JPMorgan Chase and Amazon have struck a partnership to develop a new Alexa skill that will allow the investment bank’s institutional clients to access its research through the voice assistant.
Clients will now be able to access analyst reports and stock information via Alexa from their office, home, or any other place of their choosing. For now, clients will only be able to receive information via the channel, but JPMorgan says the next step will be to allow users to act on the information, for example, to execute trades.
As voice assistants move into the institutional client space, banks need to be aware of potential risks. JPMorgan itself admits that, before it can allow Alexa to execute trades on clients’ behalf, the bank will have to reinforce the security and authentication of the skill to prevent the assistant from acting on an unrelated direction it overhears, or on a fallacious request submitted by someone besides the owner. Outside of banking, Alexa-enabled devices have been known to place orders by mistake by picking up on stray verbal cues, or failing to authenticate a request. In the context of retail customers, this is a nuisance, but for institutional clients — whose transactions involve large sums and whose actions can influence markets — the outfall would be bigger.
It remains to be seen whether trying to implement Alexa in such a sensitive environment will prove more trouble than it’s worth. Even among retail consumers, demand for and trust in voice assistants is still uncertain, with studies indicating that people don’t want devices supporting such software in private spaces like their bedrooms. As such, demand among institutional clients, who deal in information that could be abused if misappropriated, may prove equally or even more nebulous.
If JPMorgan Chase wants to ensure this venture pays off, it will have to be able to demonstrate to its institutional clients that the software’s cyber defenses are robust enough for use in a business context, and reassure them that their data will be kept safe from misuse — which may prove challenging given recent data privacy disclosures in another sphere. However, that JPMorgan itself has called these concerns out suggests the bank is fully aware of the obstacle, and will work to address it.