Banks Are Deploying Voice Biometrics So That You Don't Have To Tell Them Your Mother's Maiden Name Again

Nice Systems, one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies, is launching a voice biometric system for call centers to verify customers' identities.

By now, anyone with a bank account is familiar with the identity verification process used by customer service reps. It's your mother's maiden name, home address, or perhaps a verification of past purchases. The system works well enough, but dropping a few steps from the process would save everyone a good deal of time and money.

One company is aiming to do just that by adding biometrics sensors into the process. Israeli firm Nice Systems, one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies, is marketing their new real-time authentication system to financial institutions as a replacement for identify verification questions. The company claims that their system, which uses algorithms to identify an individual user's voice, will offer banks faster call turnaround and save money in call center costs.

Nice's solution is designed so customers do not even realize their voice is being analyzed by a biometrics system. Callers are automatically entered into a voice print database which verifies their voice and generates a unique thumbprint; that thumbprint is then compared in future calls against the voice on the line. CSRs and phone agents are notified whenever a caller's voice does not appear to match up to the original biometric thumbprint; secondary identity verification questions can then be deployed.

Biometrics are increasingly becoming big business for anti-fraud protection. Earlier this month, a Samsung executive confirmed the company is experimenting with biometric recognition in Galaxy phones, and Apple is reportedly introducing biometric earbuds in the next iPhone.

But Nice is cenered on a more down-to-earth goal--reducing fraud for banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. “Most voice-based projects have failed because they put a burden on the customer to set up their voice-enabled profiles in advance--an additional time-consuming task,” said Nice enterprise group president Yochai Rozenblat in a release. “With Nice's Seamless Passive Enrollment, if a customer has called before, they can be automatically authenticated using their voice the very next time they call.”

Nice claims that their product reduces a call center's average call handling time by 45 seconds, and leverages factors like pronunciation, emphasis, speech rate, and accent to create voice biometric fingerprints. Their fraud identification product also integrates caller ID and the caller's physical location into fraud decisions.

Although the company would not go on record with specific names of clients using their platform, they say it is already in use by several large financial institutions worldwide. Nice's authentication system is just one in a series of products by startups using biometrics to tackle customer service. Other companies include Kansas-based EyeVerify, which markets biometric identification software for banks to integrate into smartphone apps, and MasterCard, which now handles South African welfare payments and social security with biometric fingerprint readers.

[Image: Flickr user Tim Parkinson]

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