'Voice banking' lets Santander customers check spending on app

Customers of a major bank can now use "voice banking" technology to ask their mobile app questions about their card spending habits.

Santander said iOS users of its SmartBank app will be able to use voice banking in this way, meaning they can have their question answered by talking, rather than having to trawl through their bank statements manually.

The technology, available from Tuesday, allows Santander's customers to ask their app simple questions about their card spending, such as: "Show my transactions for the last week," and: "Where did I spend the most money this month?"

A female voice will reply and transactions will appear in real time, with retailers highlighted by name. Spending can be calculated by day, month or year and customers with a 123 credit card can also ask about the cashback they have earned.

The bank said that if, for example, someone wanted to know the total amount spent at a supermarket or store this year, the tool will add it up, saving them having to go through their transactions.

Santander said the move could help people get on top of exactly where their money is going.

It is initially rolling out the voice banking technology in an introductory way, to help customers get to grips with its basic features.

In order to use it, people will need to update their app and they will also receive a simple tutorial on the technology.

They will also need to log into the app and pass the same level of security checks as they have done previously to ask it questions. Santander said the technology differs from voice biometrics, which only enables access to a customer's accounts by using their voice as a password.

A second phase of the technology is being rolled out later this year, with more advanced features. The second phase will allow customers to make payments, report lost cards, set up account alerts using voice banking and answer a broad range of spending questions.

Santander said the new service could also be a useful tool for vulnerable customers who prefer to bank from home and find speaking easier than typing or using online banking.

The move was announced as Lloyds Banking Group also announced the launch of technology enabling customers to have a mortgage interview via video link at home or at work.

The new service, which was piloted for Lloyds customers in 2015, will enable Lloyds Bank and Halifax customers to speak to a mortgage adviser "face to face" from the comfort of their own home via video link on a laptop, desktop or tablet computer.

The video service is an alternative for customers who would otherwise be required to travel to a branch or speak to a mortgage adviser on the phone, Lloyds said.

Meanwhile, 16 Lloyds Bank branches are piloting the use of the video service for customers coming into the branch, with the aim of increasing mortgage appointment availability at peak times.