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UK lender trials voice banking with Google Home

Key Points
  • NatWest's three-month pilot will involve 500 customers.
  • The banking sector as a whole is experiencing a host of changes driven by technology.
Joan Cros | NurPhoto | Getty Images

NatWest is trialing voice banking in the U.K. using the Google Assistant via Google Home smart speakers or a smartphone.

The three-month pilot will involve 500 customers, according to the bank, which is a member of the RBS Group. They will be able to ask questions about their account balance and recent transactions and will receive a verbal response, with information also appearing on a smartphone screen.

The system will have to be set up using a customer's online banking PIN and password, NatWest added. They will also need to give a "partial voice PIN" in order to get access to it.

"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," Kristen Bennie, NatWest's head of Open Experience, said in a statement Monday.

"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," Bennie added.

Slowly but surely, innovative technologies that use the voice as a means of carrying out transactions are being introduced to the banking sector.

In 2018, for instance, First Direct — which is a division of HSBC U.K. Bank — launched a service which enabled its customers to make payments with their voice using Apple's virtual assistant Siri.

In order to authenticate the payment, users need to confirm their identity using Apple's Face ID or Touch ID. The person making the payment, as well as the recipient, must also use Paym, a mobile payment system offered by 15 banks and building societies.

The banking sector as a whole is experiencing a host of changes driven by technology. In the U.K., 48% of adults used a mobile banking system in 2018, according to a recent report from U.K. Finance.

The U.K. Payment Market report also found that 2 billion bank payments were made using mobile or online banking in 2018, compared to 1.6 billion in 2017.