Banking biometrics taking off in West Africa

A couple of stories out today from West Africa’s largest country, Nigeria, and perhaps its most respected, Ghana, tell of adoption of large-scale biometric deployments in finance.

Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) has disclosed that over 18 million customers have so far enrolled for the Biometric Verification Number (BVN) exercise (The Sun)

Eight foreign remittance firms join Ghana’s e-Zwich (Modern Ghana)

Ubiquitous banking biometrics by 2020

Biometrics to become the predominant method to identify bank customers by 2020 (Goode Intelligence)

Growth in the banking industry will be accelerated by a number of factors including the arrival of electronic devices with built-in biometric support (notably smart mobile devices), the adoption of biometric-friendly authentication standards such as FIDO, the pressing need to combat rising banking fraud and identity theft, the growth of mobile banking and the emergence of wearable banking.

China: Regulators reluctant to allow online bank account creation

Chinese Regulators Put Brakes on Facial-Recognition for Payment (PYMNTS.com)

Currently, in China, a customer must physically appear at a bank to have his or her identity verified by an employee before he or she can open an account. There is a push in the industry, the report points out, for facial-recognition software to replace the need for a customer’s physical presence to conduct banking business.

China seems to be drawing a regulatory distinction between what ID requirements should be in place in order to open a bank account versus what ID requirements banks can use for authenticating transactions.

USAA mobile biometric authentication opt-in data

Biometrics Find Support from an Unlikely Demographic: Seniors (American Banker)

More than 400,000 USAA customers, five of whom are over 90 years old, have opted in to use biometrics (face, voice or touch) to authenticate themselves to the company’s mobile banking application.

The median age for customers opting for biometrics is 3.5

About 7.5% are over the age of 65.

Four are in their nineties.

Consent and Trust

Biometric Data Without the Big-Brother Angst (American Banker)

At the end of the day, biometric data is really just another type of personal data that banks hold, access and use with the trust of customers and employees. But obtaining consent should not just be seen as merely a bureaucratic necessity. It is part of a process by which banks can maintain and enhance trust — which only becomes more important in the age of big data and virtual relationships.

Looking for cyborg customers, or, I forgot to take my Paypill

Kill all passwords by eating them says PayPal (Techworld)

He says external body methods like fingerprints are “antiquated”, and that internal body functions like heartbeat and vein recognition using embedded and ingestible devices are the future, to allow “natural body identification”. LeBlanc says internal devices could include brain implants, and that ingestible devices could be powered by stomach acid that runs batteries.

Time will tell, I guess, but user acceptance has been has been a big issue for identity management solutions using biometrics. A bank asking customers to put something in their body in order to access their money would seem to be of another character entirely.

Perhaps the analysis is meant to provide a perspective on what far-distant ID management technologies will look like. Even then, with the exponential growth of the computing power in “externally carried computers” i.e. smartphones, it’s hard to see how gaining a foot or so of proximity distance by moving the token inside the body lowers error rates enough to justify the mess.

The subtext is this, though:

“We know how to identify machines. People are a pain. If we can just turn the people into enough of a machine, all our problems are solved.” In other words, engineering! There’s a problem here, though. If you turn the machines into people, the machines will probably get harder to identify.

At SecurLinx, we’ll keep at it just in case.

USAA and customers both embrace biometrics

Biometric Innovation Boosts USAA Fiscal Results, Customer Satisfaction (Mobile ID World)

In a synopsis, the company credited its strong performance – which saw its net worth increasing by ten percent, reaching $27 billion – at least in part to “innovations such as secure facial and voice recognition on mobile devices”.

Tying in to the post below, the article mentions that the USAA customers who use it really love Apple Pay.

Biometrics for the financial “last mile”

Kenya: Biometric technology eases banking in rural areas (KBC) — Kenyans in rural areas can now open and get access to their bank accounts with ease following the roll out of a biometric technology…

Somalis panic as cash flow dries up after US remittance lifeline cut

Somalia’s remittance crisis has been intensifying for years. Britain’s Barclays Bank closed its accounts with Dahabshiil, the largest Somali money transfer company, in 2014.

In Australia, Westpac, the only bank partnering with Somali remittance companies, is due to close their accounts at the end of March, the report said.

“We are just lurching from crisis to crisis”, said Ed Pomfret, Oxfam’s Somalia campaign manager. “These governments need to take action.”

Britain has been working with the World Bank on a “Safer Corridor” initiative to tighten the scrutiny of Somali money transfers through measures such as biometric identity cards for recipients in Somalia.

The “last mile” problem is usually reserved for describing the challenges of connecting retail customers with physical infrastructures such as plumbing, electricity or wired communications.

It’s also a real challenge in connecting recipients of aid and remittances to the global financial system. In the Somali case above, the global financial system appears to end at Somali money transfer companies. The Kenya efforts (linked above) and others, such as India’s UID project, are two examples of how people are using biometrics to extend the benefits of the global financial system to people who desperately need them.

UK: Banks accommodating mobile fingerprint biometrics

Is the UK banking sector ready to sideline passwords? (Information Age)

RBS and NatWest have been the first banks to announce that they are soon to allow customers to access accounts on their smartphones using fingerprint recognition technology.

The move is a seminal one for UK financial institutions, and an indication that the era of passwords may be finally drawing to a close.

Also:
Fingerprint authentication protects youngsters from themselves (Computer Weekly)

Both the Royal Bank of Scotland and MasterCard have recently made announcements regarding fingerprint authentication services and, if research from Visa Europe is anything to go by, the technology could be the best way to help users keep their bank details secure.

The research revealed those aged between 16 and 24-years-old are very liberal with personal details.

