Vault access palm readers and ATM iris scanners. Welcome to the future of credit unions. Technology has delivered tools to the financial services industry that were once only imagined in the movies. As some credit unions blaze the technology trail installing futuristic gizmos and gadgets, how do you know what’s right for you? And why? The true benefits of new technology are often hidden. Biometric Vaults Biometrics is an automated means of identity authentication, based on an anatomical or physical characteristic such as finger/palm prints, eye retinas and irises, or voice patterns. Often times, it isn’t security concerns that lead to the decision to use biometrics. Rather, the credit union doesn’t want to tie up another employee signing members in and out and escorting them to their safety deposit boxes. The solution is to install a self-service safety deposit box system. Without having to devote employee time to this mundane task, more time and attention is spent meeting and greeting members, completing loan applications and selling other financial services. Used by the government and travel industries for years, a biometric vault utilizes palm reader technologies that have been around for quite a while, but are new to the financial services industry. While it is possible to retrofit an existing traditional system, biometric vaults are often best suited for facilities being built from the ground up. Members simply hold their palm up to a scanning device and enter a PIN number that releases a magnetic lock on the vault’s day gate. The self-service access eliminates the need for double-key safety deposit boxes. And, the cost for the palm reader apparatus is reasonable when compared to the salary of an additional employee – approximately $5,000 covers the hardware costs. There are other costs involved in the implementation of a biometric system beyond the capture hardware and matching software including installation and integration (for an existing facility), training, and initial productivity losses. During the initial implementation period, it is not uncommon to experience a temporary decrease in productivity as your members and staff learns how to use the new system. This inherent learning curve is brief, however, and once everyone is acclimated, the system will run efficiently and effectively. Additional costs may be incurred if you have a large database of members. This requires extremely powerful and expensive back-end processors, which will add substantially to your final cost. Genetically locked vaults must be the ultimate in security, right? Well, not yet. Questions have arisen over whether biometric vaults provide greater security and the debate rages on. Insurance underwriters and strategy consultants have been engaged in “What if.” scenarios ranging from one member accessing the vault with their palm and using another member’s key to the remote possibilities of false recognition. While it is unlikely that someone could provide another person’s palm impression, it can happen. The means do exist to provide fake fingerprints, which can fool some scanners. At this point, it is hard to argue that a biometric vault delivers substantially greater security features and the focus remains on relieving an administrative burden. ATM Iris Scanners/ Thumbprint Readers There’s more evidence that the financial services industry is turning to biometrics. Though not widely used yet, many believe that identity tests, such as iris scans and thumbprint checks, will be standard issue on ATMs in a matter of years. Why are these safeguards so desirable? They all but eliminate ATM fraud, making it impossible to extract money with a stolen ATM card, even if you have the personal identification number (PIN). Not only is this comforting to your members, but it provides savings for you as well. The financial services industry is in critical need of finding accurate, secure and cost-effective alternatives to passwords and PINs as losses increase dramatically year over year from computer hacking and identity theft. Iris recognition technology is incredibly accurate when used as a security measure. The human iris is absolutely unique, even between twins. The triple protection of a biometric ATM that requires card, PIN, and biological data provides an extra wall of protection for your members. And it means an extra cost savings for you. Reducing the number of fraudulent ATM transactions means less reimbursement to your members for theft. Recently, fingerprint scanners have dropped dramatically in price while the products and software that supports them have improved. As the industry becomes more comfortable with biometric devices, and members demand greater security and convenience, the use of biometric technology will be widespread. Despite what you may see in the movies, new technology cannot yet provide a definitive means of security. What is undeniable however, are the cost savings that can be realized when new technology solutions are strategically implemented – not to mention the image you project to your members and the community. Where your members see high tech Hollywood-inspired security, you see old-fashioned cost effectiveness.

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