NatWest is testing voice banking using Google Assistant

IF YOU EVER WANT to ostentatiously rub your wealth in the face of others, NatWest has just made it a whole lot easier with a feature that’ll likely be forgotten by this time next year.

Currently being trialled by 500 of the bank’s customers, the new feature lets customers bank with the power of their voice via Google Assistant. Well, a very basic form of banking anyway. For now, people in the trial can just ask Google three things: “what’s my balance?”, “what’s my latest transactions?” and “what’s my pending transactions?”

Kind of convenient, but not very secure sounding. Which is why NatWest also provides a unique six-digit code exclusively for the voice assistant to tackle the latter problem while butchering the former selling point. Every time you access your account this way, you’ll be asked to provide two of the numbers, at which point realistically you’ll probably just reach for your phone instead.

You can see the whole convoluted process in a video NatWest made to mark the occasion. Hmmm.

Somewhat optimistically, NatWest seems to think this is the future of banking. “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, the bank’s head of “Open Experience,” told the Guardian.

To be entirely fair, although it doesn’t sound great to people who manage fine with online banking as is, it could be a big win in terms of accessibility. “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,” said Bennie.

At some point, NatWest could add the functionality to pay bills and transfer money – although, at that point, the whole thing might start appealing to cybercriminals. Still: at least that means some people will actively want to use it…

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