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Biometrics aren’t really futuristic any more, and even in as conservative a sector as banking they are being deployed in the mass market. I’ve helped to organise a CSFI roundtable on the topic to share some practical experiences. (Revised 22nd April 2015 with updated roundtable details.)

Hey, how fun is this! Logging on to things by tapping your contactless bank card to your phone! I remember demonstrating this (using, if I recall correctly) WAP on a Nokia 6131 to some of our clients about six years ago, when they were getting ready to start issuing the first European contactless bank cards for pilots and trials in (I think) the UK and Italy.

Bank customers currently use dedicated passcode generator devices to access their accounts, but the new system will see them authenticating by simply tapping a contactless bank card to their NFC phone,

[From Korea shifts to NFC authentication for mobile banking – BayPay Members Blogs]

Of course, I will never, ever, do this at any time between now and the heat death of the universe because like everyone else on the planet I will use biometrics to authenticate myself to my mobile phone and thereby to service providers of all kinds. We’ve been playing around with biometrics and FIDO in the office on a couple of projects, and I can tell you that the combination works well now and will only get better in the future as the biometric sensors improve and become more sophisticated, as they mobile phone processors become more integrated with the sensors and as people become more intolerant of username and passwords and goodness knows what else.

This is why I was so interested to see USAA Bank (based in San Antonio, Texas), a bank that is well-known for being highly focused on customer service and innovative in the use of new technology to improve the customer experience, roll-out face-recognition for mobile phones using the technology of one of Consult Hyperion’s clients, Daon. Earlier this year, American Banker called their adoption of biometrics a “tipping point”. They use voice, face and (soon) fingerprint biometrics to provide security and convenience across their customer base. You can log in to your account by looking at your mobile phone: perfect for the young who are impateient with PINs and passwords, perfect for the rest of us who can’t remember them anyway.

The San Antonio financial services company has rolled out facial recognition technology across its entire membership base that lets them access its mobile app with a tap of their smartphone camera and a blink when prompted (to prove they’re a live person and not a photo).

[From Biometric Tipping Point: USAA Deploys Face, Voice Recognition|American Banker Article]

In a stroke of astonishing good luck, Rick Swenson from USAA (who is the Strategic Initiatives Executive quoted in this American Banker article) is going to be in London in May and has kindly agreed to join a lunchtime roundtable organised by the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation at SWIFT on 11th May. Joining Rick will be a couple other speakers adding to your knowledge of the practical use of biometrics in mass-market retail financial services and, of course, me. So the full lunchtime line up will be:

  • Rick Swenson, the USAA Executive responsible for Fraud Operational Excellence and Strategic Initiative who will share USAA’s experiences and explain why their approach has been so successful.
  • Oran Cummings from MasterCard, who will give an international perspective on the use of biometrics in the financial sector.
  • Keith Gold, IBM Banking and Financial Services Europe (retired), who has been helping the CSFI to understand the requirements of an ageing population, will talk about the importance of biometrics in the useability toolkit needed to this key segment of bank customers (or, why looking at a mobile phone is easier than remember a PIN for most of us!).

The usual well-informed and wide-ranging discussion will ensue, with wine and sandwiches for all. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from Rick while he is visiting the UK. There may be a few places left so if you’re interested in seeing how the biometric state of the art is advancing in banking, do come along. Contact anna@csfi.org for further details and to reserve your place at this excellent (free) event. A couple of years ago, some people might have thought statements like this were speculative:

Within 10 years. “The economic payments system will begin to ‘know us,’ either through biometrics, optical sensor or facial recognition,” says Joshua Siegel, managing principal of StoneCastle Partners, a New York-based asset management firm that invests in banks.

[From Here’s What Banking And Money Will Be Like 30 Years From Now – Business Insider]

Who now seriously thinks that this isn’t true?

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