- U.S. Bank, the country's fifth-biggest commercial bank with more than 3,000 branches, released a skill for Amazon's Alexa digital assistant, according to a statement by the bank.
- Customers can now use voice commands to check account balances, browse transaction history and make payments to their credit card. To use the service, customers need to own an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Tap, plus download the Alexa App on their smartphone and have an Amazon account.
- The bank tested the Alexa skill with employees over the summer before releasing it publicly.
This news is the latest in a series of moves by U.S. Bank to remove friction in banking for customers via innovative mobile tools. In June, it began letting customers digitally send money to other individuals using Zelle, the person-to-person funds transfer service backed by many major financial institutions and underpinning the growth of P2P payments on a broader level. In July, it rolled out the U.S. Bank Loan Portal to simplify the process of applying for a mortgage, another example of the bank's emphasis on boosting the customer experience in an industry not historically known for embracing innovative or user-friendly tech.
Financial services companies have slowly embraced new consumer computing platforms since the creation of the ATM, and voice-activated digital assistants are growing in popularity among people who seek the convenience of multitasking. This recent wave of banks' new user-focused tools points to how these seamless solutions — like U.S. Bank's Alexa skill — can drive consumer adoption.
Meanwhile, banks are concerned that technology companies could take over their relationships with customers, relegating them to low-margin services on par with a utility, American Banker reported. That has created some distrust with tech giants like Amazon. The three biggest concerns that banks have are: Facebook and Amazon having access to data that banks send through their channels; Facebook and Amazon's monitoring of customer conversations with a financial institution over Messenger or Alexa; and transaction data being read by the tech companies' product-recommendation engines. Despite these concerns, a steady number of financial institutions continue to partnered with tech giants and embrace new tools for customers.