Posted by Alison Arthur and Bethany Frank on 08 May 2019
An earlier version of this blog was first published in February 2016.
Biometric authentication is no longer a new concept. People have grown accustomed to facial recognition unlocking their mobile devices and fingerprint scanners facilitating their purchases. While the term conjures up measurements related to physical human characteristics, biometrics also include behavioral characteristics present in keystroke patterns, personal signatures, and voice identification.
Banks are using biometrics to develop next-generation identification controls that combat fraud, make transactions more secure, and enhance the customer experience. Here are five examples of how financial institutions are using biometrics now.
The Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest: Biometric Payments Card
In 2019, The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) announced a pilot of payment cards featuring biometric fingerprint technology. The trial is being carried out with approximately 200 of the bank’s NatWest customers and will take place in the U.K. The fingerprint acts as a replacement for PIN entry and is used to verify transactions in excess of £30, making it quicker and easier for customers to complete their payments. This latest development follows a long line of biometrics innovation, as RBS and NatWest were the first U.K. banks to enable Touch ID fingerprint recognition on their mobile banking apps.
Wells Fargo: Eyeprint Authentication
Wells Fargo’s CEO Mobile® solution allows commercial clients to view bank account balances, make deposits, and approve payments all from the convenience of their mobile devices. Advanced security features including encryption, secondary authentication, and token generation are also built into the solution. An additional security feature is the use of a biometrics eyeprint feature. This feature allows users to sign in by scanning their eyes with the camera on their mobile devices. Eyeprint authentication eliminates the need for a password or a token, making the sign in process easier and more secure.
Citi: Voice Authentication
In 2016, Citi introduced voice biometrics to verify the identities of customers contacting their call centers. Voice authentication uses biometrics to verify customers’ identities while they’re explaining an issue to a customer service representative over the phone. It analyzes unique characteristics in a person’s vocal pattern and cross-checks them against a prerecorded voice print to verify their identity. Voice authentication cuts out the cumbersome process of verifying a customer’s identity through ID numbers and personal details, reducing friction for customers and allowing representatives to provide meaningful help faster. It takes less than one minute for a customer to set up a voiceprint, and over one million customers in the Asia Pacific region used voice authentication within one year of its release.
Bank of America: Fingerprint Authentication, Iris-Scanning, and App Linking
Bank of America’s mobile apps introduced fingerprint and Touch ID authentication several years ago and a pilot of iris-scanning followed in short order. Most recently, the financial institution announced the addition of a new App Linking feature. This feature is available in all mobile apps that fall under the Bank of America umbrella (Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Merrill Edge, and U.S. Trust). Users authenticate once, using a fingerprint scan or facial recognition, and can then use a button to switch between these apps without needing to re-authenticate.
Barclays: Finger Vein Reader Technology
Similar to fingerprint technology, Barclays teamed up with tech giant Hitachi to offer Finger Vein reader technology to its corporate banking 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 unique vein patterns present on every finger, which are established in the womb and remain largely unchanged throughout life. The Barclays Biometric Reader combines advanced security with an easy-to-use interface for an innovative authentication experience.
The Bottom Line: Biometrics are the next frontier of authentication and security as user IDs and passwords continue to prove vulnerable to cyber attacks. But biometrics face their own obstacles including widespread adoption, customer comfort using the technology, and hacking concerns. While there may be obstacles along the way, biometrics are poised to play a key role in commerce, technology, and security in the coming years.
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