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Conversational technology has started to make deep inroads into the financial services industry, but because the technology is still pretty new, some companies are still reluctant to dive in without guarantees about ROI, says Juan Romera, head of development at Abe.AI. Even as consumers continue to adopt virtual assistants faster than early smartphone adoption, many companies haven’t yet recognized that these assistants are poised to become the next big revolution in user interaction.

“There are a lot of people dabbling, but the people that are really making strides are the people that are doing transactional use cases,” Romera says. He’s referring to the basic black and white situations that a virtual assistant can most easily be trained to handle – bill payments, transfers, balance checks. Because that’s such basic functionality, it’s the simplest way to both dip a toe into the possibilities of virtual assistants and also track the results of that investment.

The size of your institution simply doesn’t matter, Romera says. Execs at the biggest banks in America are very aware of the changes on the horizon, but it’s the medium-sized credit unions that are going live with more functionality than any bank in America has managed yet.

“We’re going to the smaller guys and saying, hey, do you want something better than what the big banks have now?” Romera says. “And the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s not institution size, it’s how much you buy into the technology.”

For those on the sidelines, it’s not just getting over risk adversity, or needing a guarantee that the tech will bring in cold hard cash. It’s the misconception that investing in a virtual assistant is the same thing as just spending a lot of money to install an extra, totally unnecessary channel.

“It’s the pushback that says, this is just an expense,” he explains. “But a virtual app is actually a completely new experience.”

Customers are appreciating the value-add that comes from an assistant that can analyze their transactions, help them learn how they spend their money, and provide proactive suggestions while keeping tabs on due dates, balances, and more. And it’s a far better customer service experience because the voice assistant comes to them, understands their responses, can handle questions, and finally complete requests. That’s way more efficient than having to tap around a mobile FAQ for answers.

“Right now, voice and virtual assistants are at the same point in the life cycle as when statements first went online,” Romera adds. “Consumers took a long time to adapt to that, and now the concept of not having online access is absurd.”

Consumers have already adapted to the simple use cases, routinely doing things like asking Facebook Messenger first where they can find a fee-free ATM and then how to get there, Romera says, and with the next steps right around the corner, there’s also some concern around how customers will respond, but he isn’t worried.

“I think what’s really going to push the envelope is when folks start getting into the proactive functionality,” he explains. That’s the point at which these assistants can actively be at a customer’s side, supporting them through managing their personal finances, budgeting properly, saving money, building wealth, repairing their credit score and more. It’s when customers can aggregate all their disparate accounts and apply those personal financial management tools across the board. And when they realize they can start to rely on their assistant to warn them of potential problems, keep them on track, and proactively suggest new and potentially useful solutions.

It’s the easy transactional use cases that are what’s going to get us to the next level, Romera says, and why he suggests financial institutions start with phased rollouts. So far the technology has been gaining traction steadily.

Yet, being successful comes down to finding the right partner, because the technology isn’t simple, and that requires research and investment, not just going into Alexa and Amazon’s technology to add one-line commands.

“The overarching message is get started,” Romera adds. “It takes a long time to get this stuff right. But first you need to acknowledge that there’s a big difference between investing in the future of conversational banking and just adding an Alexa skill.”

To learn more about why modern financial institutions can’t afford a wait-and-see approach to virtual assistants, how to identify the right partner for you and how to get started building a future-proof strategy, don’t miss this VB Live event.

Don’t miss out!

Register for free here.

Join our webinar to learn:

  • How conversational technologies are changing the financial services landscape
  • What to look for in a voice-enabled solution
  • Why context is key for the future of voice-enabled digital assistants
  • Ways voice and chat can power financial wellness
  • Tips for capitalizing on conversational interfaces and improve customer loyalty
  • How Envestnet | Yodlee data accuracy helps power AI-enabled voice and chat solutions


  • Juan Romera, Head of Business Development, Abe.AI
  • John Kelly, Client Partner, Financial Services, LivePerson
  • Geoff Hauge, Partner, Edgile
  • Evan Schuman, Moderator