Business unusual as ANZ banks on biometrics

ANZ will become the first of the Australian banks to respond to the growing cyber-security threat by offering customers a voice biometric filter with which to transact high-value payments, the bank announced on Monday.

If all goes well with an in-house beta-testing pilot involving ANZ staff and a few select customers, then from the middle of this year the bank will roll out the service to all digital customers, enabling voice biometric security confirmation when transferring more than $1000 through ANZ’s mobile applications.

Just last week, cyber-security expert Angus Woods told AB+F, the point of vulnerability for major Australian banks remained the shift to handheld devices for personal banking.

“Given Australians’ reliance on mobile and associated banking apps, these devices and operating systems are prone to constant attacks,” Woods said.

The move addresses two ongoing concerns for ANZ customers: the digital device transaction maximum of $1000 as well as the background security concerns of banking in a digital age.

Creating safe, secure digital experiences for customers “is a big challenge”, Peter Dalton, ANZ managing director of customer experience and digital channels, told AB+F.

“Voice biometrics is the next step in making banking more convenient for our customers while also strengthening security,” he said.

Security processes

Previously, when transacting beyond ANZ’s onerous $1000 handheld limit, beleaguered customers have had to switch either to a desktop-based internet banking or visit a branch to make the payment.

According to Dalton, the human voice has “five to ten times as many security points” than other current security processes - such as fingerprint security.

“The technology is now so advanced that it can tell the difference between identical twins or even a voice recording,” Dalton said. “So we know this will improve security and be welcomed by our customers.”

The bank revealed it had been collaborating with the voiceprint and biometrics provider Nuance to provide the technology.

In December, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) also began integrating Nuance’s intelligent virtual assistant, 'Nina', within the organisation’s website after successfully applying the US company’s voice biometrics technology across its call centre and mobile applications.

According to Nuance, voice biometrics technology can provide "80 per cent faster authentication in five seconds, and 90 per cent of users prefer voice biometrics over the status quo".

“We also know that people are becoming more comfortable with using their voice to do basic commands on their devices, so we see this is a natural extension of current technology and we are expecting this to be a popular enhancement of our mobile apps,” Dalton added.

The pilot will engage ANZ staff and select customers beginning next month across the Grow by ANZ app and will then be rolled out through ANZ GoMoney and other services, Dalton explained.

Subscribe to receive insights delivered straight to your inbox
Latest news, unbiased expert analysis and insights across banking and finance