Barclays allow voice-enabled payments through Siri

simon chandler
By Simon Chandler

barclays eagle©iStock.com/EdStock2

BARCLAYS have launched a new voice-activated payment feature for their mobile banking app, enabling customers with iPhones to pay contacts merely by speaking to Siri.

Simply by entering the Barclays Mobile Banking app and switching on the new feature, customers will from then on be able to make payments without having to enter the app again, just by saying such things as, "Hey Siri, pay Simon Chandler £1,000,000".

The feature comes hot on the heels of a similar offering from Santander, yet in contrast to the Spanish-owned bank's requirement to login to their banking app as normal, Barclays customers authenticate their identity only by using the iPhone's fingerprint-based TouchID platform.

Yet as simple and convenient as making payments will become because of this, there's a slight worry that the ease of the feature could mean that people become less mindful of their overall finances, since it will allow customers to send money without seeing their account balances and the overall state of their finances beforehand.

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That said, the feature is definitely an overall gain for one group of people in particular: those with arthritis and other manual dexterity .

That's because the only thing it requires customers to do is enter the Barclays Mobile Banking (BMB) app one time to first activate it. From then on, all they need to do is speak to Siri, telling him/her to make payments to existing payees or mobile contacts.

Once a verbal instruction has been given to Siri, the customer then only has to touch the home button, which will read their fingerprint and authorise the payment.

Of course, what this means is that customers will not only have to have an iPhone to take advantage of the new feature, but will have to have a TouchID-compatible iPhone, which means the 5S model or later.

Fortunately for people who don't worship at the altar of Apple, a Barclays spokesperson has told us that the bank are working on an Android equivalent to Siri Pay, so non-Apple customers won't have to wait too long to be able to enjoy the benefits of the feature for themselves.

And despite the temporarily restricted availability, the feature nonetheless provides a notable step forward in terms of intuitiveness, accessibility and ease of use, with Barclays unsurprisingly talking up the innovation it represents.

Their Head of Customer Experience and Channels, Raheel Ahmed, said, "We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the world's first ATM ... The introduction of Siri payments to mobile banking customers is another step forward, giving flexibility and greater choice for all our customers".

The Government are similarly enthused about the new feature, with the City Minister Stephen Barclay adding, "This is further proof that the UK is at the cutting edge of developing financial technology which truly delivers for consumers".

Dangers?

Yet as cutting edge as it may be, the feature has a couple of limitations, as outlined below:

Yet to be fair, the inclusion of single and daily payment limits is a reassuring feature, since it offers reassurance against the possibility that, by divorcing payments from the accessing of an account and its balance, customers may become a touch less responsible in how they spend.

For instance, the little available academic research on the subject of mobile banking and financial responsibility shows that, normally, "customers acquire more information for financial decision-making following the use of the mobile channel", and that "mobile users are less likely to incur overdraft and credit card penalty fees".

However, since the ability to make payments without logging into an account essentially decreases the information customers may receive for decision-making, it's possible that it might cancel out the advantage mobile banking can offer in terms of customers accessing more info on their finances.

Changing behaviour

As a result, far from simply signalling the continuing shift of UK banking from face-to-face branches to digital services, the new Siri-based feature's biggest danger might lie in how it results in more people entering overdrafts, for instance, which are notoriously more expensive than many other forms of credit.

And more generally, it underlines how far too little research has been conducted into how the transition from bricks-and-mortar to digital banking might change customer spending behaviour, with the latest the Way We Bank Now report from the British Bankers' Association showing that digitisation has increased the overall number of banking transactions customers make every year.

Well, with Barclays' new Siri-enabled payments functionality, this number might increase even further over the coming months and years, with all the strain on personal budgets this might potentially imply.


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