88: Capital One – The First Bank To Support Amazon Echo

Aug 08, 2016
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Tonight we have Ken Dodelin, the Vice President of Digital Product Development at Capital One. They recently had a massive announcement about working with Amazon and in particular Amazon Echo and Amazon Alexa. I invited him to the show because very often we hear that the finance industry is struggling to adapt to technology and innovation but I’m increasingly hearing about stories such as Capital One and their venture with Amazon. They are actually embracing all aspects of technology and innovation and focusing their efforts to help customers manage their money with confidence wherever they are.

Can you tell the listeners a little about who you are and what you do?

I’m the Vice President of Digital Product Development at Capital One. I focus on digital messaging and artificial intelligence powered virtual assistants and bots. This is an emerging space we’re very interested in and aggressively pursuing. I lead a great team of digital product managers and have the good fortune of working with some very talented folks to build what we feel are some pretty innovative products that are trying to reimagine how people interact with their money.

Ken Dodelin

I believe Capital One became the first company to give customers access to their credit card, checking and savings accounts via Amazon Alexa enabled devices. Can you bring any listeners who have never heard of Amazon Alexa up to speed on what it is and what services it offers?

Amazon Alexa is a voice-controlled virtual assistant. It lives in the cloud so it can be accessed through any Alexa enabled device. An Alexa enabled device is more frequently referenced as the Amazon Echo. They have also come out with the Amazon Tap and a couple of others. They are also enabling developers to put Alexa in their own devices. So we will see Alexa popping up in lots of places including there has been an announcement by Ford Motor Company that they are going to put it in cars this year. So there are lots of places for our customers to access Alexa.

The big thing I suppose for you guys is how will Amazon Alexa work with Capital One services?

People are using Alexa for all kinds of things including managing their money. We released the initial version of what’s called a Skill that users can access through Alexa. That enables folks to, just with their voice, to find out information about their account and to also pay their bill. Just last week we added the ability for customers to access similar information about their auto loan and home loan accounts.

In what countries is this available? Are you starting in the states and then moving on?

That’s correct, just the U.S for now.

What about the security aspects? Is this encrypted for example?

With a bank as you can imagine security is at the forefront of every new digital product we release. We take the privacy of our user data very seriously and take a lot of steps to ensure that we provide a great experience for our users. With the initial Alexa Skill we approached security in three ways.

  1. In order to access your account through Alexa, you have to pair your account using a process that has the familiar user name and password that gets entered into a page that’s hosted by Capital One. Even Amazon doesn’t see it. Then we enable users to speak to us through Alexa.
  2. We went ahead and allowed users to set up what we call a personal key. This is a four digit numeric code that Alexa will prompt the user for before providing access to account information. Here we’re looking for users to get an extra level of security and still provide ease of use where they don’t have to get their hands involved if they don’t want to, they can still do it by voice.
  3. We were very intentional about the use cases we enabled through Alexa. Users can get information about their accounts and pay their bill with an account they have used to pay their bill before, but we consider them all lower level security use cases. The use cases of transferring money to an offshore account is not enabled through this skill.

Am I right in saying it doesn’t use voice recognition? So for example as long as my wife knew my password details she would be able to access the account information exactly the same way?

If your wife had access to your Echo enabled device and you shared with her your personal key then she would be able to access information about the account. Amazon has not enabled any kind of voice ID through the Alexa service yet.

For any users who want to keep up with any of your technological advancements and new features from Capital One what’s the best method?

We always keep announcements going on Twitter. Amazon has been a great partner and they have been announcing a lot of the new developments we’ve done. We’re going to be speaking at one of their upcoming conferences. Also, folks like you who continue to cover us to help us get the word out.

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