Oct. 11 2018 — A lack of interest among U.S. mobile banking customers in using home assistant devices for banking may be short-lived as they get more comfortable with the technology behind these products.
More than 60% of the mobile bank app users surveyed by S&P Global Market Intelligence in February said they were not interested in accessing bank account information through devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. Only 16.3% of survey respondents said they would be interested, and 22.8% were undecided. Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google are among the companies selling connected home devices, often known as smart speakers, that allow users to control various household appliances and access online information using voice-activated technology.
If respondents answered no to the question about home assistant devices, we asked them which factors explained their lack of interest. More than half indicated that they did not own such a device, but only about a quarter said they had no plans to acquire one.
Low ownership levels may not remain an obstacle for long. Kagan, a media research group at S&P Global Market Intelligence, projected in June that smart speaker unit shipments in North America would reach 35.2 million by year-end 2018 and 40.6 million in 2019, up from 26.2 million in 2017.
Ally Financial Inc., Capital One Financial Corp. and U.S. Bancorp are among the banks that allow customers to perform some banking functions through Amazon Alexa, such as inquiring about balances and transactions and paying bills. Alexa is the artificial intelligence technology behind voice-enabled Amazon devices. Some other depository institutions linked to Alexa only make non-user-specific information available through that channel, such as interest rates and branch locations and hours.
Bank of America Corp. has gone in a different direction on AI-driven customer service with its own digital assistant. Dubbed Erica, this virtual financial assistant is available through Bank of America's app and uses both voice and onscreen interaction. About 24% of the BofA customers we surveyed said they would be interested in using a home assistant device to access bank account information, compared to 21% and 16%, respectively, for Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Security and privacy concerns were also significant factors in explaining unwillingness among our survey participants to use smart speakers for banking. More than 47% of respondents cited security concerns, while 38% cited privacy concerns. Survey participants could select more than one response.
But such objections might diminish as consumers gain more exposure to the technology, as has happened in other areas, such as the mobile channel for financial services itself. Our mobile payments survey results for the last two years show some decrease in security concerns as an explanation for why people choose not to use mobile payments.
This year's mobile banking survey found, not surprisingly, that younger banking customers are much more likely to be open to using home assistant devices for banking. Almost a quarter of our survey respondents from the Gen Z/Millennial age group, which encompassed ages 18 to 37, answered this question in the affirmative.
Time itself will likely play a role in increasing demand for banking access through this channel, as ownership of such devices grows and consumers who have relied on digital technology for most of their lives make up more of the market for financial services.
The 2018 mobile banking survey was fielded between Feb. 8 and Feb. 21, 2018, across a nationwide random sample of 4,000 U.S. mobile bank app users aged 18 and older. S&P Global Market Intelligence weighted the data to be nationally representative. Results have a margin of error of +/- 1.6% at the 95% confidence level based on the sample size of 4,000.