Biometrics with Cyrielle Chiron, General Manager – North America, RFi Group

Biometric technology is clearly rising in popularity throughout the world in every passing day. From mobile devices to laptops, government agencies to multinational organizations, voter registrations to national ID cards, biometric is evolving everywhere in every aspect of our lives.

This steady upward growth is due to countless reasons but mostly to the fact that personal identification is considered more and more important. 

Making the journey through airport terminals more seamless for passengers is a goal shared by airports around the world. Biometric technology to verify passenger identities has been used in several large international airports for a number of years and the technology is quickly spreading. 

So clearly, biometric technology appeared as a serious security tool for more than a decade. Look at India today, to reduce fraud they are building a biometric database and it is mandatory, a first in the world.   But, I believe that the doors really opened when Apple brought the Touch ID solution to recognize a person through fingerprint scanning on the iPhone 5s. With the arrival of biometric technology, mobile devices are now featured with fingerprint recognition, voice recognition etc. Almost all of the top smartphone companies are now producing biometric features enabled mobile phones to meet user demands.

Unlike the use of other forms of authentication, such as passwords or tokens, biometric recognition provides a strong link between an individual and a claimed identity, and financial institutions actually didn’t wait long before seeing the value of biometrics. 

According to a 2015 study from Telesign, 73% of adults in the U.S. and UK use the same password for multiple accounts. Additionally, more than half of consumers use five or fewer passwords across their entire online life, while 22% use just three or fewer. Forty seven per cent have not changed their password in five years. I am sure this resonates with some of you! 

So, in addition to providing a frictionless experience to their customers, financial institutions saw biometrics as the opportunity to provide considerable help to prevent identity fraud.

Also, as mobile phone adoption has grown, financial institutions have been under the pressure to find a digital alternative to traditional banking. Based on our latest Global Digital Study conducted among 10,000 consumers in 10 countries, the usage of digital channels has significantly increased. Fifty eight per cent were using digital channels weekly in H1 2017 and six months later, this number is at 68%.

The race to develop a frictionless digital customer experience (and mainly when onboarding a new customer) is becoming more and more competitive and, at the same time, consumers are becoming more and more demanding. Going to the branch to finalise a banking process because you need to show your ID to prove who you are is becoming less and less acceptable. And in some cases, could actually break the deal. Twenty-two per cent of Canadians that started an online application but finished it offline, dropped out because it was compulsory to use other channels. And usually, one of the main reasons mentioned by the banks for forcing offline is authentication and KYC.

This is a big deal, implementing biometrics can significantly reduce costs while enhancing the overall customer experience, making their engagement with the bank more attractive and convenient. Based on our data, biometrics advocates have a higher satisfaction, advocacy and retention score with their main financial institution than non-biometrics advocates. 

So, where are consumers?

Well, based on the latest global digital study, 82% of respondents are aware of biometrics identification with fingerprint being the most known type of biometrics. Awareness is pretty much the same among all countries. 
While asking about usage of any form of biometrics to access their bank’s digital banking tools, Asian countries are leading the pack while Canada and France are lagging behind.

Of interest we asked if they would be comfortable using voice recognition to access their online banking and more than a third said they would be extremely comfortable. As expected, China and India are showing a high interest but, surprisingly, Mexico is not far behind them. Canada, however, is among the countries that may need a little bit of a convincing argument.

With consumers wanting faster and safer services from their banks, biometrics is clearly a solution.  Remembering PINs or answers of security questions to verify identity is another burden that biometrics has eliminated.
When we ask about the mobile banking app features that they would most value if made available to them – fingerprint login is in first position. In countries where the feature already exists, their interest in fingerprint login is obviously lower. But it is clearly the number one feature for Canadians. Also, six in 10 Canadians would prefer to use their fingerprint to authenticate a transaction.

Just to put some perspectives and provide actual examples, here are some financial institutions that have already adopted biometrics:

•    Lloyds banking group allow its customers to login into their banking services and authenticate transaction with fingerprint and facial recognition
•    Citi Group launched voice authentication in May 2016 across Asia Pacific region, which was widely adopted by the customers and hit a million mark in March 2017
•    Wells Fargo has been trialing eye-scanning technology and is now offering voice authentication to validate transactions and access services
•    Tyme Digital, launched biometrics kiosks in May 2016 in South Africa
•    Digibank in Singapore, uses customer biometrics for opening an account, the entire process is kept paperless and there is no need of other proof of identity or signature
•    Fifth Third Bank is one of the many banks that has integrated Apple’s Touch ID with its iPhone app to enable users to login to the app with the touch of a finger. Customers can also authenticate payments, perform transactions and review bank statement 

Also, a new law has been approved to obtain fingerprint biometrics in all banks in Mexico.

Many countries have introduced biometric ATMs to let customers withdraw money or perform other transactions with biometric authentication. India, Japan, Brazil and Poland are some of the countries that have already expressed interest for biometric ATMs.

Even Visa and Mastercard have included biometric technology in their products. By April 2019, European Mastercard cardholders will be able to identify themselves with biometrics when they shop and pay with their Mastercard card. Banks issuing Mastercard-branded cards will have to be able to offer biometric authentication for remote transactions, alongside existing PIN and password verification. It will also apply to all contactless transactions made at terminals with a mobile device. 

Visa announced that they are testing on-card biometrics for contactless payments at two different banks too.

Canadian banks are also getting in the game. A large number of banks have tested or implemented different approaches last year.

As people are now more concerned about their security than ever, biometric authentication is the technology that can provide the exact security people need. I think we need to be prepared to see more of this.

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