Will Biometric Authentication Define the Future of Mobile Banking?

Mobile banking as defined is a service provided by a bank or other financial institution that allows its customers to conduct some financial transactions remotely using a mobile device such as a mobile phone or tablet. In mobile banking, biometrics is one of the most interesting new trends. It seems to be a milestone when considering the future of mobile applications. Biometrics Research Group estimated that the biometric security will be worth $1.8 billion by the end of 2015, up from $900 million in 2012. This growth is driven by the need to combat identity theft and increasing fraud cases. The researchers also believe biometric technologies have the potential to reduce operational risks for financial institutions by at least 20% over the next 10 years.

Multimodal biometric systems have been proven to be very effective in protecting information and resources in banking applications

Multimodal biometric systems have been proven to be very effective in protecting information and resources in banking applications

Following the technology innovation trend, some financial institutions have already begun the switch. And thanks to Apple and Samsung’s fingerprint recognition embedded smartphone and some huge identity breaches as reported recently, the transition has been urged more aggressively. Some of the first leads to offer the feature should be listed are J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Montgomery County Employees Federal Credit Union, West Jordan, Emirates NBD, U.K.’s Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest, South African financial institution Standard Bank, etc. Most of them use Apple Inc.’s Touch ID authentication for their mobile app which allow users to sign-in with a simple touch of a finger. However, some other financial institutions have also experimented with other modalities such as voice, facial or iris recognition for their apps. Chief security officer of The United Services Automobile Association (USAA), Gary McAlum said: “We believe the legacy forms of security authentication (e.g., user id and password) are becoming increasingly obsolete in today’s cyber threat environment” when USAA began to offer facial and voice recognition to its 4.1 million members and then expanded it to include fingerprint authentication through Touch ID.

According to a recent report from research and consulting firm Aite Group, by the end of 2015, 6 of the largest 19 banks in the U.S. will enable biometrics for mobile banking. The most common use for biometrics in mobile banking is authenticating users at the login, while transaction confirmation and digital document signing are also seen as a possible use for the technology as a survey done by Mobey Forum. Although there are drawbacks to each biometric modality, banks are still figuring out the best way to deploy and utilize its benefits. As Steve Ellis, head of Wells Fargo’s new Innovation Group indicated: “That’s why we think you need more than one” authentication method.

From users’ point of view, biometrics will not only simplify the mobile banking platform, boost its security but also enhance their experience of advanced technology. It is no doubt that if banks desire to remain competitive on the market, they should anticipate customers’ expectations and needs. And the key point is to combine technology innovations with clients’ convenience and payment safety which biometrics appeared to be the ultimate solution. Besides, banks have also sought for a mobile solution to conduct banking services in villages and rural areas where bank branches and ATM machines are not always available. People in these areas will be enrolled biometrically to create an account. Before an actual transaction is executed (e.g. Deposit, Withdrawal, Transfer, etc.), the biometric verification will be performed.

In the future, the financial sector, especially mobile banking would definitely see an increased presence of biometric applications. Although there are still some concerns regarding the security and safety, as more investment in technology development, biometrics would become the new era and the definite change for authentication in mobile banking and in the world as a whole.