Mercator Blog

The Eyes (and Hands and Fingers and Voices) Have It
Date: November 11, 2015
Ed O'Brien
Director, Banking Channels Advisory Service

Much attention is being focused on systems access and security in banking and payments today. Banks and credit unions are investing time and effort to meet banking customers’ needs for simplicity while adhering to FFIEC guidelines for user identification, layered security, and multifactor authentication, and other security measures.

Most of these financial institutions are trying to stay ahead of the technology curve to better serve their customers and members. Yet many struggle to find ways to balance strong security protocols and ease of use—not a simple task.

Some of large institutions and their technology partners are seeking to leverage innovations in biometrics security to meet these objectives. Here are a few examples:

Bank of America recently announced new mobile banking features supporting biometrics and wearables. Fingerprint and touch ID sign-in capabilities are available for use with eligible Android, iPhone, and iPad devices. The technology supporting the fingerprint sign-in process was built according to Fast Identity Online (FIDO) standards.


Citigroup and Diebold are testing new technology that would allow banking customers to withdraw cash from an ATM by using either an eyeball scan or a code on a smartphone for customer identification. Whether there will be a widespread roll-out will depend on customer interest and adoption during the testing phase, but the technology shows promise. It could also include using the bank’s mobile app on customers’ smartphone or tablet screens to access desired functionality.


MasterCard has recently announced plans to launch a facial recognition payment service based on pictures taken on a smartphone (think “selfies”). The technology will include a photo scanner that creates a map of the shopper’s face, which is then translated into a code for confirmation of future payments.


USAA offers its banking customers both facial and voice recognition. The log-on process requires users to look into a device’s screen, and when prompted, blink their eyes to prove that they are a live person, not an image. For voice recognition, users must read aloud a short phrase.



Clearly, the industry is heading into some interesting new and uncharted areas that have the potential to make banking transaction faster, easier, and more secure. The challenge for institutions will be to educate their customers and members about the benefits of using such features by communicating their value and benefits rather than by focusing solely on the technology and “cool factor.”