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U.S. Bank Pilots Voice Biometrics As Secure Way To Access Card Accounts

In an expansion of work on voice recognition that U.S. Bank and Nuance Communications started last year, the technology is being used to eliminate passwords, PINs and security questions.

In the wake of massive card security breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers, there's been much discussion of the U.S. Bank is looking beyond chip and PIN to voice biometrics as a possible means to enhancing card security. The pilot also addresses the likelihood that a growing volume of payments transactions will be taking place via mobile devices. In addition to improved security, deployment of the technology could help financial institutions such as U.S. Bank improve the customer experience and also gain time and cost savings.

Employees at the Minneapolis-based bank are piloting software that lets customers speak a simple passphrase, such as, "My voice is my password," to access a credit card account on a mobile device. The voice biometrics feature allows select credit card customers to use their voices to login with a spoken passphrase so they can access their account balances, search transactions and make a payment on their accounts in the mobile app.

U.S. Bank's voice biometrics solution, from Nuance Communications, is intended to address "growing consumer dissatisfaction with PINs, passwords, and security questions, while maintaining the integrity of a secure system," according to the bank. With just a spoken passphrase, voice biometrics reportedly allows consumers to be securely authenticated when they connect with a service provider via a call center or IVR, a mobile app, or the Web.

This pilot expands work U.S. Bank and Nuance began in April 2013, in which voice recognition was used for conducting basic functions, such as to view account balances, search transactions and make a payment on their accounts.

"Voice biometrics is a unique identifier that will help us improve the customer experience," said Dominic Venturo, chief innovation officer for U.S. Bank Payment Services, in a press release. "Customers are becoming accustomed to using their voice to interact with their smartphones and can become frustrated with key entering passwords. Exploring a spoken passphrase login through this technology is a logical next step in our work in biometrics."

[U.S. Bank's Dominic Venturo weighs in on mobile payments, one of 8 Big Stories Transforming the Payments Landscape]

"Innovative organizations like U.S. Bank recognize that voice biometrics can bring a new level of convenience and security to the customer service experience," said Robert Weideman, executive vice president and general manager of the Nuance Enterprise Division, in the press release. "By eliminating the interrogation process that consumers are typically put through and replacing it with a natural, conversational voice interaction, companies can really start to reinvent their customer service experience."

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
2/18/2014 | 7:54:15 PM
re: U.S. Bank Pilots Voice Biometrics As Secure Way To Access Card Accounts
Yes I think that because biometrics is so new in this area of security, particularly within the banking industry, there are a lot of questions like that that still need to be answered in regards to specific solutions and testing different solutions.
brendaks
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brendaks,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/17/2014 | 4:18:23 PM
re: U.S. Bank Pilots Voice Biometrics As Secure Way To Access Card Accounts
To add to the earlier comments, there also seems to be varying representation
as to what different solutions actually accomplish. Is this an
application of voice biometrics or speech recognition? With the use of a passphrase ("My voice is my password."), it is difficult to tell whether the technology is verifying "who is speaking" or "what is being said." If it's a question of convenience, perhaps answering that is less critical than it would be if the technology were applied for security and anti-fraud purposes.
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
2/15/2014 | 5:52:21 PM
re: U.S. Bank Pilots Voice Biometrics As Secure Way To Access Card Accounts
Interesting to note. While voice biometrics is still in the early stages, I think in ten years' time it will have got to the point where it's replaced passwords as a primary security feature.
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 9:12:57 PM
re: U.S. Bank Pilots Voice Biometrics As Secure Way To Access Card Accounts
Event though people are getting password fatigue, we're still going to need passwords for some time. Voice biometrics still needs to improve from what I understand before it is 100% reliable. If you're in a noisy environment, or have a cold or something that affects your voice, the technology might not recognize you trying to log in to your account.
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