The term “biometrics” refers to the collection and use of biological data and behavioral characteristics. As more global financial activity becomes digitally-based, many banks are utilizing new technologies to develop next-generation identification controls to combat fraud, make transactions more secure, and enhance the customer experience.
Bank of America: Fingerprint and Touch ID Sign-In
Banks are fully capitalizing on Apple’s Touch ID and its Android counterparts by harnessing the now-ubiquitous mobile phone feature as an added layer of security. As of September last year, Bank of America
’s customers can use the fingerprint scanner on their mobile phones to sign in to the mobile banking app. The new feature makes great use of an emerging trend and reduces friction for the customer.
Barclays: Hitachi Vein ID
Similar to fingerprint technology, Barclays has teamed up with tech giant Hitachi to offer “finger vein technology
” to its corporate customers. To authorize transactions, business customers simply place a finger inside a small desktop scanner instead of entering passwords and PINs. The technology is considered highly secure due to the uniqueness of individual vein patterns, which are established in the womb and remain largely unchanged throughout one’s life, according to Hitachi. Barclays states that although the technology is currently quite expensive, it makes a lot of sense for corporate clients with heavy transaction volumes. Hitachi’s Vein ID is already being used at ATMs across Japan and Poland.
Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest: Fingerprint Technology
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest were the first banks in the UK to offer customers the option to sign in to mobile banking via fingerprint technology. Unlike Bank of America’s sign-in options, RBS and NatWest fingerprint technology is only compatible with Touch ID on the latest models of Apple’s iPhone. The lack of Android-based access isn’t necessarily a problem, however, as 1.8 million
active iPhone users access the RBS and NatWest mobile apps about 40 times per month on average.
Wells Fargo: Commercial Electronic Office (CEO)
Like Barclays, Wells Fargo has also introduced enhanced security features for its corporate customers. Users of the bank’s Commercial Electronic Office
(CEO) mobile banking application— which includes high-level treasurers, CFOs, and accountants—will have the option to choose from two new biometrics authentication methods. The first method involves voice and facial data collection and recognition. The second requires users to capture a photo of the whites of their eyeballs; the unique red vein patterns in the eye are used to identify individuals and grant access into the app. Secil Watson, head of Wells Fargo’s Wholesale Internet Solutions, states that passwords simply don’t cut it anymore for business customers. She’s optimistic that the technology will be widely adopted by corporate clients over the next few years.
Citibank: Voice Biometrics Authentication
received two Gartner Financial Services Cool Business Awards in 2015 for its voice biometrics authentication project. The new authentication method uses voice biometrics to automatically identify a customer while he or she explains an issue to a customer service representative over the phone. The new system cuts out the cumbersome process of verifying a customer’s identity through ID numbers and personal details; this reduces friction for customers and allows representatives to provide meaningful help faster. It takes less than one minute for a customer to set up a voiceprint, and over 250,000 U.S. customers have opted in so far. According to Chief Administrative Officer Andrew. S Keen, "Voice biometrics allow [Citibank] to fundamentally change the customer experience – from ‘Who are you?' to ‘How can I help?'"
A major challenge for banks, technology firms, and businesses looking to adopt these new technologies going forward will be consumer discomfort. Many people find the concept disturbing, but a commitment to exceptional-rate security and consumer education can go a long way to alleviate concerns. With so many top financial institutions investing in biometrics innovation, it’s likely that others will follow suit. Biometrics also show promise for application in retail environments and adjacent industries. While there may be some obstacles along the way, biometric technology is poised to play a key role in banking, business, and society at large in coming years.