Abe AI Guides Credit Unions on how to Choose the Right Channel for Virtual Financial Assistants


Choosing the right channel to deploy your virtual financial assistant is one of the most important decisions your financial institution will make.

Jim McCarthy, President and CEO of Trailhead Credit Union in Portland, made that decision early last year and chose to partner with your Strategic Link valued partner Abe AI.

“Members will be able to get general information from their virtual agent, without needing to call or email our employees,” said McCarthy. “This enables our Member Service Officers to focus on helping members deal with more in-depth, account-related questions.”

Choosing Your Channels

The channel your credit union chooses will ultimately impact the promotion, member discovery, onboarding, and much more. So how do you choose a conversational channel that makes sense for you? Begin by evaluating how a particular channel compares to the following factors:

Member Discoverability

First, evaluate what’s most likely to be adopted by your members. Take into account where your user base already is digitally active and what other devices they might own. For instance, the voice-enabled smart speaker market is growing exceptionally fast. But do your members own an Amazon Alexa or Google Home? Do they use them? How do you know for sure? Simple email-based surveys can help surface device ownership and willingness to adopt. If you have strong engagement within your mobile application, it makes sense to layer in your virtual financial assistant there.

Regardless of which channel you choose, strong promotional campaigns are critical to building awareness and generating excitement around this new virtual assistant.


Rest assured at Abe AI, we take cyber security very seriously. Before anyone can use your virtual financial assistant, confirmation of a person’s identity is required. Depending on where you choose to deploy, members may be required to work through an authentication process.

For instance, an authentication process is required by platforms such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook Messenger. Members must associate their identity with a device before it can be used to access their financial data. This authentication process is a point of friction in a member’s journey that can limit adoption.

The easiest way to avoid this friction is to embed your virtual financial assistant experiences inside an existing authenticated environment, such as your mobile banking app. Unless you develop your own mobile banking app, this will require an integration with your digital banking provider. The level of effort and cost depends on your relationship with your mobile banking app vendor, their experience with account linking interfaces, and security protocols such as OAuth 2.0.


Another factor to consider when choosing a channel are the perceived security concerns that are generally associated when adopting a new technology. For instance, voice-enabled smart speakers from Amazon Alexa’s device family don’t use voice biometrics to authenticate a person, nor do they integrate with third-party voice biometric providers.

So how do you prevent unauthorized access? One method is a voice-passcode. Before any information can be accessed through a voice-enabled smart speaker, a voice-passcode is required after an extended period of inactivity. This simple but effective method prevents people with access to a voice-enabled smart speaker in your home or office from inquiring about your bank balances, modifying your budgets, or attempting to transfer money.

But what if your voice-passcode is compromised? What other control features do you have in place to prevent against malicious activity?

Two-step verification can be introduced into the member experience when attempting to conduct high-risk activities such as sending money to an external account via a voice-enabled smart speaker. Yet, this step can diminish the convenience of voice.

Member Utility

As you begin to dive deeper and deeper into the step-by-step experience required by the user to complete a banking related task, it’s important to question the ease and efficacy of the channel involved. Just because you can send money to friends using Amazon Alexa, does it really make it more useful and convenient once you’ve accounted for all the security measures the user will need to go through? This is not to say that voice is not useful, but really it all depends on the situational context, the device used, and what the member prefers.

Implementation Costs

Lastly, you want to factor in the time, costs, and resources required to deploy. While you may want to launch across all, or even several conversational channels at once, it’s important to choose the ones that generate the biggest impact with the smallest demand on resources as possible.

We’ve helped several financial institutions evaluate and choose deployment channels that made sense based on their strategic objectives and business case. We’d love to help you too. Please visit www.abe.ai or email sales@abe.ai

Visit our Strategic Link partner, Abe AI at the MAXX 2018 Trade Show in Tacoma, Wash., Oct. 16-18 in the betaSpace area of the trade show.

Posted in GoWest Solutions.