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NatWest taps Google for voice banking pilot

NatWest Bank has announced that it is trialling voice banking through the Google Assistant. The pilot will use voice technology that enables customers to do banking through the Google Assistant on their Google Home smart speaker or smartphone. The pilot of 500 customers will run for three months. 

Customers will be able to ask for commonly requested details such as their current balance and recent transactions and will be given a verbal response. On smartphones, the information will also appear on screen. Where customers are unable to get an answer or need to speak to someone, a message will be sent to their phone with contact details of NatWest’s customer helpline.

The initial pilot lets customers ask eight questions as well as access over 15 banking tips, with the potential for more to be developed if the trial is successful. For security reasons, customers will setup their voice banking with their existing online banking password and PIN. When accessing it, customers will then be asked to provide a partial voice PIN to confirm their identity.

The bank says that a key benefit of voice banking is that it allows customers to multitask, enabling them to do their banking while completing other tasks. The more human interface could encourage customers who don’t use online or mobile to bank in a whole new way.

Kristen Bennie, Head of Open Experience NatWest, said: “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. 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.”

Georgina Bulkeley, Director of Strategy and Innovation NatWest, said: “We’re committed to creating effortless customer experiences – and the adoption of new technologies by our customers provides fantastic opportunities for us to do that. We were the first bank in the UK to launch Touch ID for mobile banking, we delivered the UK’s first paperless mortgage application and we’re leading the way on artificial intelligence with our digital assistant Cora. This new voice service is the next step towards making banking even easier, opening up exciting opportunities to create truly effortless and seamless banking experiences.”

Whether people are comfortable having their financial details spoken out loud to anyone within earshot remains to be seen. Currently the pilot has no functionality for the movement of funds, such as to pay bills or to transfer money. 


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