British Bank NatWest Pilots Google Assistant Banking
NatWest, part of the RBS Group, is testing banking via Google Assistant, according to a release by the bank. The pilot will allow 500 NatWest customers to access information about their bank account by asking the voice assistant, although not to carry out any transactions.
Google Assistant Bank Teller
The 500 customers in the three-month pilot will set up their account with Google Home or the Google Assistant app on their phone using their online banking PIN and password. Once that’s done, they will still need to use what NatWest calls a “partial voice PIN” every time they want to access their information from Google Assistant.
The Google Assistant action is somewhat limited in this pilot. Users will be able to ask eight different questions of the voice assistant. The questions involve the current balance, previous and pending transactions, and related topics. The action also includes 15 banking tips, although those are likely to be generic rather than tailored to individual financial situations.
Assuming the pilot is a success, NatWest suggested that it will look to expand the reach and potential options for their voice banking system. The bank has made a point of testing innovations that then migrate to other parts of the RBS group. NatWest set up the first Touch ID system for mobile banking in the UK, as well as the first paperless mortgage application. The bank also created a digital, though not voice, assistant named Cora.
Banking by Voice Growing Volume
NatWest isn’t the first to experiment with voice banking. Credit unions are banding together on platforms such as FIVE, created by Best Innovation Group (BIG). FIVE offers both an Alexa and Google Assistant action for transferring funds and paying down loans, as well as access to information about their accounts. And, in the U.S., Bank of America and Capital One have both deployed sophisticated voice assistants within their mobile apps, while American Express, Capital One and others have rolled out Alexa skills with comparable or greater functionality than what is contemplated today by NatWest, including detailed information on accounts and the option to make payments to the bank. Most of the Google Assistant actions created by financial institutes in the U.S. are centered on podcasts, including Charles Schwab and Morgan Stanley
The question of finance and voice was the center of a keynote panel discussion at the recent VOICE 19 conference among Visa, TD Ameritrade, and Prudential Financial. Visa’s research around voice suggested it can speed up adoption thanks to new security checks alleviating concerns over financial safety from their users. Meanwhile, TD Ameritrade was the first to bring stock transactions to voice platforms, a different, but connected kind of financial action. If someone can be happy to buy and sell stocks by voice, adapting to regular banking by voice should be easy.