Do not resuscitate – passwords in a critical condition?

Ever since Bill Gates predicted the death of the password in 2004, industry analysts have claimed that each subsequent year will be the last for passwords. However, I believe that 2016 will see a tipping point and passwords will finally be given a Do Not Resuscitate notice.

In banking specifically, what is becoming clear is that new organisations, unencumbered by legacy attitudes to customer services, are targeting a different way of doing business.

In December 2015, Atom Bank hammered the first nail into the coffin of passwords by announcing the transformation of its digital customer engagement processes by using biometrics.

Hot on their heels, HSBC announced their own planned launch of voice and fingerprint banking services to 15 million First Direct customers in Spring, with the rest of HSBC in the summer of 2016.

Personally, as a First Direct customer I will gladly provide my biometric information for an enhanced user experience and a step change in security of access. As a technologist I have insight into technical solutions and how my data will be safeguarded, so it is easy for me to be an early adopter.

For the UK public, who have previously rejected biometrics under the much derided UK Identity Card scheme, the take-up may be a little slower. However First Direct were leaders in telephone banking in the 90’s and have an enviable track record in pioneering channel shifts so the future of biometric banking looks bright.

Why has it been such a long journey though? Biometric technology is, after all, accurate and proven; charting its origins back to Steve Jobs ill-fated Lisa personal computer. The voice recognition used in the Lisa PC was not successful as it didn’t add to the user experience but got in the way. The real challenge is having the right user experience so that biometrics are seen as a help not a hindrance, increasing adoption and releasing the benefits of this ultra-secure identification technology.

Biometrics are crucial to combating digital and traditional fraud. So how can banks capitalise on the benefits of biometric banking without alienating the very customers they are trying to attract? Elegant design to drive the willingness of customers to accept the technology is key.

At Fujitsu, we call this ‘Human Centric Innovation’. We’ve seen this first hand when implementing biometric solutions to reduce ATM Fraud to zero over 700 million transactions by putting people at the heart of technology.

However, biometric enabled customer journeys can be quite complex. Recognising that no one solution fits all, Fujitsu has developed a network of 300 digital partners that we work with to help our clients create compelling low friction, secure solutions. Partners such as Intelligent Environments and ImageWare that leverage the best that the global ‘FinTech’ market has to offer; from true omni-channel customer engagement platforms in digital banking, through to full service biometrics.

The other key difference is in making all of this innovation actually work on traditional banking core systems that are aging and built on legacy technologies. What is required is ‘agile integration’ – bridging the gap between ‘FinTech’ innovators and banks to rapidly deliver the best of innovation in the low risk, predictable manner that large financial institutions expect.

This is the best of both worlds – agility in innovation partnered with core systems integration discipline.

So, passwords may not be dead and buried quite yet but one thing is certain: the way that we will engage with banks is set to change forever through biometrics. I for one can’t wait.

This post was written for & first appeared on The Digital Banking Club.  It is reposted here with their kind permission.

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