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‘Computer, make it so!’ Why voice is the user interface of the future for retail banking



‘Computer, make it so!’ Why voice is the user interface of the future for retail banking

By Alex Bray and Sachin Pai, Genpact

In Star Trek, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was the voice of the computer for nearly 45 years. Across multiple episodes and movies, she embodied that ubiquitous sci-fi trope – the talking computer. Google even called its first speaking assistant prototype,Google Majel. Now, as with so many other aspects of the Star Trek universe, the talking computer is becoming a reality.

Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered voice interfaces are beginning to gain traction in the market.

Siri launched in 2011 leading the way for mobile devices.

Siri now has more than 41.4 million monthly active users in the United States.Amazon launched Alexa in 2014 for the home device market. Fewer than 4.5 million smart speakers were sold in Q4 2016. By Q4 2017, this had jumped to over 17.8million units.

So why is proving to be attractive to retail banking customers? Voice offers a new way to simplify complexity for customers – a crucial benefit for a complex business like financial services. Fundamentally, voice UIs can remove the need for a customer to navigate screens and a bank defined information architecture to find the answers to their questions. Customers will be able to ask questions with natural language and have answers spoken back to them. Not only is this easier to use, it also improves accessibility for the elderly or the visually impaired. Now customer access to smart phones and home devices which support voice UI, there is a real reason for them to use it.Equally, as customers acquire more and more connected devices, the Internet of Things (IoT) will become more prevalent. Voice UI will become a crucial factor in building interoperability between devices.

So what does this mean for banks? It is tempting to see voice UI as an evolution of digital banking channels. That would be a mistake. Ten years ago, many banks approached mobile banking as an extension of online banking. The lesson that banks quickly learned is that each new channel needs to be designed from the ground up, based on extensive research into customer behaviours. It is still early days for voice UI in banking, but already we can glean some insights and forecast some trends.

We can already see some banks trialing voice UI. Since November 2017, Ally Bank customers in the United States can ask Alexa, in their own words, to move money,what their balance is, and what the price of something costs in hours worked. Capital One and USAA have also launched Alexa skills.In March 2018, JPMorgan Chase even launched a new Alexa skill that will allow institutional clients to access its research through the voice assistant.

What is the opportunity for banks? According to Genpact research of more than 6,000 consumers worldwide,27% of customers would be happy to set up new accounts using voice assistants like Alexa. While still only early days yet, this already points to a potential visual-free UI future for new product sales. Banks can now explain their products and services simply and in natural language, without needing to go to a customer. Banks can also use voice UIs to seamlessly weave their services into their customers’ everyday lives. Why should a bank not offer price comparisons on a customer’s purchases made through voice UI?

Despite these opportunities, there are risks which banks need to consider. First and foremost, banks need to move quickly. There are many competitors in the market – and first mover advantage is significant. The greatest threat is likely to come from other players outside of financial services– aggregators, social networks, or financial platforms. For these companies, the provision of a highly differentiated user experience and interface is core to their business models, so they are likely to go further and faster than many banks.

Banks will also benefit from addressing a common problem in mobile banking – how will they differentiate their brand relative to others? It is easy to make a branch look luxurious or contemporary – in keeping with your brand. How will this brand differentiation be achieved in a voice UI world? Also as with mobile banking, how will customers be able to transfer from voice UI to online to contact centre?

Once a bank encourages customer to use a voice UI, there are several further challenges to address. How will the design processes to ensure customer security? Can the bank use biometrics to recognize voice patterns? How will processes will the financial institution put in place to stop customers being overheard, revealing their passwords or financial details?

Finally, banks need to work out how to market, upsell, and cross sell effectively through a voice UI.

The big question for financial institutions is what should their next steps be? First and foremost, banks need to start to build and test voice UIs. Rapid prototyping based on ethnographic research and customer journey design, backed up by experience analytics,is crucial. This is a tough journey to start on. In July, Nordnet in Sweden terminated their contract with IPSoft for their AI-powered assistant, citing a lack of progress. Yet, in the same market, SEB has been able to increase customer engagement with the same technology. Banks should seek out expert partners that can leverage experience from across multiple industries to help them deliver an experience that is differentiated from their competitors.

The success of voice as a user interface ultimately rests on the degree to which customers find transacting with their banks easier and more frictionless. This depends largely on the level of artificial intelligence (AI) that underpins the voice user interface. AI is at its infancy and algorithmic theory, let alone technology, is far from enabling general purpose conversations systems.

