The Customer Effect

Inside Wells Fargo’s mission to create a password-less future

  • Biometric banking, while a mainstay in much of the developing world, is still in its early rollout phase in the U.S.
  • Concerns over technology and cultural adaptation are driving a cautious approach from major banks.
close

Email a Friend

Inside Wells Fargo’s mission to create a password-less future

In a few years, when you need to get some cash out of the ATM, an eye scan may have replaced the need to enter your passcode.

At least, that’s what Wells Fargo is hoping. The bank is in the process of testing out various technologies in the arena of biometrics — whether it’s voice, fingerprints or eye scans — that it hopes will eventually phase out passwords altogether.

“One biometric doesn’t fit every situation,” said Steve Ellis, head of Wells Fargo’s innovation group. “Our view is they can decide which they want to use in the moment they’re trying to. For example, if I’m driving in my car and I want to talk to the bank, I’m not going to authenticate with my fingerprint but maybe my voice could be the password … we see this idea of biometrics replacing user IDs and passwords.”

Accessing a bank account through a thumbprint, voice print or eye print has become second nature in many parts of the world. Aadhar Pay, India’s system to unlock banking services through a thumbprint, will launch on Friday, and Australia’s ANZ Bank just announced a pilot program to let customers use their voices to authorize transactions of AUD 1,000 ($750) or more.

Banks in the United States lag behind as they figure out what combination of sign-on methods will work.

Wells Fargo has made notable strides on biometrics. For example, when you have to reach a call center, you don’t have to enter a pin; instead, you can use voice verification to get authenticated. In a more commonplace scenario, you can also use your fingerprints to access the bank’s mobile app. And late last year, it announced that by the end of this quarter, it will allow commercial customers to use eyeprints to authenticate customers. The software recognizes a customer by matching a picture of a user’s eye with information it has on the micro features of their eye, including blood vessels and other details. Wells Fargo is working with software developer EyeVerify, a company that was once part of its accelerator program that has since been acquired by Ant Financial.

Others in the United States that implemented biometric features include Citibank, which recently launched the capability to log into its mobile app through fingerprint, voice, facial recognition, PIN and password. Others, including U.S. Bank and JPMorgan Chase, let customers log into the mobile app with a fingerprint.

Companies that work on biometrics say what’s keeping banks from moving further is a mixture of concerns about regulation around biometric data and more importantly, a sense of skepticism from senior executives.

“Facial recognition is awesome, but do you really see yourself scanning your face to use an ATM?” said George Avetisov, CEO of HYPR, a biometric security company that works with major American banks. “There are banking executives that aren’t convinced.”

User habits also influence how quickly banks can roll out the technology. In many emerging markets, the transition to biometrics was easier because mobile banking has been a mainstay for a longer time.

“A lot of those countries skipped the desktop phase and went to mobile,” he said. “That’s why they’re more innovative on the mobile.”

U.S. banks also lag on biometric ATMs as well, in part because of the lack of a single standard that works across banks. “There is a lack of standards with regards to biometrics [for ATMs], which further delays in investment in biometric technology for fear of choosing the ‘wrong solution’,” said Dominic Hirsch, managing director of consulting firm RBR.

Hirsch added that data sharing and storage would also complicate a biometric ATM rollout. These concerns apply to emerging markets, although some countries (including India) have national biometric databases that can be used.

What may be the biggest influence on bringing biometric banking to mainstream may be the move towards internet-connected devices, which will help build a culture of biometrics in daily life.

“What’s going to be the catalyst is the internet of things,” said Avetisov. “You’re not going to lock your door with a password — these will be fully biometric experiences.”

Tanaya Macheel contributed reporting.

0 comments on “Inside Wells Fargo’s mission to create a password-less future”

Sponsored, The Customer Effect

Finance with a face: How personalization drives engagement, retention, and profitability

  • New technology allows for innovative companies to build banking products that cater to the specific needs of each individual.
  • Personalization is the key to meeting key product metrics and competing in this new landscape of embedded finance.
Q2 | March 14, 2022
Library, Modern Marketing, The Customer Effect

Tearsheet’s 2021 guide for marketers: Gens under the lens

  • We closed off last year with a thorough breakdown of the financial consumer profile of each of the generations.
  • The compiled guide for marketers is now available for download.
Tearsheet Editors | January 24, 2022
The Customer Effect

Who led banking app downloads in 2021?

  • Challenger bank Chime led the banking app download charts, ahead of established brick-and-mortar banks like Chase and Bank of America.
  • The top three crypto apps totaled 145 million downloads in 2021, up significantly from 18 million in 2020.
Subboh Jaffery | January 14, 2022
Sponsored, The Customer Effect

The increasing role of personalization in retail wealth management

  • In a recent survey by ThoughtLab and Publicis Sapient, 49% of investors put simple, intuitive digital experience as top priority – but only 18% are very satisfied with their current advisor’s digital experience.
  • With 44% of respondents planning to move their funds over the next 2 years, better personalization has never been more important.
Publicis Sapient | January 06, 2022
The Customer Effect

With only 5% of Americans confident in their financial health, what are their generational resolutions for 2022?

  • A survey found only 5% of Americans see their financial health as ‘rock-solid’. One in four describe it as out-of-shape, while almost half call it a work in progress.
  • With 59% wanting to focus on increasing their savings, it is the most popular financial resolution among Americans for 2022.
Subboh Jaffery | December 29, 2021
More Articles