Societe Generale introduces biometric technology for online account opening

French multinational bank Societe Generale has announced a new capability which allows customers to open an account online with biometric facial recognition and a dynamic selfie, after obtaining an agreement which it says is the first of its kind with the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL), the oversight body for application of data privacy laws.

The technology simplifies the banking process while reinforcing data protection and confidentiality, according to the announcement, and is part of the bank’s focus on leading in customer satisfaction by providing added-value services and “phygital” (physical and digital) interfaces.

“Because of its universal, unforgeable nature, biometric recognition has emerged as the answer to the question of how to reinforce the security of bank accounts and combat fraud, without compromising the data protection rules imposed by the CNIL,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Only the customers themselves keep a copy of the data analysed: it is encrypted and illegible during the verification process and automatically deleted from the servers as soon as authentication is complete.”

Customers were previously required to transfer an initial sum of money from an existing account held in their name at another institution in order to open a new account, which can act as a barrier to account creation. The introduction of biometric technology to Societe Generale’s mobile app removes that requirement, while retaining compliance with bank regulations. After facial recognition is used to compare the applicant to an identity document, the user holds a brief discussion with a Societe Generale advisor using the app’s video call feature, and finally provides an electronic signature, and within 24 hours, new account access is granted.

Societe Generale says that 10 percent of new accounts are currently being opened through the online channel, and it aims to increase that number to 30 percent by 2020.

A survey conducted by Societe Generale and Ipsos found that 78 percent of French consumers are aware and supportive of efforts by banks to provide more online services.

The Mobile Act recently signed into U.S. law paves the way for American banks to use similar processes for new account opening, while industry group Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association is urging regulators to allow banks to meet compliance burdens with biometrics and other technologies.

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