Tech Giants Collaborate to Trial Voice Banking

Users will be able to bank using their smart speakers.


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By Cai Bradley

on Friday 16 August 2019


Google Home Mini next to laptop

With around 250 free-to-use cash machines and 60 bank branches closing on a monthly basis in the UK, could smart speakers become the go-to technology for your basic banking tasks?

NatWest and Google have partnered up to offer customers a three-month trial, during which they will be able to use their voice alone to access their banking information, including their latest transactions and current balance.

Over 500 account holders will take part in the trial, where they’ll be able to ask up to eight banking-related questions to Google’s smart speaker, Google Assistant.

How will it work?

Initially, you will need to provide your personalised 4-digit security code, issued by NatWest, to access the voice ID service. Once you’ve entered your password once, you’ll be able to access your banking information using your voice alone – cool, right?!

Google’s smart speaker will be able to answer up to 8 banking-related questions or statements, including:

  • “What’s my balance?”

  • “What are my latest transactions?”

  • “What are my pending transactions?”

  • “What’s the difference between my actual balance and available money?”

  • “I want to speak to a human”

  • “Give me a banking tip”

  • “Can I change my PIN?”

  • “I don’t recognise a transaction”

For security reasons, the trial doesn’t allow customers to send money, but you can access a lot of the information you’d otherwise check in-branch, on your laptop, or on the mobile banking app, including your balance, pending transactions, and latest transactions.

This is all included in the first wave of the trial and it’s expected that NatWest and Google will use the feedback they receive from the first 500 customers to further develop the service.

Should there be safety or privacy concerns?

NatWest says that Google never gets access to your bank details, as the voice PIN is set up through NatWest and is removed once it has been used.

But some sceptics find it slightly alarming that people are providing any banking information to Google, especially with recent privacy concerns surrounding both Google and Amazon’s smart speakers.

It’s been reported that employees of both companies had broken privacy policies by listening to users’ private conversations, and it’s not entirely clear when the speakers are listening to you or not with many people unsure how to actually turn off Google Assistant on their smart devices.

Due to the nature of the tech-loving world we live in, though, it seems that most people would prefer ease-of-use over security, and it’s likely that voice banking will become a roaring success despite some privacy concerns.

That’s not to say there would be any reason to be worried about security or privacy though; we’re sure Google and NatWest will do everything they can to minimise any problems.

Benefits of NatWest and Google smart speaker collaboration

As well as being a pretty nifty addition to your smart home, it’s clear that voice banking also offers many benefits to account holders:

  • Voice banking is more quickly accessible than signing in using full online banking details every time.

  • Voice ID allows customers to multi-task – fancy making a brew while checking your current balance? You can with voice banking!

  • It’s also far easier for blind customers who might find it difficult to use NatWest online banking or access their in-branch services.

There are already almost 10 million Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa devices in UK households, and should voice-banking become available for the masses and be added to the already-impressive tech, that number is only going to continue rise.

Would you trust Google Assistant or Alexa enough to use them for banking? Let us know what you think in the comments section of our Facebook page!  


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