As a result, domain depth in customer engagement in retail consumer banking will be a critical success factor in coding, building knowledge repositories, and determining how the AI makes its decisions.  Machines are only as good as they are programmed, so the human component in the training is key, bringing in experts in all areas of customer service. These knowledge assets that will enable the underlying AI platform to successfully navigate the specific use cases that customers care about while transacting with their banks. Coding for and building such repositories and decision graphs is no menial task. At this stage in the cycle, financial institutions may benefit from working with an experience partner with a conversational AI technology stack and a consultative approach to innovate and orchestrate a purpose-built system to solve a bank’s specific business challenges.

To bring us back to our starting point, it is time for banks ‘to boldly go’ into the future of voice UI.

Alex Bray is an assistant vice president and Sachin Pai a vice president in the retail banking business at, Genpact, a global professional services firm focused on delivering digital transformation.

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U.S. inauguration turns poet Amanda Gorman into best seller



U.S. inauguration turns poet Amanda Gorman into best seller 1

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The president’s poet woke up a superstar on Thursday, after a powerful reading at the U.S. inauguration catapulted 22-year-old Amanda Gorman to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list.

Hours after Gorman’s electric performance at the swearing-in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, her two books – neither out yet – topped’s sales list.

“I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY!” Gorman, a Los Angeles resident, wrote on Twitter.

Gorman’s debut poetry collection ‘The Hill We Climb’ won top spot in the online retail giant’s sale charts, closely followed by her upcoming ‘Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem’.

While poetry’s popularity is on the up, it remains a niche market and the overnight adulation clearly caught Gorman short.

“Thank you so much to everyone for supporting me and my words. As Yeats put it: ‘For words alone are certain good: Sing, then’.”

Gorman, the youngest poet in U.S. history to mark the transition of presidential power, offered a hopeful vision for a deeply divided country in Wednesday’s rendition.

“Being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” Gorman said on the steps of the U.S. Capitol two weeks after a mob laid siege and following a year of global protests for racial justice.

“We will not march back to what was. We move to what shall be, a country that is bruised, but whole. Benevolent, but bold. Fierce and free.”

The performance stirred instant acclaim, with praise from across the country and political spectrum, from the Republican-backing Lincoln Project to former President Barack Obama.

“Wasn’t @TheAmandaGorman’s poem just stunning? She’s promised to run for president in 2036 and I for one can’t wait,” tweeted former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

A graduate of Harvard University, Gorman says she overcame a speech impediment in her youth and became the first U.S. National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.

She has now joined the ranks of august inaugural poets such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.

Her social media reach boomed, with her tens of thousands of followers ballooning into a Twitter fan base of a million-plus.

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” tweeted TV host Oprah Winfrey.

Gorman’s books are both due out in September.

Third on Amazon’s best selling list was another picture book linked to politics and projecting hope: ‘Ambitious Girl’ by Vice-President Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena Harris.

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

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Why brands harnessing the power of digital are winning in this evolving business landscape



Why brands harnessing the power of digital are winning in this evolving business landscape 2

By Justin Pike, Founder and Chairman, MYPINPAD

Delivery of intuitive, secure, personalised, and frictionless user experiences has long been table stakes in digital commerce, well before the era of COVID-19. As businesses harness the revolutionary power of digital technologies, they have pursued large-scale change to adapt to evolving consumer preferences (some more successfully than others, but that’s a blog for another day). Digital transformation is a term we hear repeatedly, and it looks different for each organisation, but essentially, it’s about utilising technology and data to digitise, automate, innovate and improve processes and the customer experience across the entire business.

As I said, this was already well underway but then came 2020 and no industry escaped the disruption of the coronavirus outbreak, which has had an indelible impact on businesses performance, operations, and revenue. Regardless of whether the impact of COVID has been very positive or very challenging, it has forced organisations globally to re-evaluate and re-orient strategies to adapt.

As lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions continue to change daily life, this raises the question of how we can balance a dramatic shift to digital and the benefits it brings, while ensuring business continuity and innovation both during and post-COVID, and protecting everyone against fraud?

Digital is an essential survival tool, and even more so in a COVID world

No one could have predicted the dramatic digital pivot that has taken place over this year. Indeed, within weeks of the COVID outbreak cash usage in the UK dropped by around 50%. Digital solutions including delivery applications, contactless payments, mobile commerce, online and mobile banking have become essential components of a touchless customer experience in the era of social distancing. It’s no longer just about an enhanced and superior customer experience, it’s also about health, safety and survival.

