Money speaks volumes: NatWest trials voice banking with Google Assistant

Embargoed to 0001 Saturday April 20 File photo dated 22/05/18 of a smart speaker. Ministers have said details of public servi
Embargoed to 0001 Saturday April 20 File photo dated 22/05/18 of a smart speaker. Ministers have said details of public services, from applying for a passport to the state pension, can be accessed through voice-activated smart speakers and virtual assistants such as Amazon's Alexa and Google Home.

Banking on your voice could become the new way to check accounts if a NatWest trial using the Google Assistant proves to be right on the money.

The bank is launching a trial using the voice-powered virtual helper, allowing customers to ask the Google Home smart speaker for details such as their bank balance or recent spending.

Users will have to say a partial voice pin to confirm their identity when using the feature.

NatWest is seeing whether banking with the spoken word could follow the same path to the mainstream as mobile banking. It is also hoping to be a useful tool for blind customers.

The initial pilot – which will be tested with 500 people for three months – will respond verbally to eight questions as well as providing access to more than 15 banking tips, with the potential for more if the trial is successful.

“We are exploring voice banking for the first time and think it could mark the beginning of a major change to how customers manage their finances in the same way mobile banking made a huge impact,” said Kristen Bennie, head of NatWest’s Open Experience digital innovation centre.

“This technology will make it easier for people to bank with us and could bring particular benefits to those who have a disability as voice banking eliminates the need for customers to use a screen or keyboard.

“This is one of a number of services that the bank is aiming to develop this year that uses cutting edge, innovative technology to better serve our customers.”

According to a recent Ofcom report, one in five households in the UK now own a smart speaker, such as the Google Home, Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod – an increase of 7% from 2018.

It found almost seven in 10 use a smart speaker to listen to music via a streaming service – making it the most common use of smart speakers – while little over half listen to live radio and a fifth to podcasts.

Google Assistant is also available on smartphones, meaning users can ask for information about their finances in the same way, but details will appear on screen too.

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