Is this the Siri of personal banking?

22nd March 2016

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Santander is launching voice-enabled banking to allow customers to keep track of their spending, but is this really the Siri of personal finance? The experts say ‘not yet, but watch this space’…

The bank says the technology it is using differs from voice biometrics, which  enables access to a customer’s accounts by using their voice as a password. HSBC is currently working towards the launch of this type of voice-banking facility by the summer.

The first phase of the launch, is aimed at helping customers get to grips with the basic features, by providing the ability to ask about their card spend.

iOS users of the SmartBank app can ask simple questions about their card spend such as:

The second, due for release later this year, will enable customers to fully service their accounts. This includes advanced features such as the ability to make payments, report lost cards, set up account alerts and answer a broad range of questions about spend.

Nathan Bostock, chief executive of Santander UK says: “Technology is rapidly changing how customers bank and pay on the move. We want banking to be simple, personal and fair and we believe technology, like voice banking, will play a transformational role in the way we add value by creating more choice and convenience for our customers.”

The technology is provided by Nuance Communications, a leading provider of voice and language solutions.

Ian McKenna, director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre, says: “Voice biometrics is a really interesting technology, not only can is be a far easier alternative to passwords as a security mechanism but users to find information just by asking a question in the same way as you might talk to someone over the phone.

“This is a great way of banks and other financial services businesses enhancing their customer experience. Systems like this can enable hundreds of different menus as soon as the phone is answered.”

McKenna says voice technology has already been used by Turkcell, the leading Turkish mobile phone provider to build a great marketing campaign about knowing their users by their voice.

He adds: “Having used voice biometrics to identify the customer, no more having to remember passwords or memorable phrases the user can then just ask the information they want to know.

“No more having to go through the dreaded ‘choose #1 for this, choose #2 for that. Just make a call and ask for the information you want.”

But McKenna says: “I am slightly surprised by the order Santander as rolling this out, I would have thought that customers would get more value initially from being able to conduct account management tasks like changing address or regular debits before going to other information.”

Damien Fahy, director of MoneytotheMasses,com, says: “While I applaud innovation in finance, users shouldn’t be expecting the ‘Siri’ of the banking world due to its limited functionality.

“It needs to evolve beyond a marketing gimmick and be driven by necessity and a desire to improve customer experience.

“Otherwise all it will do is allow consumers to actually hear the computer say ‘no’.”

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