The different uses of biometrics for financial institutions

Biometrics ideally ensures only authorised personnel gain access to specific zones, says Nicolas Garcia, sales manager at Morpho SA.

Johannesburg, 21 Sep 2015
Read time 3min 10sec

Financial institutions in South Africa today offer a number of varied services from financial planning to selling electronic devices, however the core purpose still remains the same, to accept deposits and channel these into lending and investment activities, says Nicolas Garcia, sales manager at Morpho SA.

In order to ensure the continuity of these core activities, trust, security and identity are essential. As the world rapidly advances in technology, it is paramount that financial institutions advance their practices too to meet the ever changing needs of customers.

Customers are in a constant search for convenience and that is where technology in general and biometrics in particular can play a pertinent role.

Financial institutions have a duty to protect their customers, employees and assets at all levels of contact. At the branch level, an integrated and adapted access control system should be in place to ensure both staff and customers' peace of mind when interacting within the building.

The very same access control system can be used for time and attendance purposes. The use of biometrics ideally ensures only authorised personnel gain access to specific zones. When speaking about biometrics, fingerprint is usually the first method which comes to mind and it is most widely accepted form but there are others are available such as facial recognition for instance.

Once in a financial institution branch building, it is necessary that customers can be positively identified before an account can be opened or any confidential information be shared with them. This is a legal requirement in South Africa and in many other places in the world referred to as FICA and/or KYC (Know-Your-Customer). More and more home affairs departments worldwide authorise commercial entities to access their database in order to verify a customer's identity. Financial institutions can take advantage of this technology by simply integrating specific fingerprint readers into their existing solution. At the desk level, the customer can simply present his fingerprint to be identified and thus, authorise the transaction as opposed to the traditional hand signature.

Now this transaction authorisation can also be introduced at employee level and be used for PC login or for transaction authorisation where a supervisor would have to make use of a biometric reader in order to validate the request of a colleague. This allows for a proper and irrefutable audit trail which is so important in the financial world.

Outside of the branch, everywhere positive identification is required, biometrics can be used for security and convenience. Biometric products are now being integrated into ATMs and have long been integrated with Point of Sales terminals (POS) although this is not yet widely in use. The relatively recent strategic move from EMV consortium (Eurocard-Mastercard-VISA) to embrace biometrics will with no doubt be an enabler of these already existing solutions.

Last but not least, information and communication technologies are ever taking more importance in individual's lives and new channels like Internet and cellphone banking still require verification of any customer attempting to access the financial institution system and a mixture of different biometric technologies such as fingerprint, facial and voice recognition seems ideal as it combines security with convenience. Newcomers on the market like Apple and Google didn't miss this point and are already integrating some biometric technologies into their handsets. The question remains: "Will financial institutions take up to the challenge?"

Editorial contacts
Morpho SA Andrina Diedericks (+27) 011 286 5800
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