Financial Biometrics Month 2016: The Rise of Selfie Finance

While the first big wave of personal biometric finance was the fingerprint biometrics enabled mobile wallet, the world of commerce, especially mobile commerce, has diversified in terms of modality and application. One of the biometric modalities that has gained a great deal of traction in mobile finance is facial recognition, but from the way it is being marketed you might be more familiar with it by its social media flavored moniker: selfie verification.


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Over the past few years mobile facial recognition enabled by front-facing cameras has taken off in financial services, especially with consumer banking apps. The USAA app, powered by Daon’s IdentityX platform, was one of the first notable selfie-authenticating mobile banking applications and it was well received and widely lauded. Since then, other banks have also embraced the self portrait for user verification, with FacePhi having found success with its Selphie biometric software solution, and banks like Tangerine have deployed face biometrics too. Outside of banks we have also seen potentially the highest profile use of mobile facial recognition software for financial transaction authentication in the form of MasterCard’s Identity Check Mobile, otherwise known as Selfie Pay, which recently launched in Europe.

Why Bank With a Selfie?

Financial Biometrics Month 2016: The Rise of Selfie FinanceThe reason that selfie authentication is taking off in financial services is multifaceted. The modality has a number of advantages that make it ideal for taking advantage of the current mobile landscape. While smartphones are on track to ubiquitously support fingerprint recognition within the next few years, according to recent research reports, the fact is that users all over the world continue use different hardware to live their mobile lives. As such, a financial services provider when looking to offer post-password security is incentivised to find a solution that breaks down device type boundaries and opens its offering up to everyone.

Facial recognition, and its contactless cousin voice recognition, both fit the bill here. Software based biometrics are easy to deploy on a mobile ecosystem because they take advantage of ubiquitous mobile technologies – microphones and cameras. Furthermore, these solutions are easy to roll out, and can be built into proprietary software using readily available Software Development Kits. What this adds up to is an authentication paradigm that downloads along with a given FinServe product. The facial recognition feature on a banking app is ready to use out of the box, so to speak.

What’s more –as its colloquial name implies, selfie authentication is intuitive. You don’t need to teach a user how to take a selfie, it’s already part of the culture. By tying an everyday, nearly quotidian social act into the act of authentication, biometrics vendors and heir financial partners have made facial recognition easy to perform and to accept as a part of consumer life.

A Selfie Is Just The Beginning

Financial Biometrics Month 2016: The Rise of Selfie FinanceOf course, selfie authentication is not the holy grail of financial security. It is convenient, intuitive, secure, and better than a password in most conceivable metrics, but the financial biometrics landscape is maturing and with that development comes choice. As Mark Nelsen – Visa’s  senior vice president of Risk Products and Business Intelligence – told FindBiometrics president Peter O’Neill at this year’s Mobile World Congress: the ideal situation is to give a customer the choice of how to authenticate. Nelsen explained:

“…ultimately it’s going to be the consumer that decides what type of biometric they want to use. Some consumers may want to choose fingerprint, some may want to do facial, some may want to do iris, and some may not want to do it at all.”

The more biometric modalities available to pick from, the better served financial services customers are. What’s more, the option to combine authentication factors like face and voice, is an important aspect of a scalable security system. Some transactions will inevitably require more layers of security than the hyper-convenient selfie.

But even if financial biometrics is quickly evolving into a space of multimodal variety, selfie authentication can be used as a great example of what works when it comes to bringing biometrics to mCommerce users. Like selfie-type solutions, an ideal biometric technology is going to be intuitive, easy to use, hardware agnostic, customizeable, and most of all it will play nice with others to enable scalable levels of security.

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Stay posted to FindBiometrics throughout the month of November as we take a more in-depth look at the world of financial biometrics. Be sure to register in advance for our Financial Biometrics Month webinar, Biometrics Beyond Payments: Multi-Factor Security And The Fight Against Fraud.

Financial Biometrics Month 2016 is made possible by our sponsors Crossmatch and HID Global

November 9, 2016 – by Peter B. Counter