Voice biometrics set to dominate banking industry
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.