NatWest is Using Google Assistant to Trial Voice Banking


August 2019

NatWest is Using Google Assistant to Trial Voice Banking

NatWest is trialling a new voice banking feature via the Google Assistant, meaning customers could soon manage their finances just by speaking.

British customers of the high street bank will be able to ask their Google Home smart speaker or smartphone a number of questions such as how much is in their bank account or details on their latest transactions. They will also be able to find information on pending transactions, but won’t yet be able to make payments or transfers. The trial will last for three months and include 500 NatWest account holders across the UK.

“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 ‘Open Experience’ at NatWest.

“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.”

Georgina Bulkeley, director of strategy and innovation at 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, we delivered the UK’s first paperless mortgage 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 a truly effortless and seamless banking experience.”

While voice banking could be a convenient way to manage personal finances in the future, many people have reservations about the security of the technology. In order to gain access to their bank account via the Google Assistant, users will have to say two digits from a four-digit password out loud. However, just last month it was revealed that Google employees are able to listen to customers’ private recordings on their smart devices.

“Luckily, it requires Voice ID to reveal your banking data but foiling such software has been demonstrated multiple times before,” said Jake Moore, a cybersecurity specialist at IT company ESET. “Personally, there cannot be enough authentication when it comes to banking as verifying identity in numerous ways is no real inconvenience.

“But the truth of the matter is that many people desire ease of use over security, which I find astonishing. As long as money can’t be transferred this way, it could be safe, but who is to say this isn’t the beginning of a new way to do online banking. Banking is a very private matter, and I wouldn’t want anyone else in the room listening to my smart speaker discussing my financial transactions.”