International Finance
Banking

Move over mobile banking: NatWest’s voice banking is here

NatWest voice banking
The technology could become a success as 9.6 mn people own smart speakers in the country

UK retail and commercial bank NatWest is testing out voice banking services for the first time using Google Assistant smart speaker. The trial is carried out with 500 customers and will be used for simple banking services. 

As part of the trial, the bank allows customers to ask Google the following questions: “What is my balance?,” ”What is my latest transactions?” and “What is my pending transactions.” According to media reports, the device  provides verbal answers to those questions in addition to appearing on the customers’ smartphones. 

The trial will only support basic bank account information to customers. However, NatWest said customers in future may be allowed to instantly transfer funds or pay bills by communicating with the device. 

NatWest customers will have to call out loud two digits from their new four digit password  to the speaker to obtain their account information. However, the downside of this technology advancement is that it might raise concerns about privacy and security. The bank is quite aware of those concerns. A spokesperson said “Other people in the area will be able to hear your balance, which is something you will want to take into consideration.”

That said, NatWest is also confident that the technology could transform the way banking system function at this point. Kristen Bennie, head of Open Experience at NatWest said the bank is exploring voice banking for the first time. 

Currently, the bank said 9.6 million people own Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa devices in the UK — and is expected to grow by 30 percent in 2019. That said, 55 million people use a smartphone in the country. So the voice banking technology could in some sense transform financial management similar to mobile banking, Bennie said. 

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