Derin Clark

Derin Clark

Online Reporter
Published: 13/08/2019

NatWest will be piloting new technology that will enable its customers to bank from home using just their voice, the bank has revealed.

Over a three-month period, 500 NatWest customers will be trialling this new voice technology that will enable them to ask for commonly requested details such as their current balance and recent transactions and they will receive a verbal response. When an answer cannot be given or customers need to speak to someone, a message will be sent to their phone with helpline details.

To help protect customers’ banking details, they will be required to set up 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.

This new technology will be of particular benefit to blind customers as it will make it easier to complete simple banking services without the use of a screen or keyboard. Along with this new technology, many high street banks have put services in place to help customers who are blind or visual impaired. For example, earlier this year Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland launched a pioneering trial with Be My Eyes. This trial offered an app that allowed customers to be connected securely with the bank to provide visual assistance for everyday banking tasks.

Kristen Bennie, head of open experience at 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.”

Consumers looking to switch their current account over the summer holidays could be disappointed to find that banks have slashed the free cash offered when using the Current Account Switcher Service (CASS).

Research by Moneyfacts.co.uk has found that fewer brands are competing with upfront cash incentives over the past few weeks. For example, HSBC and Halifax have recently pulled their cash switching incentives of £175 upfront and up to £135 respectively, while first direct has slashed its offer in half and is now offering just £50 down from its previous £100 incentive. In fact, the research shows that there are now very few cash incentives, or equivalent gift card perks, around for customers to choose from.

Current account analysis 

Providers with upfront switching cash incentives Switching cashback Cost of borrowing £300 using an arranged overdraft for 15 days Cash incentive minus overdraft charges after 12 months
first direct 1st Account £50 (was £100) £1.96 pm / £23.52 pa £26.48
M&S Bank Current Account £100 gift card upfront, plus £80 gift card after 12 months* £1.96 pm / £23.52 pa £156.48 (gift card)
Providers with recommend a friend cash incentives Cashback Cost of borrowing £300 using an arranged overdraft for 15 days Cash incentive minus overdraft charges after 12 months
Nationwide Building Society FlexAccount £100 (friend also gets £100) £2.33 pm / £27.96 pa £72.04

*Existing M&S Bank credit card customers can get up to £220 when they switch and stay. Cashback may be dependent on minimum funding of the account or other requirements (direct debts, using the current account switcher service etc.) Source: Moneyfacts.co.uk

Rachel Springall, finance expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk, said: “Clearly the summer season is the wrong time of year for consumers to grab a sweetener when switching their current account or indeed when recommending a friend.

“It will be disappointing news for those who waited for the summer holidays to move their account, as they would have missed out on the most lucrative free cash offers. The best time to spot competition on switching sweeteners is typically at the start the year, as banks tend to bring out offers to entice new customers looking to rework their financial products as a new year’s resolution.

“Current account providers generally offer banking perks to gain new customers who could then go on to take out other financial products with that brand, which is why it’s common to see other incentives offered to existing current account customers.

“Just because an account offers a cash sweetener, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best possible choice – particularly if customers were to dip into their arranged overdraft each month. Free cash can be eroded over time, so it’s important to keep this in mind and compare overdrafts along with any perks.

“There are other accounts available that may not pay sweeteners upfront, but in fact pay a monthly reward. These may be more appealing to consumers who can meet the eligibility criteria and indeed, Barclays Bank, Halifax, The Co-operative Bank all offer the option to earn rewards every month.

“It goes to show that if consumers are thinking about switching their bank account, then they must not wait around for too long to do so. It doesn’t take long thanks to the CASS and it’s worth considering if their current account isn’t offering them the best possible package.”

The Islamic Finance Consumer report 2019 from Gatehouse Bank has revealed that nearly half of all Muslim consumers have never used a sharia-compliant bank. In fact, 46% of Muslim consumers – rising to 53% of Muslim women – are missing out on the benefits of using a bank that is governed by Islamic finance principles.

In addition, despite sharia-compliant banks often providing chart-topping returns on investments, such as fixed rate bonds and notice accounts, they remain underused by non-Muslim investors who wrongly believe that these offers can only be accessed by practising Muslims.

Awareness and perception of Islamic finance among non-users of Islamic products is one of the industry’s biggest obstacles to overcome, with only 53% of non-users knowing anything about it, and only 35% of non-users viewing it favourably, the research found.

According to the Gatehouse bank’s findings, friends, family and colleagues are the most common sources of information among those who have never used Islamic finance, with over a third (34%) of those yet to use shariah-compliant products hearing about it through these channels. Almost three in 10 (28%) read about it on the internet, 18% learnt about it from social media, while 14% heard about it on Muslim-specific media including TV, radio and podcasts.

However, several positive findings highlight the huge opportunity available to the sector if it invests in the right areas.

Seven in 10 (71%) Muslim consumers questioned believe that Islamic finance is dedicated to the interests of the community, while 61% believe it works hard to better serve its customers. A staggering 85% of existing Islamic finance consumers said their experience exceeded their expectations, suggesting that using this rich seam of positive experiences and building on a sense of community could be key to increasing popularity.

