OCBC integrates voice command service with banking app

OCBC Bank has built its own voice-activated AI tool that was developed and trained over 13 months and "reengineered for local context", enabling its mobile app customers to use the service for various transactions, including bill payments and balance enquiries.

OCBC Bank has built its own voice command tool and integrated the artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistance with its mobile app, enabling customers to use the service for various transactions including bill payments and balance enquiries. Developed and trained over a span of 13 months, the Singapore bank says the software has been "reengineered for local context" and "taught" how local consumers speak. 

Called the OCBC Banking Assistant, the voice-activated service was touted to converse like a human assistant and capable of handing speech structures commonly used in Singapore, so it could better understand potential customer requests. For instance, local customers typically could use unstructured phrases such as "how much I spend on dining" or "can can pay my bill". 

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The bank said the artificial intelligence (AI) tool learnt to incorporate logic into its responses so it would know to prompt customers to clarify the bank account from which to deduct, to facilitate a bill payment, should the customers omit the detail in their initial request. 

OCBC last year had enabled voice-based commands for Apple's Siri and Google Assistant, which would continue to be supported for transactions or requests performed outside its mobile banking app, a spokesperson told ZDNet. With the development of its own voice assistant tool, the bank was able to further ensure security and user experience remained optimal.

The software was developed alongside Clinc, a US AI Fintech company that specialised in conversational AI.

According to the bank, more than 2 million banking transactions and services a month are processed using OCBC's mobile app. Its voice assistant went live on August 19 and, since then, had facilitated more than 20,000 requests made via voice. Half of such requests involved information about spending categories and budgets, while 30% were related to past banking transactions. Other voice-activated requests were related to locating ATMs, paying bills, and changing banking PINs.

OCBC's head of digital business for Singapore and Malaysia, Aditya Gupta, said: "Voice-based conversational banking is one of our high-conviction bets as we shape the bank of the future. 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.

"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," Gupta said.

OCBC mobile customers would need to use version 11 of the banking app to access the voice assistant service. 

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