“Biometric banking is a reality”

Hosted by SWIFT

May 11 2015


  • Dave Birch (Consult Hyperion)

  • Rick Swenson (USAA Bank)

  • Greg Williamson (MasterCard)

  • Keith Gold (CSFI)


The arrival of biometrics in the mass market is as much about convenience as it is about security – and is much to be welcomed. A couple of UK banks are already in the field. In particular, NatWest is using Apple’s TouchID for its phone app, and Barclays is trialling voice identification.

So it’s here – which means that we all could be logging into our mobile banking apps with some form of biometric in a year’s time. If so, what are the implications for banks and other financial institutions?

A case study is USAA Bank (based in San Antonio, Texas) – a bank that is well-known for the innovative use of new technology.

Earlier this year, American Banker called USAA’s adoption of biometrics a “tipping point”. Why? Because it provides the bank’s customers with the option of using PIN, Face (“blink-and-in”) or Voice to authenticate a mobile banking application. It means a customer can log in to his/her account simply by looking at a mobile phone – perfect for the “selfie” generation but equally appealing to baby-boomers who are fearful of forgetting a PIN. Current stats indicate that:

  • over 180,000 USAA customers are using biometrics for authentication;
  • the average time to verify with biometrics is just two seconds; and
  • 80% of its customers prefer using one of the biometric options to the 4-digit PIN option.

Phew… This round-table will focus on the applications of these developments and on the implications that they will have for customers.

The CSFI’s Research Fellow, David Birch, will give a quick introduction to the potential impact of biometrics, and then we will hear from:

  • Rick Swenson, the USAA executive responsible for its Fraud Operational Excellence and Strategic Initiative, who will share USAA’s experiences and explain why its approach has been so successful;
  • Oran Cummins, the senior vice president for MasterCard Labs Technology, who will give an international perspective on the use of biometrics in the financial payments sector; and
  • Keith Gold, formerly with IBM Banking and Financial Services Europe, will talk about the importance of biometrics in the “usability toolkit” needed to meet the needs of an ageing demographic.