The lack of uptake for Islamic banks could lie in the fact that 60% of the respondents said they thought it was harder to purchase, while 62% said it was difficult to compare options.

On this last point, it should be noted that Moneyfacts savings & ISAs comparison charts do provide a fast and easily understandable way to compare offers and product across the whole of the market, including both Muslim and non-Muslim providers.

Charles Haresnape, CEO of Gatehouse Bank, commented: “Our report highlights that providers of Shariah-compliant finance are missing out because of a largely untapped market for their products.

“A key lesson is that we and the whole industry need to do a better job of reaching out to the Muslim community and explaining the benefits of shariah-compliant products.”

More information can be found in our guide to sharia-compliant house purchase plans. The top-paying rates for all providers can be found on our savings and ISAs comparison charts.

While the academic year comes to an end this week, the next academic year is just six weeks away, which means students haven’t got long to sort their finances out in preparation for the new term. To help students get their finances in order, Moneyfacts.co.uk has drawn up a selection of the top student accounts on the market.

Student account selection table

Provider and account

Interest-free overdraft

Incentives

Bank of Scotland - Student Account

Year 1 - up to £1,500

(0-6 months £500,

7-9 months £1,000

and 10 months+ £1,500)

Year 2 to 3 - up to £1,500

Year 4 to 6 - up to £2,000

Free to register for Everyday offers and It's On Us.

Earn up to 15% cashback from selected retailers.

Barclays Bank - Student Additions

Year 1 - up to £1,000

Year 2 - up to £2,000

Year 3 - up to £3,000

Earn cashback through Barclays Cashback.

Blue Rewards is available as an add-on for £4 per month.

Halifax - Student

Year 1+ - up to £1,500

Cashback Extras - Earn up to 15% cashback from selected retailers.

Credit interest of 0.10% AER/gross.

HSBC - Student Bank Account

Year 1 - at least £1,000

Year 2 - up to £2,000

Year 3 - up to £3,000

£100 cashback on opening for first-year students.

Free 12 months British Cycling Fan Membership.

Student Exclusives website giving offers and discounts.

Preferential savings rates.

Lloyds Bank - Student

Year 1 - up to £1,500

(0-6 months £500,

7-9 months £1,000

and 10 months+ £1,500)

Year 2 to 3 - up to £1,500

Year 4 to 6 - up to £2,000

Free to register for Everyday offers and It's On Us.

Earn up to 15% cashback from selected retailers.

Nationwide Building Society - FlexStudent

Year 1 - up to £1,000

Year 2 - up to £2,000

Year 3+ - up to £3,000

No charges for using debit card abroad.
Credit interest of 1% AER/gross.

Preferential savings rates.

NatWest - Student

Year 1 - up to £2,000

(1-4 months £500,

5 months+ £2,000)

Year 2 to 5 - up to £2,000

Choose one offer from the following: one year free Amazon Prime Student plus £10 Amazon.co.uk gift card, OR free National Express Coachcard, OR tastecard.

Free 24/7 Emergency Cash Service.

Royal Bank of Scotland - Student

Year 1 - up to £2,000

(1-4 months £500,

5 months+ £2,000)

Year 2 to 5 - up to £2,000

Choose one offer from the following: one year free Amazon Prime Student plus £10 Amazon.co.uk gift card, OR free National Express Coachcard, OR tastecard.

Free 24/7 Emergency Cash Service.

Santander - 123 Student Current Account

Year 1 to 3 - up to £1,500

Year 4 - up to £1,800

Year 5 - up to £2,000

Free 16-25 Railcard for new customers.

Earn up to 15% cashback from selected retailers.

Preferential rates, offers and discounts at 123 World.

Credit interest of up to 3% AER (2.96% gross).

TSB - Student

Year 1 - up to £1,510

(0-6 months £510

7-9 months £1,100

and 10 months+ £1,510)

Year 2 to 6 - up to £1,510

Year 3 to 6 - up to £1,510

Credit interest of up to 5% AER (4.89% gross).

The list of student accounts is only a selection. All overdrafts are subject to the applicant’s status. Source: Moneyfacts.co.uk

With the academic year coming to an end many students are busy celebrating their summer of freedom, but HSBC UK is already looking ahead to September when freshers will be packing up and leaving for university by releasing its new Student Account.

This student account is restricted to new university students for the 2019/2020 academic year and offers a £100 cash incentive, which is paid within one week of account opening. It is available for first-year students and apprentices (those with a conditional university place or a confirmed apprenticeship on an accredited scheme at Level 2 or above). HSBC UK revealed that it is offering the cash incentive as feedback from students the bank surveyed showed cash is king when it comes to their preferred incentives to open a bank account.

In addition to the cash incentive, another change HSBC UK has made is to make this student account available now, meaning students will not have to wait until after they receive their A-level results to open the account. By offering the account early, the bank believes this will help students get their financial arrangements more organised.

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