OCBC ramps up banking app with voice-based helper

The OCBC Mobile Banking app now offers an artificial intelligence-powered, voice-based virtual assistant, which has already helped with over 20,000 requests made via voice since the feature’s launch last August.

In half of these requests, the customer was seeking information about spending categories and budgets; another 30% concerned past banking transactions.

Other mobile banking services that were performed using voice included locating ATMs, paying bills and changing banking PINs.

The new voice-activated banking service, which was developed and trained over 13 months and is called the OCBC Banking Assistant, ‘lives’ in the OCBC Mobile Banking app. The customer speaks to the assistant as if conversing with a human assistant – and the requested banking task gets done.

Developed in partnership with US-Based AI fintech firm Clinc and sourced through The Open Vault at OCBC, OCBC Bank’s Fintech and Innovation lab, the technology that powers the assistant had been tested and is available for use outside Singapore.

However, it had to be re-engineered for the local context – and integrated into the OCBC banking system – so that bills could be paid and account information provided seamlessly.

The assistant also had to be taught how customers in Singapore talk and “understand’ all the potential requests from customers. It was also taught to incorporate “logic” in its responses. If the customer wants to pay a bill but does not mention the bank account to debit, the assistant will prompt him or her accordingly.

“Ordering up and carrying out commonly-used banking services just by talking to their smartphones will make it much easier for our customers to manage, move and multiply their finances on their own terms,” said Aditya Gupta, head of digital business in Singapore and Malaysia at OCBC Bank. “We are bullish on the conversational AI and natural language processing technology and will continue to invest in enabling more voice-activated interactions over time.”