Balance is the key to success in all things, to steal a famous line from a spiritual discipline. While the jury is still out on whether this also holds true for the business world, the financial services industry continues its quest for ways to reach its next maturity level.

Against this backdrop, addressing fraud while balancing the day-to-day needs of your customer is no easy task. Security versus convenience, cost reduction versus customer service and the list could go on.

Add the much-discussed and ever-present friction(less) element to the equation and there you have it: a never-ending debate among governments, private and not-for-profit sector organisations, technology developers, industry professionals and consumers.

During the recent Money 2020 event in Las Vegas, the idea around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and biometrics has been touted as bringing great promise of strong and frictionless security. As part of a panel titled “Digital Identity & Biometrics – AI & Biometrics Superheroes, Fighting Fraud Together” and moderated by Peter O’Neill, President of FindBiometrics and Mobile ID World, various perspectives touched upon the huge demand for new biometric fintech solutions, their role in authenticating the consumer, the inherent privacy aspect and, inevitably, the future.

Erin Englund (BioCatch), Todd Mozer (CEO at Sensory) and Javier Mira (FacePhi) joined the on-stage discussion.

Key takeaways

  • Fintech has become the front line for a new paradigm, called intelligent identity. It includes voice assistants that do not only understand what customers are saying, but also who they are. Another example given by Money 2020 panel participants includes banking apps that can recognize an individual based on how (s)he interacts with the touch screen.
  • A considerable focus was placed on the “fully biometric naked payment experience” – in which users pay only with the scan of their face or a fingerprint or simply authenticating via their natural behaviour.
  • There is a dire need for a multi-modal biometrics model, driven by achieving a level of both security and convenience. In a lot of cases, you need to layer different biometrics and if you can do that with very convenient things like behavioral and face and voice, then it will not be an intrusive process for the user.
  • How cautious should we be with our biometrics – essentially unchangeable passwords – and what happens when databases storing biometrics are breached? While addressing this aspect, panel participants stressed the importance of educating the consumer and reminded the audience that a strictly behavioural profile is really unique to the individual. Hence, the confidence that behavioural biometrics (hand-eye coordination, hand tremors, navigation and other finger movement) has the potential to reduce the burden placed on passwords to protect sensitive data.

The biometric dimension: where to?

An important aspect remains, however, privacy. As emphasized by all panelists more than once, in order for biometrics to work really well, we should be tracked everywhere we go. And while keeping a constant assessment on who we are, we start losing our own privacy.

A convenient way to accurately identify each online user is crucial in the payments, fintech and eCommerce space, especially in an increasing digital economy. Biometrics and other technologies enable consumer authentication,  as well as secure and streamline transactions, while providing higher access to the financial system. But when will we finally be able to solve the fundamental requirement: to securely authenticate that an individual has permission to complete a certain transaction? Here is what the panel concluded:

“We move towards the future where we are biometric and really nothing else is needed. Part of what’s implicit there is that people are tracking everything and yes, it gets really convenient and maybe it can get really secure too, but we’ve lost some of our privacy in the process.” – Todd Mozer

As Erin Englund, BioCatch added “We have generated that expectation, we’re really vulnerable to whomever is storing our personal data. With all the data breaches out there, it’s not a matter of if, but when our data is compromised. And so, as a consumer, I think we really have that expectation. I don’t think a certain company is secure unless there is some friction there happening, or at least I have some indication that they’re authenticating me”.

Finally, Javier Mira concluded that the triangle of maximum security now includes something you are (mobile phone), something you have (biometrics) and something you do not even know you have (the behavioural element).

Stay tuned for more upcoming articles and interviews focused on Money 2020 Las Vegas key takeaways.