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Five Examples of Biometrics in Banking

Posted by Bethany Frank on 22 Feb 2016


biometric authentication in banking

The term “biometrics” refers to the collection and use of biological data and behavioral characteristics. Banks are utilizing the technology 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

Most smartphones today are equipped with fingerprint scanners. Banks are harnessing the now-ubiquitous mobile phone feature as an added layer of security. Customers at Bank of America and others can easily sign into their mobile banking  with a simple touch. 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 's value lies in the uniqueness of individual vein patterns, which are established in the womb and remain largely unchanged throughout one’s life. 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 can be found 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 are 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

Citibank 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 and other businesses looking to adopt new technology going forward will be consumer discomfort. Many people find the concept disturbing, but a commitment to exceptional-rate security and educating consumers 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.

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Bethany Frank Senior Marketing Associate Bethany specializes in content and events as part of Alacriti's marketing team. She's a graduate of Rutgers University and has a background in writing, broadcasting, and digital media. Fascinated by the intersection of technology and human nature, Bethany is out to explore what drives consumers in such a fast-paced, digitally connected world.

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