October 17, 2017

'Alexa, check my account balance' now possible with Town & Country FCU

Courtesy / Town & Country FCU
Courtesy / Town & Country FCU
David Libby, president and CEO of Town & Country Federal Credit Union, said the credit union's new Alexa service took a few months to develop. He is shown here at the company's Scarborough operations center.

About Town & Country FCU

  • Based in Scarborough

  • Roots going back to 1953 founding of St. John's Federal Credit Union

  • Name change to Town & Country FCU in 1986

  • 36,822 members and $351.6 million in assets as of Sept. 30, 2017

  • Operates six branches in Saco, South Portland, Portland and Scarborough

Source: Town & Country Federal Credit Union

"Alexa, check my account balance at Town & Country Federal Credit Union."

Members of the Scarborough-based credit union can now use Amazon's voice-activated virtual assistant to securely access their personal account information using a range of brave-new-Millennial-world devices from the Echo to the Spot.

David Libby, Town & Country's president and CEO, told Mainebiz that the service took "not quite six months" to develop and has received a positive response from staff during testing. After various tweaks, it is now available to customers.

Town & Country says it's the country's first credit union, and among only a few financial institutions so far to introduce a function, or skill, for Alexa with "account linking and management functionality."

"We are very excited about voice digital assistants," said Libby. "They have a lot of potential to make life easier for our members, who are able to use the technology to understand how their money is flowing through their everyday life."

He added: "We wanted to get in early to see and learn as much as possible so that we can be ready as other technologies are ready."

Amazon unveiled Alexa in 2014 as a voice-activated service reportedly inspired by "Star Trek" and other science-fiction TV shows. In real life, Alexa connects to wireless devices via the cloud, allowing users to check the weather, play music and "Jeopardy!" and get factual questions answered with information from the internet just by asking (always starting with "Alexa."). Alexa can also interact with automated devices in the home such as thermostats, light switches and "smart" refrigerators that update shopping lists for owners.

As of July, the Alexa skills tally surpassed 15,000 functions, according to TechCrunch.

Town & Country developed the Alexa banking skill in collaboration with Digital Insight, a Redwood, Calif.-based provider of online and mobile banking solutions to U.S. mid-market banks and credit unions. Digital Insight is owned by NYSE-listed NCR Corp. of Duluth, Ga.

Libby said the Alexa service is a complement to Town & Country's physical branch network, call center and existing digital services. "It's another extension of those various means and ways that our members can have access to their information, make decisions and get answers to their questions."

In coming months, Town & Country plans to add more Alexa skills.

"We see this moving very rapidly into more of an intelligent-tool machine learning aspect to provide people with information to understand how they're spending their money," said Libby. "It's the nature of artificial intelligence that the machine actually learns things, and interactively it will allow us to add features and solutions."

New but growing trend

Courtesy / Town & Country FCU
Courtesy / Town & Country FCU
Alexa, a voice-activated device created by Amazon, can now be used by members of the Town & Country Federal Credit Union to check on their account balances.

The move comes about a year after Capital One Financial Corp., of McLean, Va., became the country's first lender to offer its customers a way to interact with their financial accounts through Alexa-compatible devices. Todd Mason, president of the Maine Credit Union League, said in an interview last week at the group's Westbrook headquarters that he sees Alexa-enabled banking starting to catch on among credit unions. "It's still new, but it's growing," he said.

Outside of Maine, the Virginia Credit Union in Richmond, the New England Federal Credit Union in Vermont, and Chicago's Alliant Credit Union are all offering Alexa services for customers, which vary by institution.

Alliant members can check only general information such as the credit union's hours of operation and phone number, while Capital One customers can use a single voice command to check their account balance, recent spending and pay bills.


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