Biometrics in financial services

Issue 2/3 2023 Financial (Industry), Access Control & Identity Management

There are increasing concerns related to the security in authenticity and integrity of banking systems. The weakness of the current verification or authentication methods, such as pin numbers and passwords, contributes significantly towards information leakage stored in automated teller machines (ATMs) or smart card, which results in loss of money from bank accounts.

Today, it is possible to verify our identity using a selfie, our voice or by placing our finger on the fingerprint reader of our mobile phone. Using those features that make us unique is a simple, secure way to access online banking services.

The impact of biometrics

Over the last few years, more studies have been done on digital banking, financial technology, and the impact of biometrics within banking and retailing in South Africa. Biometric data has become increasingly important when it comes to security in digital banking. Biometric authentication in the banking sector can be used in various ways; document verification combined with biometric verification removes the need for manual verification, such as filling in forms or heading to a branch in person to prove your identity.

Biometric authentication has ensured that customers can access their bank accounts and start making payments in minutes as opposed to days. In the banking sector, the use of these biometric authentication systems represents a step forward in the protection of user data, for example, by replacing or strengthening traditional alphanumeric passwords. They also serve as a reliable, fast, and convenient method of verification when using or purchasing products and services.

Fingerprint verification is undoubtedly the most well-known and traditional biometric method and is used worldwide. Most smartphones currently have a fingerprint reader, so it is possible to use it to perform day-to-day operations such as activating your mobile phone to make a payment or accessing digital banking.

Facial recognition

Now we also have facial recognition using the device’s camera (such as mobile phone, computer or tablet), the image is captured and a mathematical pattern is created to associate it with an identity, taking into account aspects such as distance between the eyes, position of the nose, size of forehead, etc.

In digital banking, for example, it is possible to open a bank account with a smartphone, using the camera to send a photo of ourselves and a copy of our identity card. This enables the system to compare the two images and verify the data. Biometric facial recognition and live fingerprint detection are becoming powerful ways to prevent bank fraud.

Facial recognition technology within the banking sector allows you to get a personal connection with thousands of customers and reward their patronage. You can maximise bank security using face recognition and control access to the most sensitive areas of banks, ensuring that only authorised personnel are allowed in secure locations.

Biometric identification in the digital banking sector has several advantages. Convenience and simplicity of use is undoubtedly one of them. Whether it is placing our finger on a reader or taking a photograph etc., none of these actions involves any great difficulty, as could happen with passwords or codes, which need to be remembered. As no two fingerprints or faces are identical, the security of this type of identification is greater. It is also a method that significantly reduces the chances of suffering crimes such as phishing, a fraudulent practice with which cyber criminals seek to access our personal data by sending e-mails.

Lastly, one of the advantages of biometric security is its continuous innovation. As technology advances, so do authentication methods. For example, one of the most recent steps in this direction is behavioural biometrics, which considers a combination of factors to identify the legitimacy of banking customers’ operations, such as how they type on the keyboard, the locations from which they frequently perform operations or their purchasing habits.


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