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Simplicity is at the heart of the biometric banking experience


This is a guest post by Simon Cadbury, Head of Strategy and Innovation at Intelligent Environments

The success of any new technology, be it a service, a product, or an entire ecosystem, is heavily influenced by its ease of use. If it’s too complex or unwieldy, or brings with it unnecessary anxieties for first time users, especially if there’s a security or financial element to it, then companies will have lost the customer at the first hurdle.

The role that a high quality, simple user experience plays in successful adoption of technology can’t be underestimated. For example, my bank recently lost my spend to a competitor when, in order to enable Apple Pay, they required me to print off and post them a form.

This onus on simplicity is also what’s driving a major shift in digital banking security through adoption of biometric security measures. Apple has helped here too – by introducing Touch ID it has helped biometric technology feel familiar for iPhone users. Touch ID has been successfully implemented by providers like American Express, HSBC, RBS and NatWest, thus fulfilling the push-pull mechanic which fuels technology growth. For their customers, any app experience that doesn’t support Touch ID login now feels like a throwback to a distant past.

Further afield than the iPhone, biometrics are starting to become the norm. MasterCard is introducing ‘selfie pay’ to 14 countries this summer, Atom lets its customers present their face to view their balance, Barclays has launched finger vein scanning capabilities for business customers and Halifax has trialled a heartbeat verification system using an electronic wristband.

The latest arrival on the biometric scene for digital banking is something termed “behavioural biometrics” – technology which intertwines the bio element of security with the manner in which people use their devices or access information. UK building society Nationwide has announced it is piloting a prototype mobile banking app which verifies a user based on how their device is held, swiped, and typed. It combines this data with artificial intelligence to spot and prevent identity fraud.

It lends itself well to a suite of biometric solutions that are aiming to make digital banking services easier to use. The concept – a simple idea, cleverly executed – was first demonstrated two years ago at Finovate by BehavioSec, and it’s good to see Nationwide embracing the concept with the prototype banking app.

But it’s important to remember that all biometrics must be deployed as part of a progressive security solution in order to be wholly effective. An example might be a customer being able to check their balance simply based on how they hold their device, (i.e. ‘standard’ behavioural biometrics), but in order to set up a standing order to a new payee (a more complex task), their fingerprint and passcode (layered encryption) are required.

Progressive authentication – introducing additional security for more complex banking tasks – helps match an appropriate customer experience to the security required. Additionally, mixing up the use of biometric and non-biometric security measures can help to familiarise customers with new technologies they might otherwise be uncertain of. Atom, for example, has integrated three different identity credentials into the customer experience – face, voice and the traditional passcode.

Behavioural biometrics are exciting because security starts to become an invisible part of the customer experience. It will be interesting to monitor the progression of Nationwide’s pilot and that of others. Its success will likely be measured on whether it makes the experience simpler and easier for customers whilst also fundamentally more secure.

Financial institutions have held a watching brief over biometric security for many years but with tangible implementations now starting to roll off the shelves, we sit at a very exciting juncture in the reshaping of the banking experience.

DISCLAIMER: BiometricUpdate.com blogs are submitted content. The views expressed in this blog are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BiometricUpdate.com.

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