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Barclays to use voice recognition for phone banking

Retail bank says technology will provide secure verification by recognising the unique characteristics of each person’s voice

Barclays is to use voice recognition technology instead of passwords to identify customers over the phone.

Following a trial that was rolled out to some customers in 2013, the retail bank is introducing its Voice Security technology, which analyses unique characteristics in people’s voices to verify their identity.

According to the bank, the technology eliminates the need for passwords because the software can identify individuals after they have spoken a few words and is highly secure due to the unique nature of each person’s voice.

The technology analyses each customer’s “voice print”, which is determined by the physical structure of the person’s mouth and throat, which makes their voice unique.  

The bank says voice recognition is highly secure and saves time.

Steven Cooper, CEO of personal banking at Barclays, said: “We can all relate to the frustration of forgetting a password at the crucial moment. Voice security can cut out that part of the call completely and, unlike a password, each person’s voice is as unique as a fingerprint.”

Today’s consumers may have to remember more than 50 passwords for various profiles and accounts, so eliminating the need for passwords for phone banking will make Barclays’ service more efficient, the bank says.

Barclays is not the only bank to launch biometric security measures for authentication; HSBC launched fingerprint authentication for mobile banking customers earlier this year.

Industry experts say biometric authentication will help to keep consumers more secure as the number of ways to access services increases.

Read more about biometric authentication

  • How can organisations implement biometric authentication of users without running the risk of exposing sensitive biometric information?
  • Biometric authentication provides a certain amount of convenience for the user and can be difficult for attackers to replicate. However, it is not a perfect answer to security.

According to Barclays, if a customer has forgotten their password, it can take on average two minutes to use an alternative method of authentication.

Personal banking customers can sign up to Barclays’ service from this month by calling its telephone banking service, which will begin to build a “print” of the customer’s voice, and after about three calls, customers can opt to use voice recognition instead of passwords.

The service is not yet available to corporate customers.

Cooper added: “Barclays is constantly looking at ways to improve services for customers and make it easier for them to get things done quickly; this is the perfect example of technology that does exactly that.

“There is no need for customers to change how they bank with us, or in fact do anything differently at all – just continue to use telephone banking in the same way. We are committed to providing options so that our customers can choose how they want to bank with us and this is the latest iteration of that promise.”

Barclays has experimented with other methods of biometric authentication. It launched biometric Finger Vein Authentication readers in 2014, which allowed Barclays Corporate Banking clients to use their fingers instead of a PIN to authenticate themselves.

In April 2016, the retail bank also joined the Apple Pay bandwagon, enabling its mobile banking customers to authenticate payments using their registered Touch ID fingerprint.

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