AI to penetrate financial sectors from June

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 17, 2017 - 15:15
  • Updated : May 17, 2017 - 17:24
It looks to be a matter of time before artificial intelligence spills into the financial sector as South Korea’s two leading companies in telecommunication and finance have announced a joint measure to start a voice-based account service.

South Korean mobile carrier SK Telecom and leading financial group KEB Hana Bank said Wednesday the two will work together on AI-based voice recognizing bank services in June, and expand the services to securities, insurance and credit card firms in the second half of the year. 
Employees showcase SK Telecom’s NUGU speaker at the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in central Seoul on Wednesday. (SK Telecom)

SKT is planning to apply its AI speaker NUGU to the internet banking service of KEB Hana Bank, enabling customers to just speak out to check their account balances and transactions history.

A KEB Hana Bank account holder will be asked to download the NUGU application on the smartphone and link it with the banks’ app. With the NUGU app opened, the user can view the bank account by issuing simple voice commands, for example, “Show me the account balance.” The NUGU app will also be able to provide extra financial information, such as daily changes in foreign exchange rates. The user can choose either to receive the information in the computer voice or in text on the smartphone, to stave off security risks, the SKT said.

The mobile carrier and bank plan to launch the voice-based account viewing service next month and expand it to small remittances within the year.

Later on, application of the AI platform would be widened to providing information regarding stocks, insurance plans and credit card products, the telecom firm said.

“US commercial bank Capital One is getting positive consumer feedback after introducing Amazon Echo for its financial services,” said Lee Sang-ho, head of AI business at SKT. 
Lee Sang-ho (left), head of AI business at SK Telecom, and Han Jun-sung, vice president of future finance at KEB Hana Bank, hold up a partnership certificate at the bank’s headquarters in central Seoul on Wednesday. (SK Telecom)

“In the initial stage, the AI technology will help improve convenience of consumers, but in the long run, as the technology gets combined with big data and other fintech techs, much more innovative financial services are expected to follow.”

Since its launch last September, SKT’s NUGU has introduced about 20 services controlled by human voice.

“Finance is an essential part of people’s lives, and an AI-based finance era will arrive soon,” the company said.

KEB Hana Bank said the AI application will be an upgrade of its current Text Banking service that was launched late last year.

“Procedures of mobile transactions will be much simpler from using smartphone apps, texting to just speaking,” said a bank spokesman. “To ensure security, an additional identity verification step will be required, of course, but not as complex as using the electronic verification certificate.”

Woori Bank, last month, also adopted a voice recognizing algorithm to its WiBee Talk, a messenger app linked with online financial accounts of Woori Bank users. Named “WiBee Talk Sori” -- Sori means sound in Korean -- a user can transfer money to one of the friends on the messenger list by making a verbal order.

Security experts viewed the introduction of AI to the financial sector positively for now, but acknowledge the risks are higher than before.

“Once AI is adopted in the financial sector, financial activities will surge explosively as transactions would take place 24/7, and related big data will accumulate soon,” said Kim Jong-hyun, a researcher at Financial Security Institute.

“The financial sector needs to develop algorithms that can respond to the growing financial activities and data at a real-time basis.”

By Song Su-hyun (