SAN ANTONIO - USAA members can now ask their iPhone how much they spent on groceries last month or tell it to pay the mortgage on Thursday.
It's all done through voice commands that the financial institution's new software not only can hear and understand, but act upon.
USAA has embedded Nuance's voice recognition service known as Nina into its iPhone app for mobile banking.
"In the past, we always sort of waited for our members to call us or log on to the website. Now, we can be with them," said Neff Hudson, USAA's assistant vice president of emerging channels.
"What this voice assistant does is it allows you to just ask a question and go right to what you're trying to accomplish," Hudson said.
Members simply log on to their USAA account and press the voice button to activate the assistant. Users can use it to transfer funds, check stocks, file an auto claim and pay bills, among other functions.
Demonstrating the voice assistant, Hudson instructed it to pay a bill.
The voice responded within seconds, "What date would you like to pay that bill?"
"Next Thursday," Hudson said. "I'll pay $200 from checking on May 9, 2013. Okay."
Once Hudson gave the okay, it was done.
USAA launched the feature to make mobile banking more convenient, especially for disabled members and military members who are deployed and rely on mobile banking, according to Hudson.
It is cool. But is it secure?
"If someone gets a hold of your phone and figures out your four-digit PIN, that's sort of like handing your ATM card and PIN to somebody," Hudson said. "We always tell our membership to make sure you use screen locks."
Members also must use their USAA PIN to access the app. Further, Hudson said the financial institution's fraud and security people would catch suspicious activity and freeze of shut down the account.
Down the road, biometrics could be used to identify the rightful user.
"Right now, we're experimenting with biometrics," Hudson said. "It could be your voice, it could be your facial scan, your thumbprint, even the way your tap on a keyboard," he said.
The voice feature should be available to Android users later in the year.
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