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'Alexa, buy 10 shares of Facebook' — a discount brokerage giant now lets Main Street investors trade stocks via voice

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TD Ameritrade CEO Tim Hockey

  • TD Ameritrade last week rolled out a new offering which allows Main Street investors to place trades via Amazon's voice-activated assistant Alexa.
  • It's the first time that people can make financial transactions through Alexa.
  • It's the latest step as TD Ameritrade tries to make trading more mainstream and pull in new clients.

“Alexa, buy 10 shares of Facebook." 

TD Ameritrade clients now can summon the Amazon's voice-activated assistant, Alexa, to place trading orders, without calling a broker or tapping a button on a laptop, the brokerage firm announced last week.

It's the first time people can make financial transactions through Alexa, said Sunayna Tuteja, TD Ameritrade's head of emerging technologies.

It's the latest step as TD Ameritrade tries to make trading more mainstream, particularly among young, digitally-savvy investors, in an attempt to pull in new clients. The firm already allows its 11 million Main Street investors to place trades via Facebook and Twitter. 

TD Ameritrade debuted an Alexa “skill” — verbiage for Alexa-compatible applications — last December, enabling the virtual assistant to give out market briefings and stock quotes to users. But it's now rolling out new features that allow Alexa to execute orders of buying or selling stocks or ETFs at a maximum amount of $10,000 for each transaction.

After verifying a numeric voice PIN, users can request Alexa to access their personal TD Ameritrade trading accounts, execute trading commands, and check position summaries.

Business Insider got a remote demo from TD Ameritrade to see how the technology worked. 

Alexa: “What company or symbol would you like to trade?”

User: “Zynga.”

Alexa: “That is Zynga Incorporated, symbol ZNGA, correct?”

User: “Yes.”

Alexa: “As of 12:43 pm Eastern Time, ZNGA is $3.88 per share, down 1.9%. [The test trading account] has $9.59 for trading. You want to buy ZNGA, right?”

User: “Yes.”

Alexa: "Do you want to place a market order or a limit order?”

User: “Limit order.”

Once the user sets the price and the number of shares he or she is willing to purchase, the virtual assistant places an open order and submits a confirmation. The user can then examine the status of orders placed within 24 hours.

The new features comes when the adoption of voice-controlled devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home is booming in consumer markets.

A Gallup poll released in March shows that about 22% of U.S. adults already use voice-activated virtual assistants. Amazon, which dominates the smart speaker market, has sold about 50 million Alexa-enabled devices, according to The Information. 

“When we were looking at the trends where the customer are spending their time and what technology they are using, Alexa was at the top,” Tuteja said. 

Other financial service companies are considering using voice-activated devices as well, including BlackRock. 

Despite concerns that these devices could pose security risks leaving users vulnerable to eavesdropping and hacks, customers are increasingly willing to use such devices to manage their bank accounts. According to a report by Bain & Co, over one-quarter of respondents would consider using voice-controlled assistants for their everyday banking, and 6% already do so.

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