In store, businesses have benefited from contactless payments enabling faster throughput and reduced need for consumers to touch payment terminals (therefore requiring greater cleaning, which degrades the hardware much faster). Mastercard reported a 40% increase in contactless payments – including tap-to-pay and mobile pay – during the first quarter of the year as the global pandemic worsened. Digital has also become an essential sales channel for many B2C brands. Where brick and mortar stores have been required to close, digital commerce enables continuity of customer relationships and revenue. This channel also provides brands with rich customer data, which can be used to enhance and personalise the customer experience and typically results in greater levels of engagement and uplifts in revenue.

Industry forecasts estimate that worldwide spending on the technologies and services enabling digital transformation will reach GBP 1.8 trillion in 2023 – a clear indication that the process represents a long-term investment and a global commitment to digital-first strategy. The key point here is that digital brings significant benefits, and regardless of COVID, is here to stay.

The challenges that rapid digital transformation brings to businesses

Justin Pike

Justin Pike

Regardless of whether businesses are operating in developed or less-developed economies, these times of crisis have levelled the playing field in the sense that all businesses are facing similar issues. Access to products and supplies, maintaining customer relationships, accelerating sales for some and declining sales for others, health and hygiene are just a few of the unique challenges brought about by COVID.

Many businesses in physical environments have had to swiftly implement changes to significantly reduce safety risks for staff and customers, such as contactless payments, mobile ordering and delivery options. But with these changes come a host of other benefits of digitisation, such as faster transactions, and reduced human error at the point-of-sale.

The reliance on technology, however, can also expose organisations and consumers to certain vulnerabilities. In particular, the risks of fraud and cybercrime have dramatically increased since the onset of the pandemic as scammers have taken advantage of digital technologies to target both businesses and individuals.

As a McKinsey report illustrates, new levels of sophistication in the activities of fraudsters have placed more pressure on companies that have been previously slow to go digital, bringing “into sharp relief how vulnerable companies really are”, and damaging the financial health of small and large businesses. In fact, the Bottomline 2020 Business Payments Barometer reveals that only one in 10 small businesses across the UK report recovering more than 50% of losses due to fraud.

But take these stats with a grain of salt. While it is important to be aware of the risks and challenges this new business landscape brings, it’s equally as important to have a lens firmly across your own business, industry and audience, and to identify the changes you can make internally to mitigate risk as well as improve your customer experience. Where can you make some quick wins? Do you have the right skillsets internally to achieve what you need to achieve? What technology is out there that will enable your business goals? There are tech companies like MYPINPAD that are making huge strides in software development, which will transform businesses globally.

A digital world post-COVID

Almost a year in, the line between business success and failure remains fragile. However, an ongoing transition towards greater digitisation will be the difference between survival and the alternative.

There is a wide range of initiatives businesses can implement to weather this storm. If we look at the space MYPINPAD operates within, secure digital consumer authentication is crucial to the ongoing success and security of not only financial products but also identification and verification across a range of different industry verticals. Shifting the authentication of consumers securely onto mobile devices enables businesses to completely reshape their customer experiences. By bringing together a more seamless, frictionless customer experience, accessibility, privacy, security and access to consumer data, businesses are able to drive digital transformation across day-to-day activities.

Against this backdrop, software with stronger security standards continue to play an ever more vital role in supporting society, protecting consumers and businesses from the increase in risks that rapid digitisation brings. Already, merchants can deploy PIN on Mobile technology from companies like MYPINPAD, onto their smart devices to speed up the digitisation process many are now tackling.

Essentially, opening up universal payments and authentication methods that feel familiar, for both online and face-to-face transactions, will be key to opening up a world of possibilities when it comes to redefining how businesses engage with consumers.

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Brexit responsible for food supply problems in Northern Ireland, Ireland says



Brexit responsible for food supply problems in Northern Ireland, Ireland says 3

LONDON (Reuters) – Food supply problems in Northern Ireland are due to Brexit because there are now a certain amount of checks on goods going between Britain and Northern Ireland, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.

British ministers have sought to play down the disruption of Brexit in recent days.

“The supermarket shelves were full before Christmas and there are some issues now in terms of supply chains and so that’s clearly a Brexit issue,” Coveney told ITV.

The Northern Irish protocol means there are “a certain amount of checks on goods coming from GB into Northern Ireland and that involves some disruption,” he said.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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