MARLBOROUGH, Mass. – St. Mary’ Credit Union recently implemented a relatively inexpensive photo capture system that managers say provides an easy way for staffers to identify members and help prevent fraud. While the $385 million credit union knew it was getting both a less-costly alternative to biometrics and a new level of security, it got something more than it expected from members. “We were pleasantly surprised by how well our members have reacted,” said Derek Boczenowski, the CU’s network manager. Since June, about 2,100 of the CU’s 30,000 members have been photographed. Now, their photos pop up whenever tellers access their accounts in the CU’s core system. New members are required to have the photos taken when they sign up, but it’s optional to existing members and offered to them when they visit the branches. “We thought that especially some of our long-time members might take offense at us asking to take their pictures, but the opposite happened,” Boczenowski said. “Not only did they say they appreciate us making the effort to protect their security, but some even said, `No, not yet,’ went home, got dressed up and came back with their spouses!” Boczenowski said he thinks the mindset of Americans post-9/11 has something to do with the high level of acceptance. Members also appreciate the convenience of not having to show driver’s licenses or other identifications at the teller window. St. Mary’s set up the photo capture system in its three branches for less than $1,000 each, using a digital camera, Macromedia Fireworks software and a module that connects to the credit union’s core processing system from re:Member Data Services. St. Mary’s is the first credit union to implement the new solution, but “the early success experienced serves as a best-practices example to other credit unions and has piqued their interest in pursuing a similar offering to members,” said Jim Hutchins, director of cyber products and systems development at Indianapolis-based re:Member Data. Boczenowski was a presenter at a recent re:Member Data users conference and said he had the opportunity to demonstrate the system “to 30 or 40 different unions.” Hutchins said the simple photo system offers a number of advantages. “The inclusion of a member’s photo with their account record results in faster turnaround at the teller line by eliminating the practice of asking for identification,” he said, and eliminates any problems with tellers bypassing policies when they don’t ask for ID’s. “It also makes members feel more secure about their accounts and is perceived as being less intrusive than some forms of biometrics,” the re:Member Data director said. Besides costing less, a simple photo also can be more accurate than a sophisticated biometric identifier, Hutchins said. “Biometrics rely on machines to make a judgment about the identity of a person,” he said. “The machines can be fooled, by intent or accident, and they very frequently give false-negative readings, thus blocking access that should be allowed.” Boczenowski, the St. Mary’s CU network manager, said his CU never really considered biometrics and that the “big technical challenge we had to this solution was overcome when re:Member Data provided us the ability to show the photos in our core system.” The photos are taken in an 8K format, so they’re not space-heavy, and are easily cropped into the 2-by-1 1/2 inch size the tellers see on their screens, Boczenowski said. Photos are only taken of members who physically come into the branches and are loaded into the core system in batches. “Last night we did 20 of them, and on weekends we can do more,” the network manager said. The photo system fits well with other security measures the CU uses, including signature capture. Right now that’s a manual process, but St. Mary’s is planning to deploy signature pads “as part of our overall posture of doing whatever we can to ensure member security,” Boczenowski said. -

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