The high street bank has launched a pilot enabling customers to do their banking by talking to the Google Assistant on their Google Home smart speaker or smartphone.
Customers will be able to ask for commonly requested details such as their account balance and recent transactions, and will be given a verbal response. On smartphones, the information will also appear on screen.
Where customers are unable to get an answer or need to speak to someone, a message will be sent to their phone with contact details of NatWest’s customer helpline.
The initial three-month pilot, involving 500 customers, lets account holders ask eight questions as well as accessing more than 15 banking tips, with the potential for more to be developed if the trial is successful.
For security reasons, customers will setup their voice banking with their existing online banking password and PIN. When accessing it, customers will then be asked to provide a partial voice PIN to confirm their identity.
Some experts predict that voice banking could follow the same path as mobile banking – moving from a niche way for people to manage their finances into a mainstream method to bank. Currently, 9.6 million people in the UK own a smart speaker, a figure set to rise to 12.6m this year, while about 55m own a smartphone.
One of the key benefits of voice banking is that it allows customers to multi-task enabling them to do their banking whilst completing other tasks. The more human interface could encourage customers who don’t use online or their mobile phone to bank in a whole new way.
There are also advantages for blind customers making it easier to complete tasks without the use of a screen or keyboard.
Kristen Bennie, head of open experience, 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.”