Biometric Research Note: Mobile devices to drive bank adoption of voice biometrics

January 7, 2013 - 

Financial institutions have identified voice biometrics as one of the best means to secure its client accounts and financial information. Voice biometrics compares various characteristics drawn from a person’s voice such as inflection, pitch, dialect, among others, and matches that with data captured. For voice recognition to work it requires banks and other financial institutions to register their clients voice patterns and correlate them to personal data for incorporation into a database.

Voice biometrics solutions allow customers to verify their identity simply by speaking, making it easier and faster to gain access to secure banking and insurance services by way of mobile apps, telephone and Web channels. Voice biometric solutions eliminate the need for PIN-based password or interrogation-based authentication methods, or can be used to add another level of security to those systems.

Banks that deploy voice biometrics to automate the log-in process not only enhance customer satisfaction levels, but dramatically reduce their customer care costs through increased automation rates.

As a result, a number of large banks worldwide have explored the possibility of adding voice biometrics to enhance their customer roster this year.

As reported in November, the National Australia Bank (NAB) has opted to use voice recognition for the biometric authentication of its customers rather than fingerprinting, as its reportedly deems the technology more secure and reliable.

The article notes that when customers call into to NAB’s telephone banking call center, they have an opportunity to opt to use voice recognition. The recognition data is stored internally by the bank, and in order to ensure that recorded voice clips cannot be used to gain unauthorized access, the system uses a string of different questions that are difficult to “spoof”.

Due to the versatility, along with consumer confidence in voice biometric technology, the Biometrics Research Group expects voice biometrics to be the fasting growing technology modality in the banking sector. Surveys we have analyzed have found that consumers prefer voice recognition technology for biometric identification. According to a survey conducted by IT provider Unisys, the biometric modalities ranked by consumer preference are: voice recognition (32 percent), fingerprints (27 percent), facial scan (20 percent), hand geometry (12 percent), and iris scan (10 percent). As a result, the Biometrics Research Group projects that voice recognition will be widely adopted. We project the technology will not only be implemented in bank calling centers throughout the world, but fast growth will also be driven by the continued rapid worldwide adoption of mobile “smartphone” and “superphone” technologies.

Banks are in the preliminary stages of testing and rolling out new voice biometric technologies for mobile devices. In North America this year, USAAM, the independent bank and insurance brokerage that caters to the U.S. military, developed a voice recognition service that will eventually allow its entire mobile phone customer base to make natural language inquiries for a wide range of banking services.

USAA’s voice recognition app is currently being tested by a group of employees but is slated for use by the bank’s 6.3 million account holders early next year. The bank has stated publicly that the application has tremendous potential to make banking: “simpler, faster and more satisfying on mobile devices.”

The bank cites the fact that military personnel are often quite mobile and would like to make greater use of advanced smartphone and superphone technologies. The bank also cited statistics from its voice biometric technology supplier Nuance that while over 50 percent of smartphone and superphone owners have installed a mobile banking app on their device, only 27 percent actually use it on a regular basis. Consumers say improvements in a few areas would increase the use of smartphone and superphone banking apps significantly. Thirty-four percent say they would appreciate a seamless access to a live agent when they need one, and 21 percent want their mobile apps to include more self-service tasks. Eighteen percent would simply settle for an app that was easier to use.

Technology suppliers like Nuance are betting that voice biometrics will be the “magic sauce” that improves banking customer experiences. Other banks are also examining implementation of the voice biometrics technology. Spanish bank BBVA is also currently developing a Siri-like banking application for iPhones and iPads at its U.S. subsidiary.

Further, as also previously reported, major banks such as ANZ are seriously beginning to study implementing biometrics over the next three to five years to improve the quality of its banking services. ANZ has made public statements that it projects it will take two to three years before commercialization of biometrics in banking is achieved. However, the bank is positioning itself for the implementation of the new technologies, that will be designed to simplify ANZ’s distribution networks and its products and processes, while providing customers with additional mobile and flexible banking options, while concurrently improving the capability of front-line staff.

Due to growing interest in providing consumers with cutting edge technology, while concurrently enhancing banking security, Biometrics Research Group expects more financial institutions to develop and deploy biometrics, and as a consequence, expects revenue growth for voice biometrics to grow. Our research estimates that at least US$200 million was spent on voice biometrics in the banking sector in 2012. We estimate that at least US$750 million will be spent on voice biometrics in the banking sector by 2015.

Biometrics Research Group provides forward-looking and systematic data about the global biometric market, allowing industry stakeholders to calculate political, economic and investment risk.

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About Rawlson King

Rawlson O’Neil King is a contributing editor at and is an experienced communications professional, management consultant, trade journalist and author who recently published a book about control and electronic networks and who has written numerous articles in trade publications and academic journals about smart home and building technologies. Follow him @rawlsonking2.