One of Britain’s largest banks is planning to launch a radical new service that will expand its remit far beyond current accounts and traditional banking products.
NatWest – part of the 19 million-customer strong RBS group – is trialling "Mimo", a virtual personal assistant that will allow users to switch insurance, subscription and energy deals through their bank for the first time.
The app will use new technology made possible by Open Banking, a flagship policy introduced last year to encourage customers to switch by forcing banks to make it easier to share their financial data with third parties. Open Banking was mandated by the Competition and Markets Authority, which investigated the "loyalty penalty" paid by consumers who don’t switch providers.
Last year it found customers were losing out on £4bn a year as a result of this loyalty, and warned of "damaging practices" in the cash savings, mortgages, household insurance, mobile phone and broadband markets.
A spokesman for NatWest said customers would get a prompt stating that, for instance, a better energy deal was available, and asking them whether they would like to switch. Users will not be automatically switched without giving their consent, the bank said.
In addition, the app will aim to help users budget, remind them of tasks and provide analysis of their spending habits.
The new breed of digital banks, such as Monzo, Revolut and Starling Bank already carry many of these features, but the introduction of price comparison services marks a fundamental shift in banking.
If successful, the cross-selling of other financial products could prove incredibly lucrative for banks and eat into a market traditionally dominated by price comparison websites.
Last week, technology giant Apple announced it was moving into financial services with the launch of a highly secure cashback credit card.
NatWest’s Frans Woelders said: "We know that customers want to keep better track of their money, but find it hard to find the time or the motivation to manage the admin around that, so we’ve developed Mimo to make it easy, simple, and as straightforward as possible to keep on top of their finances."
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