Last month USAA launched a free financial intelligent assistant for their members in the form of a Savings Coach app. USAA built the Savings Coach in partnership with Nuance. A press release describes the app as “one of the first proactive virtual assistants for banking, designed especially to help millennials save money.”
I installed the iOS version of Savings Coach, but I don’t have a USAA bank account so I haven’t been able to try out its full capabilities. Nevertheless, I wanted to write about the app, because I find the concept of a targeted virtual financial advisor pioneering. With the Savings Coach, USAA is differentiating itself by offering its customers something above and beyond just a positive customer self-service experience. They’re providing customers with a very valuable add-on service, which happens to take advantage of the latest voice-driven intelligent assistant technologies.
When you open the app, a sort of goofy and endearing bald eagle cartoon figure introduces himself as Ace, your savings coach. He tells you about the two secrets to saving money and builds enthusiasm by talking about how he’ll celebrate your successes with you and help you earn fun awards along the way.
Based on information contained in the press release, it seems that after you log into your USAA banking accounts, Ace will provide tips on how you can start building your savings. If you skip a regular or spontaneous purchase, such as foregoing a caramel macchiato, Ace will assist you in transferring the amount you just “saved” from your checking to your savings account. I assume that if you meet savings targets, Ace will applaud you and give you a reward.
The press release indicates that almost 800 18-24 year-olds tried the Savings Coach app out for several months and ended up saving a collective $120K. That’s a lot of skipped macchiatos! The feedback from the young adults who used the app was also positive.
I find the concept of intelligent, proactive, “assistive” customer apps such as this one extremely compelling. The Savings Coach app might not be enough to make someone leave another bank to join USAA. If you’re trying to decide where to put your money, though, knowing that one bank offers this type of helpful service may sway you in their direction. As the predictive and assistive power of virtual assistants grows, we’ll hopefully see many more creative applications such as this one.