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ANZ begins $1.5 billion tech spend

ANZ begins $1.5 billion tech spend

ANZ will plough up to $1.5 billion into improving branches and mobile banking products as it edges towards dumping PIN codes for futuristic facial and fingerprint scanning.

However the move might not be good for bank employees, with ANZ flagging a 25 per cent cut in property expenses and 36 per cent reduction in what it called excess space in its branch portfolio.

The bank cited a survey it commissioned showing 79 per cent of Australians were comfortable with the idea of fingerprint technology replacing their PIN code because it was more secure.

ANZ Australia chief executive Philip Chronican said that biometrics - the identification of humans by unique physical characteristics - were expected to be commercialised in banking within two to three years.

"We have never made a decision on which form of biometrics we'd like to use, but think it is quite helpful and great work is being done on voice biometrics and finger print and facial recognition," he told reporters.

"We do know that pin codes are not particularly secure and are easily replicated or stolen, particularly if people write them down, and the beauty of biometrics for us is it is harder for someone to steal."

Futurist Ross Dawson said a move to biometrics in banking was inevitable and overdue to enable secure and easy payments in a post-cash age.

Among other possibilities were the geometry of hands and eye recognition through the iris and retina.

The technology is controversial because of the risks of people's unique data being misused.

Under a five-year plan called Banking On Australia, ANZ will refurbish its branches, install video-conference facilities in 43 regional branches and launch new mobile applications (apps) for consumers and businesses.

Mr Chronican said ANZ had reduced the number of branches from 820 to 790 in the past 12 months, but would not say whether more jobs would go and insisted the closures were in areas where another branch was nearby.

Up to $1.5 billion of existing funds set aside for investment in the bank's business will be spent on the program.

In a trading update, ANZ said it had increased its market share in the Australian banking sector despite challenging economic conditions.

Net interest margin, a key measure of profitability on loans, had recovered slightly since late March, with repricing largely offset by the higher cost of attracting deposits.

But Mr Chronican would not reveal whether ANZ will follow the Reserve Bank and cut its interest rates, saying a decision will be made by its rates committee on October 12.

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