OCBC launches voice-activated AI banking service

Kok Xinghui

SINGAPORE (Sept 10): Move over, Siri. Here comes OCBC with its own artificial intelligence digital assistant.

In a first for Singapore, customers of OCBC Bank can now pay their bills, check account transactions and track expenses by talking to their phones.

The new voice-activated banking service, called OCBC Banking Assistant, was developed and trained over 13 months.

It has been taught how customers in Singapore speak. For example, the AI is able to understand unstructured phrases commonly used in Singapore, such as “How much I spend on dining”, “Can show my spending pattern?” or “Can pay my bill?”

Such requests could stumble AIs built for a US market, such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon Assistant and Google Assistant. But OCBC says its banking assistant has been tailored to ensure it can accurately pull up the requested information or launch the right service for the customer to complete the transaction using the OCBC Mobile Banking app.

OCBC Banking Assistant 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 the user accordingly. Or, if a customer has specified an account name in making a request, the assistant will take this cue and omit information about other accounts.

OCBC has offered the assistant on its app since Aug 19. So far, it has helped with over 20,000 voice requests.

In half of these requests, the customer was seeking information about spending categories and budgets, while another 30% concerned past banking transactions. Other mobile banking services that were performed using voice included locating ATMs, paying bills and changing banking PINs.

Aditya Gupta, Head of Digital Business, Singapore and Malaysia, OCBC Bank said voice-based conversational banking was one of their high-conviction bets for the future of banking.

“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,” Gupta says. “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.”