Emirates NBD to roll out voice banking with Amazon's Alexa

Customers will be able to check balances, track spending and listen to daily market briefings through the virtual assistant

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2018, file photo a child holds his Amazon Echo Dot in Kennesaw, Ga. Amazon met with skepticism from some privacy advocates and members of Congress last year when it introduced its first kid-oriented voice assistant , along with brightly colored models of its Echo Dot speaker designed for children. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)
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Emirates NBD customers in the UAE can soon ask their Amazon Alexa devices for banking updates such as account and credit card balances, as the bank continues to roll out its digital strategy.

Amazon Echo smart speakers, which respond to voice commands to virtual assistant Alexa, help customers track their spending from their homes and offices when they ask the device for transaction updates. The bank is the first in the region to announce Alexa voice banking, with the service also accessible on the go through Amazon Alexa enabled headsets or phones equipped with the smart speaker's App.

“Emirates NBD has always been at the forefront of banking innovations and voice banking is another step in this direction as we utilise new technologies to enhance overall customer experiences,” said Suvo Sarkar, senior executive vice president and group head of retail banking and wealth management at Emirates NBD.

The new service builds on Emirates NBD’s collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), unveiled earlier this year, to leverage artificial intelligence, cloud computing services and other technologies with the goal of better engaging with customers and simplifying banking. The bank said in 2017 it was spending Dh1 billion on digitisation over the next three years.

There are many “skills” Amazon Echo smart speakers can respond to once a voice command to virtual assistant Alexa is made, such as “Alexa, play pop music downstairs”, “Alexa, find my phone” or “Alexa, start my seven-minute workout”.

The newly developed Emirates NBD skill allows users to ask a host of questions about their accounts and receive a daily curated summary of investment-related news and global market updates from the bank’s chief investment officer. Customers can also obtain information on signing up for new products, such as a loan or a card instalment plan and other general initiatives the bank is engaged in. To get started, customers just say ‘Alexa, open Emirates NBD’.

Other commands include: “what’s my account balance?"; “what is the due date for my credit card bill?” or “what’s my account number?”

“Customers are increasingly looking to connect with banks using natural speech as it provides significantly enhanced convenience and our introduction of voice banking is a step towards building an AI-based conversational ecosystem for our customers across all touch points,” Mr Sarkar said.

Emirates NBD voice banking was co-created with customers through the bank’s Better Together programme, where selected individuals helped with pilot testing. Emirates NBD said the service allows the exchange of financial information “while upholding strict guidelines of security and privacy for users”.

Using Alexa to access accounts is already available from other global financial organisations. Under the Alexa skills category of “banking and finance,” more than 3,000 results come up, including: PayPal, Amazon.com store card, AmEx, Money Transfers and Capital One.

Emirates NBD, which has total assets of Dh537.8 billion as of June 30, is the first in the region to announce Alexa voice banking. However, the service is still in a pilot stage and a launch date is yet to be confirmed.