Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant have quietly crept up into our homes, cars, pockets, and even household items.
People have gotten used to them fairly quickly and use these voice assistants to perform web searches, get directions, manage tasks, ask questions, and even shop.
Voice technology has become so efficient and accurate that it’s often easier for people to do their banking using only their voice by talking to a virtual assistant on their smartphone instead of doing it all manually.
Naturally, big banks and small jumped on the voice assistant bandwagon, and now we have a healthy number of virtual banking assistants eager to help us in our daily banking.
This seems to be a new battlefield for big banks and one more category where they are upping one another.
In this article, we’re taking a look at the most popular virtual banking assistants in the US and what their advantages and disadvantages are.
Virtual Banking Assistants vs. Chatbots
There’s some confusion surrounding chatbots and virtual assistants. I’d say that virtual assistants are a higher, more advanced form of chatbots.
Chatbots are a form of customer service that gives you a straightforward answer to your questions that have to contain keywords in order to get a good response. They are also text-based, while virtual banking assistants tend to voice activated.
Chatbots are widely available and are typically seen in e-commerce stores where they answer simple queries that customers may have, thus saving time and money for the companies that deploy them.
They also offer excellent customer service as there’s no need to wait for the next available customer service rep.
VBAs are more advanced because they can handle personalized and more complex tasks. Some virtual banking assistants are better than others, and sometimes, even a chatbot will perform better, depending on the task.
Virtual assistants are, and there’s no doubt about that, the future of customer service and digital banking as more and more banks come out with their iterations.
If you think digital banking apps are already quite handy and practical, wait a few years until the virtual assistant technology completely matures and shows exactly how useful it can be.
Erica – Bank of America
Erica, BoA’s virtual banking assistant was launched in 2018 and is one of the most advanced AI-driven virtual financial assistants on the market.
28+ million clients have already interacted with Erica more than 905 million times since the launch.
It offers personalized guidance to all Bank of America users by leveraging the latest technologies in advanced analytics and cognitive messaging. For now, Erica only speaks English, but the bank is planning to expand to Spanish as well.
So, how can Erica help you? There are many useful use cases where Erica could be a faster and more convenient way of banking.
Apart from the basic things, such as helping you access your routing and account numbers or checking balances, Erica can help you find and view your Zelle payments and even cancel any pending payments.
It can also help you lock and unlock your cards or replace cards that may be stolen or lost.
Here are some other functions:
- Notifications when duplicate charges occur
- View and redeem rewards in one place
- Monitor recurring charges and increases
- Examine weekly updates on monthly spending
- Receive bill reminders for scheduled payments
- Be alerted when merchant refunds post to your account
- View balances in all your accounts
- Locate past transactions in all accounts
- FICO Score Insights
- Explore strategies that work for you
- Get guided to a specialist to discuss different opportunities
And lastly, Erica can help you access your Merrill quotes, track performance, place trades, and connect you with your Merrill advisor.
Chase Digital Assistant – JP Morgan Chase
Chase’s virtual banking assistant was launched in November 2020 at the height of the pandemic. It’s unimaginatively called the Chase Digital Assistant, and it lets you:
- Check your account balance
- Fetch your account or routing numbers
- Replace, lock or unlock your credit and debit cards
- Transfer money to others
- Pay bills
- See your investment transfers, watchlists, and securities
- Quickly navigate to the place in the app to manage accounts
Unlike some other VBAs on the market, the Chase version is only available in English. But I’m sure they’ll update it to at least speak Spanish.
To use the assistant, do the following:
- Sign in to the Chase Mobile app
- Find the Chase Digital Assistant icon in the upper left corner
- Tap the icon to bring up a chat window
- Type your question
The Chase Digital Assistant will respond to your query with answers, request more information, or show you where in the app you can find the solution or do what you need.
Unfortunately, Chase Digital Assistant doesn’t offer voice interaction and is, therefore, inferior to other assistants that do offer this advanced feature.
