Desert Schools FCU Launches Voice Biometrics
Speak and be recognized. Sounds like a parliamentary procedure but it’s also becoming a way for members of Desert Schools Federal Credit Union to be authenticated by their financial institution.
The $2.8 billion, 337,000-member credit union in Phoenix is the first user of a new voice biometrics solution from Finivation Software, a New York-based software development firm.
Plans are in place to use voice biometrics first for password re-sets and high-risk transactions such as ACH and wire transfers for business members. The solution is then used in the call center to authenticate members asking for help from member service representatives, according to Desert Schools.
The opt-in process for authentication begins with the member calling the system and basically leaving a voice mail that takes about 50 seconds to complete, at which point their unique characteristics are then extracted mathematically and put into a voice template, said Gary Laieski, chief information officer at Desert Schools.
The member then gets a call back and request for information such as a member number or PIN to be used. After verification confirms that it’s the same voice, members are good to go, according to the credit union. The process should only take 10 seconds or so. It also provides a means of authentication that while relatively new to the financial services industry, has actually been around for a while, much like its fingerprint counterpart.
“A person’s voice is actually more unique than even their fingerprint,” said Brian Bodell, whose Finivation Software is the latest in a line of deployments for credit unions that date back to the mid-1990s for the New York City-based technologist. “And, they always have it with them.”
“The voice side of biometrics has actually been around for about 35 years and while most of the activity has been with telecoms and financial service firms in other countries such as Australia, Turkey and Israel it’s still a little bit on the cusp here,” Bodell said.
Adoption will increase as the complex matter of working through phone switches and core processing systems gets worked out between various vendors and sometimes, clashing technologies, Bodell predicted. Meanwhile, on the user side, he said voice biometrics is fast, easy, cost effective and secure.
Laieski at Desert Schools said he expects to see significant time savings for members and service staff with the new system. Along with convenience and efficiency, it also will help the credit union meet the new Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council guidance, which calls for layers of authentication.
“It’s going to help us meet the safety and soundness part of that, adding another way we have to protect members’ identity and their data,” Laieski said. "It uses some sophisticated mathematical methods to combine with other multi-factor tools to create a more secure environment but does it through a simple user interface using technologies that are familiar to our members.”
Laieski also credited the vendor for the project's success.
“We have a history with Brian and knowing how things work with his organization. He puts things in a package that’s easy for us to implement,” he said. “It’s really important to work with an integrator who gets the credit union space, who understands members and their needs and understands that we don’t have 100 or 200 or 500 technologists sitting behind the scenes working on this project.”
Bodell became a pioneer in integration tools with qbt Technologies, a middleware specialty company he founded in 1996 and then sold to e-commerce specialist Corillian in 2005. Corillian was later sold to CheckFree and then became part of Fiserv, which still sells the online banking platform. Desert Schools runs the Corillian online banking platform along with a Fiserv core processing system.
“We’ve been in the credit union movement for some time and obviously, one of our missions is to bring strong technologies to help them serve their members while reducing costs. That’s how they’re going to better compete,” Bodell said.
“One of my longstanding concerns is that credit unions are not necessarily moving at the pace they need to keep up with that competition, so it’s definitely become a little bit of a personal mission for us to work with some of the very technically savvy and sophisticated member organizations like Desert Schools that can help the movement go forward,” he said.
“It’s really a team effort, and we realize there are going to be changes and improvements along the way. Bodell said.