Voice bio­met­rics set to dom­i­nate bank­ing in­dus­try

Finweek English Edition - - TECHNOLOGY - BY GUGU LOURIE

client of In­vestec Pri­vate Bank, which plans to rev­o­lu­tionise South Africa’s bank­ing in­dus­try by in­tro­duc­ing a verif ica­tion sys­tem that uses voice bio­met­rics.

The bank will be the first fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion in the south­ern hemi­sphere to launch such a so­lu­tion.

The voice bio­met­rics verif ica­tion sys­tem will be launched on 25 Fe­bru­ary in SA. It will, how­ever, also ser­vice cus­tomers in the UK and Mau­ri­tius through the bank’s global client sup­port cen­tre (CSC).

In­vestec Pri­vate Bank has part­nered with global f irm Nu­ance to deploy FreeSpeech, which en­ables f ul l y trans­par­ent and se­cure voice bio­met­ric au­then­ti­ca­tion. It has also worked with OneVault to deploy the tech­nol­ogy within six months.

In essence, a voice bio­met­ric sys­tem cap­tures the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of a client’s voice and cre­ates an in­di­vid­ual voice­print. When a client con­tacts the or­gan­i­sa­tion, the voice bio­met­ric tech­nol­ogy will au­then­ti­cate the client within sec­onds. It does this by com­par­ing the client’s voice with the saved voice­print and if there is an ex­act match the voice bio­met­ric tech­nol­ogy grants ac­cess to the ac­count.

How­ever, if the voice print doesn’t match – i n cases where t here are dis­tur­bances from voice over­lays or white noise – the tele­phone banker will still have the op­tion of us­ing tra­di­tional knowl­edge-based verification tech­niques to ver­ify the iden­tity of a caller.

The voice bio­met­ric in­dus­try is poised to ex­pe­ri­ence phe­nom­e­nal growth: in 2013, the global sec­tor gen­er­ated more than $165m in rev­enues, which is es­ti­mated to rise to $308m by end of 2015 and as much as $421m in 2016, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study by Opus Re­search.

Craig West, head of In­vestec’s global CSC, says: “Think of voice bio­met­rics as a vo­cal finger­print. The tech­nol­ogy is be­com­ing re­ally ma­ture, your voice is unique and no one can copy it.”

But In­vestec’s global ri­val Bar­clays, which has op­er­a­tions in SA, has al­ready im­ple­mented voice bio­met­rics in the UK and could eas­ily chal­lenge it in the lo­cal mar­ket.

“The re­al­ity is that we are the first bank in South Africa to launch voice bio­met­rics. We be­lieve t hat voice bio­met­rics is go­ing to have a big fu­ture to play in bank­ing,” says West.

With so many re­ports of fraud, the ques­tion is whether voice bio­met­rics will help banks re­store con­sumer faith.

“Ev­ery sin­gle bank in the world wor­ries about fraud and se­cu­rity. We clearly be­lieve voice bio­met­rics is an en­hance­ment to se­cu­rity. We think it is go­ing to add a lot of value in the bank­ing in­dus­try, and to our clients,” says West.

He s ays voice bio­met­rics as a tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tion is “a re­la­tion­ship enhancer” and “fits per­fectly well with our strat­egy” as a pri­vate bank that is a client ex­pe­ri­ence-led com­pany.

Given that cy­ber­crim­i­nals are also get­ting more so­phis­ti­cated the chal­lenge is to stay ahead of them. “That’s the eter­nal f ight to make sure we are con­stantly com­bat­ing crim­i­nals, but this is not unique to South Africa. What’s pow­er­ful about voice bio­met­rics is that you can’t steal my voice,” says West.

In­vestec has t hrown down t he gaunt­let to the big four banks – Absa, FNB, Ned­bank, Stan­dard Bank – and even Capitec Bank to find sim­pler and more se­cure verification meth­ods such as voice and face bio­met­rics.

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