OCBC’s new voice-activated service on its mobile app can understand some Singlish, Companies & Markets

Tue, Sep 10, 2019 – 1:24 PM

OCBC customers can use simple Singlish to make mobile banking requests via a new voice-activated virtual assistant on the bank’s mobile app. 

Known as the OCBC Banking Assitant, the AI-powered voice service is able to process requests made using “unstructured phrases” commonly used in Singapore, such as “Can pay my bill?” and “How much I spend on dining?”, said OCBC in a media release on Tuesday.

Besides paying bills and tracking expenses, other services such as locating ATMs and changing banking PINs are also available. The customer speaks to the Assistant on the OCBC app as if conversing with a human assistant, and the requested banking task gets done. 

The new service has helped with over 20,000 voice requests since Aug 19, said OCBC. In half of these requests, customers were seeking information about spending categories and budgets, while another 30 per cent enquired on past banking transactions.

The OCBC Banking Assistant was developed in partnership with Clinc, a US-based fintech which specialises in conversational AI. 

While previously tested and available for use outside of Singapore, the Assistant had to be re-engineered for the local context and integrated into OCBC’s banking system to enable bills to be paid seamlessly, said the bank. This process spanned over 13 months. 

With the help of natural language processing technology and machine learning, the Assitant was configured to process the way Singaporeans talk to “understand” potential requests made in simple Singlish in order to pull up the right information or launch the right service, said OCBC. 

The Assitant was also trained to incorporate “logic” in its responses. For example, if the customer wants to pay a bill but does not mention the bank account to debit, the Assistant will prompt him or her accordingly. 

“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,” said Aditya Gupta, OCBC head of digital business for Singapore and Malaysia. 

The bank is bullish on conversational AI and natural language processing technology and will continue to invest in enabling more voice-activated interactions over time.

“Voice-based conversational banking is one of our high-conviction bets,” said Mr Gupta.

OCBC said it was the first financial institution in Singapore to enable customers to make mobile banking requests via voice in February last year. Apple smartphone users could speak to Apple’s voice assitant Siri to check their bank balances, credit card information and make e-payments. 

The Google Assistant was integrated with OCBC’s services in April 2018, enabling anyone to speak to the Google Assistant – on a smartphone or a Google Home device – to initiate a conversation about planning for retirement or a new home, saving for a child’s education or getting the latest financial market updates, said OCBC. 



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by : Natalie Choy

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