NatWest test home voice banking service

A popular high street bank is trialing a system that allows customers to access bank information through their personal smart speaker.

In the UK first, NatWest has teamed up with Google Home to let users ask the device things like “What’s my balance?” or “What’s my latest transaction?”. To which the speaker will respond vocally as well as sending the answer to a connected smartphone.

During the trial, only superficial information will be available, such as basic account details. However, if successful, the bank hopes that customers will be able to do more thorough transactions using Google products, for example, moving money or paying bills.

Is this access system safe?

As a security means, customers have to say  two numbers  out loud from a four-digit PIN. However, this method has already raised protection issues. Especially after it was discovered last month that recordings from Google Assistant can be accessed and listened to.

One criticism the bank faces is through using “outdated” forms of protection.

“Whilst it’s a step forward that NatWest is using virtual assistant technology in the home to enhance the customer experience and simplify their lives, using PINs to authenticate users is outdated and could result in fraudulent activity.“ Says Brett Beranek, Vice President and General Manager, Security & Biometrics Line of Business at computer technology corporation,  Nuance Communications.

Beranek believes that the answer to protecting customers is through taking advantage of growing technology such as AI and human-related metrics. He comments: “To safeguard users’ personal data, especially when using their voices to access services, banks should deploy voice biometrics – a technology that instead of storing knowledge credentials, such as passwords, stores biometric characteristics to authenticate a user – vastly reducing the possibility of a security breach in which such credentials are lost. Combined with natural language understanding it will also allow for the system to understand who is talking and what it is they want offering a frictionless experiences for consumers.”

The good side to voice access banking

Sean Durkin, Head of Enterprise, UK & Ireland at software company, OpenText, believes that the move from NatWest is a positive one, arguing that emerging tech needs to be adopted by businesses to improve customer gratification.

He says: “As the first major high street bank to offer this, Natwest provides us with another example of a company tapping into innovative technologies, such as voice technology and artificial intelligence, to deliver the fastest and most friction-free customer experience possible. It’s clear proof that these types of technologies are gaining momentum in society. And, it’s no wonder – they help brands to drive revenue, better provide for their customers and increase customer loyalty.”


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