First Horizon may ask Alexa to help take on bigger banks

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First Horizon National in Memphis, Tenn., could enlist Amazon’s Alexa as a voice assistant for banking customers as part of an aggressive technology push.

The $42.1 billion-asset company is one of many regionals looking for ways to compete against bigger players in digital banking, including Truist Financial, the $442 billion-asset giant that will be created by the merger of BB&T and SunTrust.

At the same time, First Horizon is being selective and resisting the urge to pursue every “shiny new object,” B.J. Losch. the company's chief financial officer, said in an interview.

“We can’t just invest in everything digitally,” Losch said. “We want to be smart and thoughtful. We think things like Alexa are the future.”

First Horizon has also stepped up hiring since the BB&T-SunTrust deal was announced, with a focus on digital capabilities.

The company hired Dawn Morris as chief digital and marketing officer last year. Patrick Kelly, a former USAA employee, was recently added to Morris’ team. At USAA, Kelly led efforts to develop ways to let customers use Alexa and Google Home.

“Technology is becoming a huge part of how any bank, but particularly a $40 billion bank, can compete with the likes of JPMorgan and Bank of America,” Losch said.

First Horizon's second-quarter profit rose by 32% from a year earlier, to $113.7 million.

Total revenue increased by 5%, to $461.6 million, while noninterest expense fell by 10%, to $300.4 million.

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