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NatWest is trialing voice banking with Google Assistant

High street bank NatWest is trialing a new type of internet banking that doesn’t require a screen or a keyboard. Five hundred of the bank’s customers are currently testing a system that lets them perform basic functions with their voice via Google Assistant.

Basic means basic: for now, the trial lets customers ask Google “what’s my balance?”, “what’s my latest transactions?” and “what’s my pending transactions?”. In future, this could be extended to allow transfers and bill payments.

If you’re thinking that this raises serious privacy and security questions, you’re not alone. For the latter, NatWest has attempted to allay fears by requiring customers read two digits from a special code generated for Google Assistant every time they want to use it, though this obviously makes it a lot less convenient as this video of it in action demonstrates.

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The privacy issue is a little more complex. At its most basic level, you need to appreciate that if you can hear information about your bank from a smart speaker, then so can everyone else in earshot. 

Nonetheless, NatWest claims this could be as big a revolution in the industry as mobile banking has been over the past decade. “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,” NatWest’s head of “Open Experience”, Kristen Bennie, told The Guardian.

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Although it may seem unnecessary to those of us happy enough with using an app to check in on our accounts, NatWest points out that it could be revolutionary to those with disabilities as it “eliminates the need for customers to use a screen or keyboard.”

Does banking via Google Assistant sound useful, or will you be sticking to more traditional means? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.

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