Bet on Biometrics in the Digital Age

According to the FDIC, the total number of banking and thrift charters declined from around 20,000 in 1980 to 6,812 at the end of 2013. A long list of financial institutions have been swallowed up by mergers and acquisitions, and many more have simply disappeared. Institutions that have managed to survive need to improve security efforts to avoid becoming a statistic – because fraudsters don’t discriminate, and losses inflicted by these banking bandits can be crippling.

In the digital age, there is a new paradigm for banking. Most patrons expect to be able to handle their everyday needs, as well as major transactions, without setting foot in their local branch. To meet consumer expectations for on-the-go convenience, mobile banking capabilities must be expanded in conjunction with security measures.

Biometrics authentication is a critical component of mobile banking security. The technology is a win-win – for the financial industry, it offers enhanced security; for consumers, it delivers greater convenience. Organizations can adjust the technology to their desired levels of each (security and convenience), which are in an inverse relationship along a sliding scale.

Used by government intelligence agencies worldwide for decades, growth of biometric authentication in consumer banking has been made possible in recent years by the proliferation of smartphones with high-quality microphones and cameras. Thanks to advancements in technology, the process is easy for consumers; biometric authentication can be completed anytime, anywhere, in a matter of moments.

Biometric authentication is a fitting reply to Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) guidance on modern security measures. The FFIEC urges the use of multi-level, dynamic forms of customer authentication over archaic, static methods like passwords, PINs and invariable security questions. From fingerprint scanning to voice authentication, biometric technology can serve as a banking “bouncer” to keep shady characters out of accounts and from intruding on high-risk transactions. Biometrics and knowledge-based authentication (KBA) can also combine to address security concerns—for example, comparing a selfie with a stored photo at a records bureau for facial recognition. And when a fingerprint, face or voice is the passkey, there’s nothing for the customer to remember or lose.

Voice biometrics, in particular, are highly reliable with a 99.99% success rate – even more dependable than touch identification through fingerprints. By mapping the unique voiceprints of banking customers and storing them in recorded-voice databases, financial institutions can accurately verify that the caller on the line matches the biometric vocal print originally captured. An ideal solution for mobile banking, this authentication method is even viable in noisy environments, such as ballgames or worksites, as advanced technology can decipher the customer’s voiceprint from the background noise in real-time. Voice biometric technology is even being employed for collecting signatures by phone, allowing clients to speak on the dotted line for financial transactions. Today, consumers can truly say “Open Sesame” to easily access their accounts and complete transactions using their mobile phones, no matter where they are.

To remain solvent in a highly competitive banking environment, financial institutions should look to advanced biometrics technology as a key line of defense against destabilizing fraud. When smartly implemented, matching fingerprints, facial features, and voiceprints for authentication is a better bet for mobile banking than traditional security measures, and its convenience goes hand-in-hand with the digital age.


Michael Boukadakis is the founder and CEO of Enacomm, a provider of intelligent customer interactions technology.

Written by Michael Boukadakis

Michael Boukadakis is the founder and CEO of Enacomm, a provider of intelligent customer interactions technology.

Read more articles from Michael Boukadakis