Eno – Capital One
Capital One was the first of the major US banks to launch an AI-powered personal finance assistant. It was launched in 2017 and represents a gender-neutral assistant called Eno. Eno talks in natural language and is present in the mobile app and browser.
It can send you notifications about important activities to your email, via text messages, or even to your smartwatch.
You can text Eno directly or chat by logging in to your account via your desktop or the Capital One app. Eno is available 24/7, and you can chat with it using shorthand words and/or emojis.
Apart from managing your account and cards, Capital One’s virtual assistant can also update your personal info, add an authorized user, check your credit line, pay a bill, and even tell jokes.
Eno, unfortunately, doesn’t have voice controls and is only available in English.
Ally Assist – Ally Bank
Ally, a fintech startup turned fully-fledged bank, introduced its virtual assistant Ally Assist all the way back in 2015.
Since the onset, Ally customers could interact with it via speech or text to do a wide variety of tasks, such as initiating transfers, paying bills, performing other transactions, and depositing money.
One can also request detailed information on accounts and transactions as well as get information on interest earned and saving/spending patterns.
You can ask Ally Assist how much you spent with a certain merchant in a certain time period, for example.
The virtual banking assistant learns by using customer data profiles and machine learning. it’s designed in a way that it’s anticipating your needs.
Smart Assistant – U.S. Bank
The U.S. Bank launched its virtual banking assistant called Smart Assistant at the height of the pandemic when the demand for digital banking was exploding due to lockdowns.
The assistant was designed to be voice-first so that it feels like you’re having a real conversation with the app. It’s an effort to try and mimic the conversation you’d have with your banker.
It’s far more than a chatbot that helps you navigate menus. By asking questions using a common language, digital banking seems natural again.
The U.S. Bank assistant can perform complex tasks. For example, you don’t need to remember account numbers. You can tell the Smart Assistant to “transfer $500 to my emergency fund from my personal checking” because it will recognize the account nicknames you’ve made.
Here are some other tasks it can complete for you:
- Enroll with Zelle
- Pay bills
- View and redeem rewards
- Find the nearest ATM or branch
- Deposit a check
- Update contact information
- Set travel restrictions and notifications
- Add other users
- Manage your cards
Fargo – Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo virtual banking assistant is still in the works. It will be simply called Fargo and is due sometime in 2022. It’s already September, and it still isn’t out, although it was announced in October 2021.
The virtual assistant will be able to do many of the things other VAs on this list are capable of.
Wells Fargo has more branches than any lender (except Chase). The bank is currently going through a tech overhaul under CEO Charles Scharf. The priority is to update the aging systems the bank is running on.
For that reason, the bank revealed a decade-long plan to move computing to Google and Microsoft cloud servers.
The bank is seriously trailing behind competitors in active mobile users and has 17 million fewer active users than JP Morgan Chase.
Gabby – Extraco Banks
Virtual banking assistants aren’t only being developed by big banks. In fact, Extraco, a bank that started out as a cotton warehouse company that now has over $2 billion in assets under management, also has a VA.
This local bank that is serving 140,000+ customers unveiled Gabby – a “virtual banking assistant who can answer all the most common banking questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Gabby offers a personalized banking experience that can save you time and help you avoid queues at your local branch.
Issues With Virtual Banking Assistants
Perhaps the single biggest issue with VBAs is that all of your conversations are recorded for several reported reasons:
- Quality assurance
- Keeping track of your requests
- Ensuring VBA’s optimal performance
- Improving the performance
This obviously isn’t great from the privacy standpoint, however, your customer service phone calls and chats are typically also recorded and saved for some time.
In the digital world, privacy has taken a back seat to the advances in technology. People and some institutions are pushing back, though, because user privacy is an important topic that we should all be concerned with.
The advances in technology and AI have made it possible to mimic your banking experience from the comfort of your home.
This means that you can not only use online or mobile banking apps but also avail of virtual banking assistants that offer a personalized experience and get you to complete financial services quickly, using only your voice or chat.
All the big banking players have unveiled their virtual banking assistants or will do so in the near future.