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Bank of America exploring use of iris, facial recognition technologies


Hari Gopalkrishnan, managing director of consumer facing platforms and technology for Bank of America, says that if consumers find an authentication method to be cumbersome, intrusive or difficult to work with, they may opt out of using it, potentially leaving their digital identities more easily exposed to fraudsters, according to a report by PYMNTS.

“We need to know what our customers really want to use before we can commercialize something and put it out to [them],” Gopalkrishnan said. “Once we know they want something, then we can make it part of our platform, because then we’re confident they’ll use it and not leave themselves vulnerable.”

He said it is difficult to find that balance because new authentication methods such as biometrics, can deliver increased protection and convenience for consumers, but are more intrusive and personal than the traditional username and password system.

Establishing the right balance often means working with partners who are able to make interacting with authentication methods a seamless and convenient experience for consumers.

The Bank of America recently partnered with Samsung to develop new iris-based authentication techniques to enable clients to access the BoA mobile banking app via a photo of their eye.

The partnership is part of the bank’s larger effort to learn what customers do and don’t like about biometric authentication methods, and how they react to different security protocols, Gopalkrishnan explained.

“What we’re trying to test and learn with this partnership is how iris scanning will integrate into our framework,” he said. “We want to find out what the usability of that feature is like. For an example, given a choice between fingerprint and iris scanning, how often do they prefer one versus the other, and why [do] they prefer that method of authentication?”

In addition to partnering with Samsung, the bank has partnered with other technology firms and payments firms, such as Microsoft and PayPal, that are familiar with generating protection protocols that are unobtrusive.

Through these continued partnerships, the bank hopes to find the right balance between user experience and stringent security.

“We’ve done some pilots where customers tell us that it’s too convoluted, or too cumbersome, and they won’t use it, so we don’t implement it,” he said. “But we also learn a lot about what our consumers do and don’t want from those partnerships. And that’s really what we want to get out of these pilots and partnerships. We want them to educate and inform us about what consumers want to do and what they won’t do.”

With the Samsung partnership, Bank of America is experimenting with biometric authentication methods outside the fingerprint method as smartphone authentication technology begins to shift.

Earlier this month, Apple announced its upcoming iPhone X, which will use the Face ID facial recognition tool.

As new consumer products and innovations become adopted on a mass scale, the bank is forced to create authentication techniques customized to benefit those devices, Gopalkrishnan said.

“We introduced Fingerprint and Touch ID sign-in capabilities and banking authentication capabilities in 2015 because we knew that it was more secure than other alternatives, and customers had shown they wanted to use this method,” he said. “Our customers loved it, and they adopted it quickly. Now, we have to find [a] way to make facial or iris scanning something consumers want to use and [prove] is still more secure than other methods.”

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