Customer service, known to make or break a banking experience, is about to take a step into the future. USAA plans to test a new technology that puts a virtual assistant — capable of performing functions when directed by voice — into its mobile banking applications.

Called Nina, the virtual assistant is going act similar to Siri — the virtual assistant on Apple’s iPhone 4S — but with a focus on delivering customer service. Using speech recognition and voice biometrics, Nina will aid customers with their everyday banking activities on their mobile phones.

For example, Nina can help customers perform fund transfers, pay bills, identify the amounts spent on certain transactions, note the days until a credit card payment is due and change personal information on file. Many of these functions can be done without combing through the mobile app or typing on the on-screen keyboard.

Nina can also use a customer’s voice to “login” to their accounts.

Here is a video of Nina in action:

“We believe that the virtual assistance has tremendous potential to make it simpler, faster and more satisfying for our members to manage their financial affairs on their mobile devices,” said Neff Hudson, assistant vice president of emerging channels at USAA, in prepared remarks.

Nina was developed by Nuance Communications, the company that also offers a mobile app that acts like Siri to help users get directions, find restaurant reviews, ask about the weather, etc.

USAA plans to begin a pilot phase for Nina in August. Nina is expected to be available to all USAA members sometime in early 2013.

The success of USAA’s pilot program could usher in a new trend in mobile banking — as the bank did with mobile check deposit. In 2009, USAA was the first bank to introduce the feature that lets customers deposit checks with their smartphones. Mobile check deposit is currently one of the most sought-after feature by bank customers.

Soon, bank customers may be demanding Nina, or something similar, on mobile banking apps.

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