Biometrics Meets Bricks-and-Mortar

By Jaime Dominguez

Smartphones are putting fingerprint authentication into people’s pockets and devices like Amazon Echo are bringing voice command technology into homes. As such technology proliferates more people are accessing information and initiating activities with the swipe of a finger or sound of their voice.

Biometric technology—the use of human characteristics such as voice, fingerprints, or palm vein or iris patterns for identification or task initiation—is entering the mainstream. As it does people are becoming more comfortable using it as part of their daily lives.

Just as biometric technology is impacting everyday tasks, it can also impact how people bank. Replacing passwords with fingerprints can simplify the login process for mobile banking apps.

Within the bank branch, biometrics can positively impact the experience of customers and staff, facilitate targeted marketing, boost efficiency and enhance security, and pave the way for more integrated bank services in the future.

Improved Customer Experience

It starts the minute a customer walks in the door. Identifying customers via biometric technology, such as facial recognition, means your branch staff can know exactly who has arrived at the branch and have that customer’s information in front of them even before the customer steps up to the service counter or shakes hands with a banker.

This quick access to information, such as customer history, contact information, transactions, services currently used and a detailed list of their preferences, can give staff a head start in creating a positive customer interaction. For example, a high-net worth customer could be easily identified for “VIP” treatment, while a loan officer could be alerted to the arrival of someone who has just applied for a loan.

Targeted Marketing

Biometric technology that can identify certain customer characteristics, such as age and gender, introduces the potential for more targeted marketing in the branch. Digital signage can be updated to feature products and services the customer might be interested in based on demographics. This can include services provided by a financial advisor or options to refinance a mortgage. Relevant offers such as these can be part of building a relationship with customers.

Enhanced Security

Biometric technology, such as palm or iris scans, can also be particularly useful for authenticating account holders and securing transactions. In the face of increasing fraud threats and data breaches, biometric technology can provide added security and reduce reliance on passwords and other conventional security systems.

Specifically, palm-vein reader technology uses near-infrared light to capture a user’s palm vein pattern. To authenticate account holders in the branch, that unique biometric template is matched against the palm vein patterns of pre-registered users to add an extra layer of security to sensitive transactions, such as withdrawing funds or accessing a safe deposit box.

For tellers and other branch staff, logging into a system using fingerprint or voice recognition enhances security by preventing the use of shared credentials. Financial institutions can use biometric information to authenticate employees and their actions, creating a new level of internal security measures and an essential audit trail.

Efficiency Gains

Saving staff time and increasing process efficiencies are additional benefits of implementing biometric technology. One financial institution piloting the palm-vein reader technology mentioned above reduced the time it takes to authenticate a customer in the branch by 93 percent.

In addition, time spent on password management, including resetting forgotten passwords, can be reduced or eliminated. With biometrics still in the relatively early stages, back-up authentication methods still need to be in place, enabling a teller with a bad cold to log in with a PIN instead of voice recognition, for example.

The Future of Biometrics and Banking

Biometric capabilities also complement other emerging technologies such as beacons or wearables. In the branch, beacons, which are used to transmit messages to nearby mobile devices, can push messages and information to consumers as they enter. And biometric technology can enable authentication for wearables via fingerprints or even heartbeats.

The way biometrics are used will likely align to the situation, transaction and the financial services channel. Whatever form it takes, the use of this technology in the financial services industry is increasing. According to a 2015 Mobey Forum global survey of financial institutions, 22 percent currently offer biometrics to their customers and 65 percent plan to offer services in the near future.

While most people have encountered biometric technology outside of the bank, some customers are not as familiar with the technology. Before rolling out these technologies, banks will want to ensure their staff is prepared to answer questions, help customers feel comfortable with the changes and explain the benefits—such as faster service and enhanced security—that may result.

With the potential to transform a wide range of financial experiences, biometric technologies can help make the financial services experience more convenient and secure for consumers and financial institutions—and ultimately deliver a better customer experience.

Jaime Dominguez is Director, Retail Banking and Channels Strategy, Bank Solutions at Fiserv.