Ok Google, tell me my balance: NatWest trials letting customers bank with a smart speaker… would you be tempted?
- NatWest is running the trial for 3 months with 500 of its customers
- Users can ask 8 questions including ‘what’s my balance’ but won’t send money
- While you will use your voice to login, you’ll first need to set that up by using your online banking details
As high street banks continue to close branches and cash machines, could smart speakers fill the void when it comes to everyday banking tasks like checking your balance?
That seems to be the thinking of NatWest, which has partnered with Google for a three-month trial that will allow customers to bank from home on the tech giant’s smart speaker or using Google Assistant on their phone.
The first wave of the trial will allow 500 account holders to ask eight questions, including what’s my balance, what are my latest transactions and what transactions are pending?
NatWest has partnered with Google for a three month trial involving 500 customers that will allow them to use a Google Home smart speaker for various banking tasks
NatWest says voice banking will allow customers to multitask and also make it easier for blind customers.
It is the latest example of a high street bank bringing biometric authorisation into banking.
NatWest is currently trialling a debit card that can be authorised using a customer’s fingerprint rather than a PIN, while a number of banks have embraced voice ID to identify telephone banking customers to cut down on fraud.
However, while Google Assistant can be accessed by customers using their voice to confirm their identity, they will first have to set up voice banking using their existing online banking password.
NatWest insists that Google will never receive bank details, with the voice PIN being set up through NatWest and deleted once it has been used.
Despite this, potential users might well feel a sense of trepidation about entrusting sensitive financial information to Google.
What can you ask Google?
NatWest say those involved in the 500 person 3-month trial will be able to use their Google Home smart speaker for 8 tasks:
– What’s my balance?
– What are my latest transactions?
– What are my pending transactions?
– I don’t recognise a transaction
– What’s the difference between my actual balance and available money?
– I want to speak to a human
– Give me a banking tip
– Can I change my PIN?
There are also questions around Google and Amazon’s smart speakers – the biggest being that private recordings have been stored on the devices and listened to by employees of the two tech giants.
It’s also sometimes difficult to know when a speaker is actually off or whether it is still listening to you.
This is Money last recently published 12 top tips to make sure you’re protecting your privacy when using a smart speaker like Google.
Jake Moore, a cybersecurity specialist at IT company ESET, said: ‘Luckily, it requires Voice ID to reveal your banking data but foiling such software has been demonstrated multiple times before.
‘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 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.’
Kristen Bennie, head of open experience at 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 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.’