I recently read an article on the BBC news website that highlighted the weaknesses of passwords, how they don’t work, and the future consideration of biometrics for keeping us secure online.
The use of biometrics, without doubt, will play a more dominant role in secure online commerce in the years to come but what are the opportunities from biometrics for both onboarding customers and authenticating them as they return to their account?
And what is the best way to incorporate them in the “holy grail” of ‘frictionless’ customer onboarding?
Making an imprint on customer onboarding
At the highest level the opportunity lies in the recognition of delivery of the best customer journey in your sector in conjunction with robust fraud defences.
In my experience, when it comes to the best customer onboarding journey, industry peers are very aware of the market leaders – those onboarding processes that are regarded as “slick”.
I know this is true because I often get asked “how does ‘Company [X]’ manage to onboard customers so quickly by capturing such minimal information?”
In some cases, it is negligent controls (short cuts in compliance – opening the risk tap) but for others it is a result of a flexible orchestration platform.
For those responsible for creating that ideal digital onboarding experience it must be a satisfactory accolade to claim – especially when you consider the likely impact on top line revenues and customer numbers.
What biometrics options do we face everyday?
For a while now I have been familiar with the use (and challenges) of a variety of biometric approaches.
Through work I have had exposure to identity document authentication vendors including; Au10tix, Veridas and Jumio (all using facial biometrics for selfie and liveness checks – as used by banks today), and I use a fingerprint scanner to get into the office.
In my personal world, there is the likes of FaceID on my iPhone to authenticate access to my device.
And my bank, HSBC, in 2017, launched their voice biometrics based authentication service for account holders in the UK.
What biometrics options could we begin to face in the future?
More recently, I have been introduced to near future options including Hand Gesture Technology that will authenticate from a hand vein pattern biometric.
This can simply be included in the process where the customer is applying for a product from a smart phone (with camera) or a laptop or PC with a webcam – essentially the same requirement as the identity document authentication approach.
Using a proprietary algorithm to create a unique digital identifier (I cannot really use the term “footprint” here!) the hand gesture template is generated, and a second algorithm is used to authenticate a returning account holder – presenting with a wave of their hand.
Although, it cannot replace existing onboarding verification methods – unless used in a consortium approach where another business has already linked the hand gesture to an individual’s account – it would need to be part of the account opening process.
Neither does it really apply to one off purchases or transactions. The interesting use cases include high value corporate payments or VIP online big wager gambling or simply strong customer authentication as required under PSD2.
Customer experience still remains paramount
Accepting the use of biometrics will grow, whichever route becomes most popular, I do believe we will be in a similar situation to other methods of verification in the customer onboarding process and that is “what is the optimum onboarding process and customer experience?” – specifically as it relates to the risk level of the product the customer is looking to sign up to and/or purchase.
For example, those already using identity document authentication will know some vendors have a better capability when onboarding via the web whereas others perform better when onboarding via a mobile app.
We see this challenge also in the data world where businesses have to decide how much they can afford to spend on data versus the performance (usually measured by “match rate”) and coverage of the data that is utilised. Typically, less expensive data has less coverage and does not perform as well as the premium data.
With biometric services, when designing your onboarding or account authentication process you need to consider the cost impact and the strength and performance factors with respect to the services utilised. You also need to have the technology to enable you to orchestrate different user experiences based on the risk of the product that is being opened, alongside the required customer experience, and the target demographic.
In my opinion, biometrics, as experienced in identity document authentication today, is not the silver bullet for curing the onboarding and authentication challenges of safe commerce.
That said, with improvements in performance the biometrics solution that will win, will be the one that is least likely to be spoofed, is not intrusive to the customer (i.e. what would feel more natural for user experience) and then finally the one that performs best for the investment.
Having the ability to layer in different methods to suit risk profiles across and business will be best delivered via a platform that provides breadth of choice biometrics service alongside more traditional methods and the ability to orchestrate the customer journey to optimise its use and minimise the costs required of verification for maximum safe commerce, striking the right balance of cost, security and customer experience.
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