USAA and Nuance Create a Financial Virtual Assistant

USAA, a financial services provider for more than 11 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families, has teamed up with Nuance Communications to create Savings Coach, a proactive virtual assistant designed to help millennials save money.

Nuance's Nina virtual assistant technology is the foundation for the Savings Coach, which is available for mobile devices running on the Android and iOS platforms. The mobile app looks at users' purchasing behaviors, works with them to cut spending, and, through gamification, even challenges them to forgo some purchases as a way to save money. As users accomplish their individual savings goals, they are rewarded through points, badges, and new levels within the app. The app automatically takes the money that they would have spent and transfers it to their savings accounts.

Users can interact with the app by speaking, tapping, or typing, but Greg Pal, vice president of marketing, strategy, and business development in Nuance's Enterprise Division, says voice has proven to be a most effective input modality.

"We have found so far that speech is a nice way to engage with the app and bring the experience to life," he states. "We've seen increased task completion with speech."

"Our mission is to help facilitate the financial security of our members, so we need to leverage technology to make it easier for members to track their finances and find new ways to save," said Eric Smith, vice president of technology architecture at USAA, in a statement. "Savings Coach engages millennials through a conversational, simple explanation on the importance of saving, analysis of spending, and ongoing suggestions for a savings plan."

During a four-month pilot, the nearly 800 participating USAA members, aged 18-24, collectively saved close to $120,000.

"Virtual assistants, like the one used in Savings Coach, are evolving to become much more personal and proactive in nature. We've seen the benefit proactive financial information can bring to our members through Savings Coach," Smith said.

USAA was the first financial services firm to leverage Nuance's Nina technology through its mobile application. The application, first introduced in August 2012, allows users to use speech to request balances, see how much they spent in the past week, when their next bill or loan payment is due, and more, rather than having to click through different pages in the app.

"Our collaboration with USAA is ushering in a new era of customer service where artificial intelligence and self-service merge to proactively provide information and add value to each customer engagement," said Robert Weideman, executive vice president and general manager of the Enterprise Division at Nuance, in a statement. "USAA's use of our proactive virtual assistant is an example of how these assistants can, and will, become truly intelligent, adding a new layer of sophistication that moves beyond automation to deliver deeper, more personal interactions that further improve the customer experience and build loyalty."

USAA was the first bank to adopt the Nina Mobile virtual assistant technology when Nuance launched it in August 2012, Pal says. "We've been working with USAA for quite a while now," he states. "We have a very longstanding relationship with them that goes back about 10 years."

Other financial services firms to introduce Nina apps include U.S. BankING, and Turkey's Garanti Bank.

Across this broad customer base, "customers are readily adopting self-service technologies, and they want those systems to be conversational, able to adapt to them, and as intelligent as possible," Pal says.

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