You’re at a standstill on Los Angeles’ notorious Interstate 405 during your morning commute when you decide to check on your investments. And with a simple voice command, you can can see that shares of Apple are up.
That’s the vision Vijay Sankaran, TD Ameritrade’s chief information officer, has for how Main Street investors might interact with their brokerage accounts. The head of tech at the $1.2 trillion online broker told Business Insider in an interview that the firm is looking at partnering with major automakers in the same way Google and Amazon are embedding their virtual assistants in cars.
The ultimate goal could be to allow customers not just to check their portfolios, but eventually to trade, Sankaran said.
“Safety is paramount in those kind of conditions,” he said. “But using a voice-based interchange — whether it is simple request or whether it is feasible to do more trading — I think that is what we really want to explore this coming year.”
Sankaran didn’t name specific automakers TD Ameritrade is in talks with.
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Sankaran’s hopes of customers interacting with their TD Ameritrade accounts in their cars speaks to an ongoing theme at the firm over the past few years. Since 2017, Sankaran said the brokerage has been exploring non-traditional ways their clients can access their accounts, aside from its website and mobile app.
“We want to be where our clients are at,” Sankaran said. “As generations evolve, more people are utilizing different forms of interface to transact business anywhere at anytime.”
TD Ameritrade’s first foray into offering different methods of client interaction through partnerships started with a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that allowed customer’s to check the markets and their account status. The firm launched a similar offering via Twitter, which Sankaran said was helpful in fielding customer questions during TD Ameritrade’s transition of Scottrade clients, which it acquired in 2017.
However, Sankaran said TD Ameritrade’s most successful partnership in the virtual assistant space has come through its work via Apple Business Chat in April 2018, which functions through the Messages app. A few months later TD Ameritrade announced a similar type of partnership through Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa.
Most recently, the brokerage has looked to better serve Asian investors through its work with Chinese messaging app WeChat.
“I think WeChat is going to be very important, especially as we look into the Asian market,” Sankaran said. “It is still early days on that one, but I think that is going to be a very important platform for us.”
Looking ahead, Sankaran said TD Ameritrade is exploring partnerships with Google Assistant. The brokerage is also looking into how it can extend some of the established partnerships to its registered investment advisors, who he said want to offer new technologies to their own clients.
“Anytime that you have devices or populations that are in the millions of people using it for general purpose, you have the opportunity to see if you can gain traction with the services that you offer on those platforms,” Sankaran said.