May 02, 2023

Big Changes Ahead for Conversational Payments


Michael W. Kahn

Michael W. Kahn


Chris Colson photo

LAS VEGAS—“Alexa, pay my water bill” is so 2019. Today, you can talk to Alexa like your best bud. And soon, she’ll respond like a financial adviser.

“If you interact with a conversational bot and say, ‘What’s the deets on my upcoming bills?’ it will now understand what you are talking about. You don’t have to specifically say, ‘Alexa, please tell me what bills I have coming due,’” said Chris Colson, Program Director at Federal Reserve Financial Services.

It’s the next step in conversational payments, which Colson said goes way beyond having Alexa make sure the lights stay on. It’s smart enough not only to recognize foreign languages and dialects, but also conversational words like “deets,” which is informal for “details.” 

But it goes far beyond that. At the April 16 Smarter Faster Payments 2023 session “Voice Payments, the New Frontier!” Colson demonstrated what’s just around the corner. 

Colson asked, “Alexa, do I have the right credit cards?” Alexa responded, “Let me take a quick look at your past transactions,” and without a pause went on to say, “Well, it appears that you do not have the best credit cards based on your spending patterns, which means you are not maximizing your rewards and you are paying too much. Would you like me to make some recommendations that best suit your purchasing habits?”

And she did—almost immediately suggesting a specific airline credit card for travel, a certain supermarket card for groceries, and a third card for online purchases. Alexa even offered to apply for those cards and transfer balances. When Colson asked, “What have I missed?” Alexa immediately told him that if he’d had the airline card, he would’ve earned enough for a free flight anywhere in the U.S. or three first class upgrades.

“It was conversational. It understood me. Not only did it have the ability to look at past transactions, but it had the ability to go outside of who I bank with today and make some suggestions outside of that,” said Colson, who offered words of caution to the bankers in the audience.

“I know what you’re thinking: ‘We would never do that. We want to make sure that we put our products into their hands,’” said Colson. “When this technology hits the market, if you’re not providing things like this, your customers are going to find somebody else that’s doing it and go to them.”

Much more was discussed during “Voice Payments, the New Frontier!” and the complete session will be available during Remote Connect, May 8-10. Learn more at the Remote Connect website.