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NAB uses voice recognition to authenticate banking customers

Bank using biometrics for contact centre but could one day extend to ATMs.

National Australia Bank (NAB) has deployed biometrics technology to allow customers to access their bank accounts using their voice.

Voice authentication is currently being used for calls to the NAB contact centre but could eventually be used for ATM machines, NAB executive general manager, Adam Bennett, told media at a lunch in Sydney.

NAB estimates the system saves users three minutes on the phone and reduces the likelihood of fraud. Rather than ask for a password or security questions, voice biometrics authenticates users by listening to their voice.

NAB first trialled voice biometrics in 2009 and has now rolled it out to 140,000 customers, Bennett said. The underlying technology was developed with Telstra, he said.

NAB is not the only bank exploring new methods of customer authentication. ANZ Bank has said it’s exploring using fingerprint-recognition technology to replace traditional PIN codes.

Voice biometrics is critical to NAB’s effort to prevent fraud, Bennett said, and has 120 security points, compared to 40 points on a fingerprint.

“We think it’s more robust than fingerprints," he said.

“Our customers are increasingly interacting with voice platforms,” including in-car communications and Siri on the iPhone.

To prevent a malicious individual from using a recording to fraudulently access accounts, the NAB system asks a series of questions. “It’s extremely difficult to pre-record something that will answer the questions,” Bennett said.

Voice biometrics in ATMs is “something we can look at,” Bennett said. Call centres were an obvious first application because they rely on voice, “but we will continue to run experiments and we will continue to look at where is there a meaningful application for this type of technology,” he said.

It’s not decided what technology will eventually replace PIN codes at the ATM, said NAB group executive, Gavin Slater. “Everyone’s kind of looking at options, and I think it’s quite well into the future” when one authentication method becomes standard, he said.

Across the financial industry, “card not present is still the highest generator of fraudulent transactions,” Slater said. A card-not-present transaction is a payment in which a card is not physically scanned by a payment terminal.

Voice biometrics is just one example of industry investment addressing that issue, Slater said.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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Tags: PIN codes, ATM, security, biometrics, banking, banks, voice recognition, financial institutions, NAB
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