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Is It Safe to Allow Bank Access through Voice Assistants?

While binge-watching Game of Thrones in your pajamas, you remember you need to Zelle your buddy money for tickets to next week’s NHL game. Using your voice, you ask your smart TV’s voice assistant to connect you to your bank, where you set up and authorize the person-to-person payment.  

This represents frictionless banking at its best – and its where we’re headed in the quickly growing voice-commerce economy.

Consumers (75%) expect companies to use new technologies to create better experiences for them, according to a study by Salesforce, and that means expanding the definition of “multi-channel access” to include voice assistants. Already, institutions like Capital One, Ally Bank, Numerica, and Enrichment Federal Credit Union are inviting consumers to access services through this voice-activated channel. 

Juniper Research estimates there will be 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023, up from the 2.5 billion at the end of 2018. In addition to the continued growth of voice assistants in use on smart speakers and in cars, Juniper predicts an explosion in the smart TV voice assistant category – 121.3 percent (CAGR) from 2019 to 2023.

The “wearables” category is also expected to experience rapid growth. This month, Levi’s and Google introduced a $200 jean jacket with built-in Google Assistant at the cuff, making it possible for more of us to talk into our sleeves like Secret Service agents. As voice banking evolves, it will be possible to start an auto loan application via your wearable while walking your dog.

Alexa, are you secure?

“Of course!” Banking APIs can allow seamless, secure integration between voice assistants and the banking platform. Voice assistants can be configured to passively verify an account holder’s voice and connect them to their institution.

Once connected, existing risk and fraud engines take over, carefully assessing every monetary and non-monetary transaction request, looking for out-of-pattern behaviors or activities that are beyond the institution’s risk tolerance.

New channels. New fraud schemes.

It will be critical for institutions to keep their fraud engines (adaptive risk- and fraud-scoring systems) finely tuned. With new fraud channels will come new fraud schemes.

“As more channels become voice-activated, fraudsters will leverage emerging technologies such as voice synthesis to impersonate consumers,” according to a 2018 survey report by Pindrop. Already the rate of voice fraud increased more than 350 percent between 2013 and 2017. And Pindrop says voice fraud costs U.S. organizations $14 billion each year within call centers alone. 

It’s eerie to think about, but voice synthesis software is so smart, that even a few sentences spoken over the phone to a wrong-number caller can be used to create a deepfake voice. And that deepfake voice can be used for nefarious purposes, like the widely reported case where a deepfake voice was used to scam a CEO out of $243,000.

Give the people what they want

In a recent survey by Fiserv, 51 percent of consumers said they see the benefits of voice-activated banking. If the use of voice assistants grows as projected, this number will surely rise. Consumer demand and the continued desire to provide frictionless experiences will force you to overcome any concerns you have over potential fraud. You’ll have to innovate to stay relevant – especially when there is an entire generation of future account holders who have never known life without voice assistants.

Soon there will be dozens of powerful, proven solutions that use the same artificial intelligence to detect synthetic voices as is used to create them. In the meantime, rely on your existing layers of protection to catch fraudsters who are clever enough to fool the voice system.

About the Author
Jack Sundstrom is ID Insight’s Chief Product and Marketing Officer. For the past 25 years he has built advanced analytic solutions on behalf of Fortune 500 clients across a variety of industries including financial services, telecommunications, retail, consumer packaged goods and automotive. Contact him at jack.sundstrom@idinsight.com.