For example, 34% of this age group have shared their debit or credit card pin numbers with someone, compared with 23% for all age groups. Some 32% have shared their smartphone password and 20% have shared internet banking passwords.

USAA adopts mobile biometrics for account verification

In Your Face: USAA Brings Biometric Logon to Mobile Users

“This will make USAA the first U.S. financial institution to offer facial and voice recognition on a mobile app as added protection against fraud and identity theft,” the company announced.

So how does it work? USAA’s facial recognition requires users to look at the screen and, when prompted, blink their eyes. For voice recognition, users must read a short phrase.

Face rec ATM debuts in Baltimore

Face-scanning ATM test in Baltimore (PYMNTS)

Securityplus Federal Credit Union is installing the biometric ATM at one of its seven branches. Instead of calling in each member for a photo session, the ATM will snap a picture after members enter their eight-digit PIN. When the member later returns to the ATM for another transition, if the face is deemed a match, the transaction is granted without requiring the PIN again.

Fingerprint credit cards headed to the UK

New Biometric MasterCards Take Norway; Britain is Next (findBIOMETRICS)

So next year the card is going to make its debut in Britain, a country that seems to have recently come around to the benefits of biometric technology, having fully embraced biometric airport screening after a disastrous initial go of it a decade ago. The fingerprint scanners in MasterCard’s new credit cards are, of course, for authentication purposes, and will replace the PIN system currently in use in Britain.

Japanese vascular biometrics tech in the banking news…

Hitachi: Malaysian bank keen to adopt biometric reader technology (Astro AWANI)

A Malaysian bank is keen to adopt Hitachi Asia Ltd’s finger vein authentication technology solution.

Its senior vice-president/general manager ICT Solutions Business Regional, Mitsuhisa Kajiyoshi, said the new solution would enable the customers to easily access their online bank accounts and authorise payments within seconds, without the need for personal identification numbers, passwords or authentication codes.

Fujitsu Looks To Secure Card Payments With Biometric Data (Tech Week Europe)

Fujitsu says its new PalmSecure ID Match device will make identity verification and card payments more secure by combining a chip and PIN system with its palm-vein scanning technology for multi-factor authentication.

The unit is similar to current point of sale systems and comprises a multi-card reader, its PalmSecure sensor, a touchscreen and a processor board powered by an ARM chip.

It really does seem that Japanese tech firms dominate in hand-vein biometrics.

Abu Dhabi bank to introduce voice recognition technology

UAE: End of the Pin number? ADCB to launch voice recognition service (The National)

The biometric technology used by ADCB works by comparing the caller’s voice to a pre-recorded sample given by the client, ADCB said.

That will allow customers to get on the phone with a bank representative quicker while reducing the chances of fraud.

“In this competitive environment we need to make sure that customer convenience and ease of access are effectively balanced with information and transaction security,” said Ravi Nair, the head of customer experience at ADCB. “The voice biometrics technology will play a vital role in ensuring increased security and convenience at the same time, while making client calls shorter and reducing our overall cost to serve.”

No need to mischaracterize voice biometrics in call centers

Amidst all the attention banks are receiving over the use of voice biometrics to prevent fraud, It’s worth noting a couple of things.

First, according to the widely linked AP article, “The technology, sometimes called voiceprinting, is aimed at bad guys rather than legitimate customers, but legal and privacy experts alike still have reservations about the practice.” So, the systems in place seem to work by collecting information on known and suspected fraudsters and placing them on a watchlist (listenlist?). This makes sense. Technically, it’s far easier to be on the lookout for a handful of persons of interest than it is to make a positive ID on every single caller.

Second, there are a lot of way over-hyped headlines out there that make it appear as though financial institutions are collecting voice biometric information on unwitting customers on a vast scale.

Take:
Some Banks Collect Voiceprints During Service Calls to Identify You (Salon) 

Technically, this Slate headline isn’t even true since according to the source it cites, the voiceprints are being used to identify fraudsters, not to verify the identities of account holders.

Then there’s this.

Banks Harvest Callers’ Voiceprints to Fight Fraud, which is the unfortunate headline of the very AP article that acknowledges that the systems function as criminal watchlists rather than a “harvest” of biometric information.

Banks Use Callers’ Voiceprints to Fight Fraud

Computers with voice recognition are being used–sometimes discreetly–to add extra security during calls with customers. (Inc.)

“We lost everything,” she said. “Can you send me a card to where we’re staying now?”

The card nearly was sent. But as the woman poured out her story, a computer compared the biometric features of her voice against a database of suspected fraudsters. Not only was the caller not the person she claimed to be, “she” wasn’t even a woman. The program identified the caller as a male impostor trying to steal the woman’s identity.

The mechanics of how the banks are using voice analysis are pretty interesting. By focusing on known or suspected fraudsters, it reminds me a little bit of the Nevada Gaming Commission’s Excluded Person List.

IDC Comment: Biometric Identification in Financial Applications

International Data Corporation (IDC) Analyst: Banks should precede with caution (IDC)

“While improving authorization experience is attractive and will help adoption of mobile banking services, financial institutions should not just blindly commit to mass market biometric identification solutions, especially those provided by third parties via publicly-available APIs”, says Andrei Charniauski, Research Manager at IDC Financial Insights.

Biometrics as a key enabler of microfinance

Pakistan Microfinance landscape: Opening an account within a minute (Exress Tribune)

…[A] lot of bankable people remain unbanked in Pakistan mainly because of tedious form-filling procedures imposed in the name of know-your-customer (KYC) requirements.

But thanks to the biometric identification devices currently being installed for SIM cards across the country, the microfinance landscape in Pakistan is going to change forever, according to Tameer Microfinance Bank CEO Nadeem Hussain.

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