3 ways biometric technology will change the face of financial services

Last updated: 30 November 2023

As 2018 gets under way, we may look back on it as a milestone year for biometric technology. While the iPhone 5 kickstarted the mainstream use of fingerprint authentication a few years ago, we are now seeing other biometric factors become part of everyday life. Apple is again playing a big role here following its development of the FaceID system that’s been built into the iPhone X – but we’ve also seen more companies start to experiment with ideas such as voice recognition, iris scanning and using selfies to log into accounts.

Biometric authentication is gaining ground quickly because it offers twin benefits of enhanced security and greater convenience. In theory, it allows organizations to offer their customers a more seamless, easy experience, while offering greater protection than relying on increasingly complex and difficult to remember passwords. After all, it’s much harder – if not impossible – to mimic someone’s unique biometric characteristics than it is to steal or break someone’s password.

These benefits make the technology especially interesting to the financial sector. Here, customers have made it clear that they will not accept either substandard security or a poor user experience from their banks. So, in response, banks are jumping into biometric technology. Here are three ways it will change banking experiences in the months and years ahead.

No more PIN codes?

A major innovation in how we make real world payments is coming in the shape of a new biometric EMV card with a built-in fingerprint reader. Today, when we make a purchase with our credit or debit cards, we either have to enter our PIN code or sign, or we can just tap our card to make a contactless payment, so long as it’s below a certain threshold.

With a biometric EMV card, a user would just have to rest their finger on the reader to verify their identity – meaning that PIN codes, or contactless spending limits could be things of the past. The fin​​gerprint reference data is securely stored in the card, and not kept on the Bank’s servers or sent over the air – keeping it safe from being intercepted or at risk of a cyber-attack or data breach at the bank.

Several banks around the world will launch pilot projects and trials of biometric cards in 2018, before wider roll out begins.

Our senior VP Sylvie Gibert explains the attractiveness and the challenges of this approach in a special Biometrics Decrypted Report, which Gemalto contributed to along with Zwipe.

Smart fraud detection

Most of us will be familiar with this scenario: when trying to make an unusually large purchase, or a purchase in an unusual or unexpected location, your payment gets blocked until the bank can double check that the transaction isn’t fraudulent – often by talking to you on the phone or sending a text message.

But moving forward, biometrics can play a role in making fraud detection much smarter and more convenient. Increasingly, banks will be able to refer to a huge number of factors to help determine the possibility of fraud. These factors can include things like the location (and whether it’s in line with the customer’s usual behavior) and the device being used (if the user is suddenly using an Android device after years of an iPhone, that could be a red flag). But increasingly they will include behavioral biometric factors – even to the point when the way a user types or moves their mouse when making an online transaction can be learned and analyzed.

Banking systems will use a matrix of these factors to learn user behaviors and give each transaction a ‘risk score’ – and if it thinks fraud is likely, it can then ask for additional user authentication, for example, a quick fingerprint scan. In this way, fraud detection will become smarter and less disruptive to the user.

A zero-UI future

When we look at the sheer number of biometric factors available to help authenticate identity, it becomes possible to envisage a future in which banking applications have a very minimal user interface, or perhaps no user interface at all.

Through a combination of measures such as our fingerprints, voice, iris, how we walk or how we control our computers – we might be able to make payments without any visible type of authentication. A future in which we can do things such as ask Alexa to transfer some money to a friend while travelling in our driverless car, without any visible request or need to authenticate ourselves, could well be possible within a few years.

The possibilities presented to the financial services sector by biometric technologies are vast, and could be the key to transforming the user experience in the future.

Are you looking forward to using more biometric technology in the world of financial services? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting to us @Gemalto.

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