Biometrics: The Next Big Thing
Biometrics technology has become more mainstream at credit unions. It's driven by the need to authenticate members and staff accurately and effortlessly and propped up by a more widespread acceptability.
“I would argue the next big thing is what we all talked about earlier this year and last year. Everyone knows about biometrics, we talked about how great it is, how excited consumers were, but we have not all talked about the value that it actually brings for those credit unions,” Dan Weis, mobile product leader for the Duluth, Ga.-based NCR, said.
“What we are really seeing is how biometrics is allowing the credit union itself to be more productive and more attentive to the member's needs,” Ryon Packer, SVP, Enterprise Product Strategy at the Brookfield, Wis.-based Fiserv, explained.
The practical use of biometrics dates back to the 14th century when Chinese merchants used ink-stamped palm and foot prints to differentiate children. In the 1880s, a Parisian anthropologist, Alphonse Bertillon, developed a method of multiple body measurements. It enjoyed a forensics tool run, but due to technical flaws, fingerprinting replaced it as the primary biometrics instrument.
In the past 30 years, biometrics moved from mainly fingerprinting to many other methods that measure or analyze an individual's voice, speech, face, iris, retina, hand geometry, facial thermography, keystroke dynamics, gait, body odor, hand or finger veins, foot and palm prints, handwriting (or signature) and even tongue.
Today, authentication by biometric verification is becoming more common in consumer electronic devices, security systems, and ATM/point-of-sale applications. However, its applicability as a method of authentication in mobile banking and payments helped it gain momentum.
The global financial services industry association Mobey Forum's Biometrics workgroup reports the vast majority of financial institutions intend to implement biometrics in the relatively near future, just as the number of handset manufacturers plan to integrate biometric capabilities into their devices rises.
NCR offers three financial biometrics solutions to make its mobile banking app easier to use, including Apple Touch ID, Android Fingerprint ID and EyeVerify's Eyeprint ID.
To gauge the biometrics impact, NCR performed a before-and-after study that tracked Touch ID users and how user logins to mobile apps changed. The logins have gone from 16 times a month up to 25 times a month on average.
“We’re making frictionless banking due to the benefits of biometrics,” Weis said. “We’re making it so easy to check your bank account and log into your app that people are viewing it almost once a day — and that is so cool for a credit union.”
“For Android Fingerprint ID we’re seeing a high level of adoption there too, roughly 5.5%,” Weis mentioned. “It may not seem like a high number, but this feature is not widely supported yet with Android devices.”
Members who log into their mobile banking with biometrics have the same level of access as if they entered a valid username and password. Fingerprints are stored on a user's device and never leave it.
The $1.44 billion, Phoenix-based Arizona Federal Credit Union uses all three NCR biometric methods. “Biometrics gives our members multiple ways to quickly and securely log in to their Arizona Federal account through our mobile app,” Eric Givens, senior director of digital banking at Arizona Federal, said. “We really want our members to be empowered in how they access their account, and biometrics is just one way in allowing for that.”
As of August 2016, 42% of Arizona Federal mobile app users have enrolled in one of its biometric options, up from 31% in January. “As more members upgrade their phones with embedded fingerprint readers and better cameras, biometric login utilization will also likely increase,” Givens added.
Weis said, “Biometrics is changing the way members interact with their financial institution. Getting people to log in so much more is redefining how a credit union operates.”
Fiserv is looking at how biometrics can play a role across its entire product suite and provide the best value for credit unions and their members. “What you are going to see over the next six months or so from Fiserv is a big push for biometrics, both for the employees as well as the members at the credit union,” Packer pointed out.
The $1.67 billion, Richland, Wash.-based Gesa Credit Union is already using Fiserv's Verifast: Palm Authentication to reduce identity fraud, shrink transaction times, and improve overall branch service.
The solution integrates Fujitsu PalmSecure biometric technology with the Fiserv's DNA account processing platform. The Verifast solution validates members’ IDs when they hold their hand over an infrared sensing device that detects a person's unique palm vein pattern. According to Fiserv, this technology can increase authentication speed by more than 90%.
“Overall, we think this is an excellent solution for our credit union to move forward into the future of how we transform and deliver service to our members,” Gesa director of products Karl Guynn said.
Raddon Financial Group research found 83% of consumers perceive palm authentication to be somewhat to extremely valuable for banking transactions. In surveys of consumer beta testers, 97% of consumers who tried the technology reported they are likely to use it again in the branch environment.
Behind the scenes, Verifast's SQL database ties the palm vein pattern to a member database number. The Verifast database links the number, which the member does not know, to Fiserv's DNA core, which then displays the member's profile.
Fiserv plans to roll out that same technology, which credit unions can deploy on premises or using the cloud, to help authenticate employees as well.
Palm vein scanning provides a real high level of security, very accurate so you get very few false negatives out of it, Packer said. He also noted the authentication technology not only fits more readily into the workday but also in staff members’ hands. In addition to scanning members’ palms for authentication, Fiserv is utilizing a palm vein mouse to allow credit union employees to sign on to applications.
While Fiserv is also looking at different layered biometrics or combinations, Packer said palm vein scanning presents the best current option. “We think we’ve picked the gold standard of accuracy, usability and cost.”
One of the advantages of moving to biometrics is it takes all of that burden off the employee and puts it into a system that identifies the employees.
“There is an ecosystem of technologies that are required to run credit unions today,” Packer explained. To log into the multiple systems, staff often uses risky cheat sheets, notes or index cards with user names/passwords on it. “They leave their passwords around, forget to log out, they just do things in the normal course of a week or year that put the enterprise, or the credit union, at risk.”
In pilots, Packer said Fiserv saw massive decreases for IT incidents the back office dealt with, such as people locked out of systems, help desk calls for password resets and unauthorized access. The same biometric also extends for other authentication purposes throughout the credit union such as entrances, vaults and lockboxes.
“We are at the forefront of another wave of what technology is going to be able to do for the movement and really help credit unions thrive,” Packer emphasized.