NatWest launches talking cashpoints

NatWestNatWest is to roll out "talking" cash machines for blind and partially-sighted customers across the UK, as part of an upgrade to its ATM network.

Some 80% of the 4,800 ATMs and in-branch cash and deposit machines which are branded with the name NatWest or its sister bank Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) will be speech-enabled over the next couple of years.

The upgrades will start early next year and should be completed by the end of 2015, meaning that people will be able to plug earphones into the machines so they can be verbally guided through their transactions.

RBS and NatWest have been working closely with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) on the plans over the last year.

The upgrades are intended to help anyone who prefers to take on information through speech rather than reading.

Ross McEwan, RBS and NatWest retail banking CEO, said: "As one of the largest ATM providers in the UK, we want to help our customers bank with us in the simplest and most convenient way possible."

Lesley-Anne Alexander, RNIB's CEO, said she was "delighted" with the announcement and called for more banks to follow suit.

RNIB launched a Make Money Talk campaign in September 2011 calling for banks in the UK to provide ATMs with audio facilities for customers.

The announcement came on the same day it was revealed that new regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has started an enforcement investigation into an IT meltdown last summer which affected RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank customers.

The hitch saw payments go awry, wages disappear and home purchases and holidays interrupted. RBS has already taken a £175 million hit to cover costs and compensation relating to the hitch and promised that no one would be left permanently out of pocket.

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