NatWest rolls out voice banking with Google Home

Google Home device on stool in living area.

You may already use Google to find your nearest Chinese takeaway, but you’ll now be able to ask it if you can afford one thanks to NatWest’s new collaboration with Google Home.

The British bank will be trialling the service with an initial 500 customers, with those enrolled able to ask their Google smart speakers questions like…

  • “Ok Google, how much money is in my account?”
  • “Ok Google, what are my latest transactions?”
  • “Ok Google, what transactions do I have pending?”

…and more.

The Google Home device will answer the questions verbally, as well as send the relevant answers to the user’s registered smartphone.

NatWest hopes that the introduction of voice banking will make it easier for customers to multi-task, while it will also be beneficial to customers with disabilities.

The service will initially only allow the smart device to access basic account information, such as your current balance and transactions, however it might gain authority to complete tasks like transferring money and paying bills in the future.

Is it safe?

There have been many privacy concerns in relation to smart speakers in recent years, so the integration of NatWest voice banking is controversial – but there is little to suggest that your bank details will be unsafe.

In order to use the service, customers must state, out loud, two out of four digits of a new password, in order to verify their identity – the four digit pin will be purposefully different to the pin used to make debit card transactions.

David Emm - spokesperson for internet security provider, Kaspersky - told Sky News: “If people are able to carry out banking transactions using a smart speaker, it not only raises the issue of someone recording your voice and spoofing a transaction, but also the risk that recordings stored by the vendor of the device could be stolen by cyber criminals.”

Emm also argued that, with the need to state a PIN and password to verify their identity, NatWest’s voice banking “rather negates the convenience of banking in this way”.

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What have NatWest said?

Director of Strategy and Innovation at NatWest, Georgina Bulkeley, assured customers that “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.”

When it comes to challenging the new breed of digital banks like Monzo and Starling, NatWest have proven themselves to be at the forefront of innovation in the banking industry. They were the first UK bank to allow customers to use Touch ID to sign in to their mobile banking accounts and delivered the country’s first paperless mortgage application.

The bank has also recently begun trialling debit cards with biometric scanners, which will work in a similar way to e-wallet services like Apple and Google Pay.

“This new voice service is the next step towards making banking even easier,” said Bulkeley, who also added that the introduction of voice banking technology would open up “exciting opportunities to create truly effortless and seamless banking experiences.”

Another spokesperson for the popular bank, Kristen Bennie, insisted that their exploration of voice banking “could mark the beginning of a major change to how customers manage their finances”, in a similar way to the revelation of mobile banking.

Bennie added that the ability to access their finances without a screen or keyboard would “bring particular benefits to those who have a disability”, with a specific mention for customers who are blind or have difficulty with sight.

How to get NatWest voice banking

NatWest voice banking technology is currently only available to a very limited number of customers over the next few months. If you have not been contacted directly by NatWest, it is unlikely that you have been included as part of this trial.

Would you feel comfortable using a smart speaker to access your bank account? Let us know by heading to Bobatoo’s Facebook page, where you’ll find updates on the newest technology forming the future of banking in the UK.