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Westpac Bank looks at expanding its use of biometric authentication technology


Australia’s Westpac Bank is expanding its use of biometric identification technologies to authenticate customers on its mobile banking app, according to a report by IT News for Australian Business.

Westpac subsidiary St George began offering its customers the option of using Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanning technology available on the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to log in to its mobile banking application.

St George offered the same option to those customers with Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphones, and more widely to customers across the Westpac group.

The bank experienced a 50 percent sign up rate for the feature within the first nine months that the bank began offering the fingerprint authentication option.

Westpac Bank’s head of mobile Travis Tyler said in a presentation at last week’s Biometrics Institute Conference that the trick to onboarding users is to make the registration process as easy as possible

The bank’s fingerprint log-in registration process follows the same procedure as setting up a PIN, which is familiar for customers.

Based on this success, Westpac is looking to expand on its use to validate customer transactions.

The bank is considering deploying facial recognition technology to allow its customers to log in to its mobile app, as well as potentially using the Apple Watch to authenticate customers based on their heartbeat and other elements, Tyler said.

Tyler and his team found that it was fairly easy to overcome customer nervousness regarding the introduction of fingerprint authentication.

“When we first introduced fingerprint logon to our customers we got a lot of feedback from our customers: is it safe? I don’t trust it? Can someone guess it,” Tyler said. “But people are ready to use biometrics as long as you get it right. As much as banking is about trust – and it is something that we value particularly – we are seeing time and time again that convenience trumps trust.”

After providing the fingerprint authentication option for customer login, the bank has seen a 50 percent increase in online interactions with customers, Tyler said.

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