USAA Rolls Out Conversational Alexa Skill Using Clinc AI

Voice banking without voice commands? Welcome to the new USAA Alexa skill.

USAA members will now be able to bank via Amazon Alexa, skipping all of the typical command memorization necessary for learning a new skill, thanks to conversational artificial intelligence built out by AI platform Clinc, the companies announced today.

Rather, USAA members will be able to just… talk to Alexa using the skill, just like they would talk to a human banker. Customers can sign up for the pilot here.

“You just talk to it, you talk to it like a human in a room,” Jason Mars, CEO and founder of Clinc, told Bank Innovation. “This uses a completely different technology than anything else in the market.”

The Alexa skill will allow users to interact with their checking and savings account as well as their credit cards, said Darius Jones, assistant vice president for USAA Labs. This skill is the culmination of a year’s work of effort for USAA, according to Jones, which began after the bank entered the PYMNTS Alexa challenge.

“This  was an opportunity to create the last piece, which wasn’t front and center during the challenge, which is the idea that conversation would allow us to share spending insights and data relevant to spending with our customers,” said Jones. “This conversational AI is another way to provide data, promote good spending habits, and make our customer’s lives easier.”

Clinc’s AI relies on “neural network” technology as opposed to standard natural language processing, so consumers can ask the Alexa skill questions much more complex than they would be able to ask a typical chatbot, said Mars, questions like: “I remember I was in California sometime in the last two years and dropped a bunch of cash on food, how much was that?”

The AI will answer that question with the amount spent, as well as what that amount represents in terms of the user’s overall spend on food or clothes or other transactions, without needing the users to change the statement or provide any additional context.

Giving consumers the ability to have that free conversation with their bank is what financial institutions are really searching for, said Himi Khan, executive vice president of product management for Clinc.

“Now banks are looking for systems that are really, true natural language, true AI, that can speak in a very free way,” Khan said. “[FIs] are serious about these things but are very worried about whether these solutions are scaleable.”

The bank might integrate the technology into other USAA products, such as its Facebook chatbot, in the future, said Jones. For now, the skill is available as a pilot program at USAA Labs.