Maine’s largest with 37,000 members and six brick-and mortar branches. Its customer base is getting younger, with its under-40 segment growing rapidly over the past two years, many of whom would feel comfortable using using voice and other non-human tools to interact with their banking institution.

Voice has been hyped for its transformative potential in financial services, but banks are still nervous about voice-enabled AI solutions. Institutions still need to test the technology to ensure it’s sophisticated enough to provide the seamless experience they would like to create. And then there’s the user-adoption hurdle. According to recent research, only 2 percent of U.S. adults say they’ve used their voice to pay bills, and only 1 percent to transfer money to a friend, through any device. According to a recent survey, over 10 million Amazon Echo devices have been sold in the U.S.

Offering customers an Alexa skill is part of the omnichannel experience that customers are demanding, said Marshall Yuan, group product manager at NCR Corporation, the banking technology company working with the credit union on the Alexa rollout.

From a venture capital perspective, credit unions need to evolve to stay relevant.

“For credit unions, it is important to continue to pay attention to these new trends, market entrants and evolving non-traditional competitors with an eye toward how they are building digital to connect with consumers,” said Brian Kaas, managing director of CMFG Ventures, the venture capital arm of CUNA Mutual Group, an insurer that offers a range of products and services for credit unions.

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