No. 2: Artificial Intelligence Expands
Lots of real brains are hard at work on artificial intelligence and promises of serious advances abound. Here’s a prediction for 2018: Continuing broadening of the definition of AI itself. Like cloud computing before, a narrowly defined idea has expanded with its ubiquity. AI now includes machine learning – a machine’s ability to keep improving its performance without constant human intervention – and really nearly anything that can be done on a computer if the definition is pushed to its limits.
Symitar president Ted Bilke says this of the year ahead: “More credit unions will advance artificial intelligence from the consideration and planning stage to deployment. Engaging with members in more impactful way may lead this effort as a revenue driver. Fraud prevention will lead the way from a cost-savings perspective.”
Driving this will be advances in machines’ ability to understand natural language, and act on it. At least one big bank, Barclays, already is allowing customers to make payments via Siri on their iPhones. Look for similar solutions using Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.
It's already happening. Symitar announced Dec. 20 that it is now offering voice-enabled transactions for credit unions that use its Episys platform. That includes Enrichment FCU ($456.5, Oak Ridge, TN), where 115 employees have been given Amazon Echo Dot devices and training to teach members how to use them. More than 200 have in three weeks so far.
More credit unions will advance artificial intelligence from the consideration and planning stage to deployment.
No. 3: Voice Recognition Presents New Opportunities
“As consumers become more comfortable with voice-enabled technology, they will begin using it for financial interactions,” says Scott Hess, Fiserv’s vice president of user experience, consulting, and innovation. The first wave will be checking balances and account activity, but that will be followed by paying bills and transferring funds.
A prediction: A tipping point will arrive relatively quickly. Remember the slow growth from brochure-ware to transactional websites, then how much faster mobile took off? Expect the same kind of trajectory here. After all, Amazon said the Echo Dot was a top seller on Black Friday. That’s millions of new users looking to use it. Credit unions would do well to provide a path for that.
Security also will get a boost from AI. Neural networks have been around since the turn of the century; helping credit card processors spot transactions that don’t fit patterns is really nothing new. But they’re getting better at it. And biometrics are rapidly joining PIN and passwords as authentication channels, and may soon supplant them.
Biometrics themselves are changing fast, too. Voice authentication technology is advancing, thanks to AI and machine learning, and palm vein identification already is in place at some financial institutions, including Andigo Credit Union ($873.1M, Schaumburg, IL).
Count on hearing more about that in the coming year.
No. 4: Blockchain Nears “Proofs Of Concept”
Last but not least is blockchain and distributed ledger technology. It’s the technology behind bitcoins but not bitcoins themselves, and billions are being invested worldwide in putting the technology to work.
Players in our space include CULedger (a startup backed by CUNA) and Hyperledger (a global consortium that NAFCU joined as its first financial trade association). Bilke at Symitar expects to see use cases for distributed ledger technology to begin to emerge as collaborations yield “blockchain proofs of concept.”
We already live in interesting times, and 2018 promises to be no different. Hopefully we’ll see credit unions using these innovations to heighten their ability to respond to the needs of members buffeted by the crosswinds of change in an uncertain economy.