Infosys Strategic Vision

By Shivani Aggarwal, Lead Consultant, Financial Services, Infosys and Irene Varghese, Consultant, Financial Services, Infosys.

Andrew is one of America’s 95 million current mobile phone users, and prefers mobile banking over other banking channels. A constant fear of hackers and phishers has forced Andrew to keep long, complex alpha-numeric passwords for all his banking activities, passwords he has trouble remembering most times. Finally, he decides to use a smarter approach to mobile banking and creates a new password—his voice!

Technology continues to evolve by the hour. The exponential usage of smartphones and tablets is deeply influencing consumer behavior and preferences. Now, consumers prefer most of their banking services to be “One Click Away – on-the-go! To tap this changing market scenario, banks have shifted their focus from branch models to virtual platforms – i.e. online and the mobile. Between them, the growth of mobile banking has been more explosive. The adoption of mobile banking in the US skyrocketed 40% in 2013. It isestimated that the number of global mobile banking users will surge to 1 billion by 2017. Undoubtedly, mobile banking models have changed the way people bank – ease, convenience and flexibility became its synonyms. However, the challenge is that these models have also heightened concerns over fraud and data privacy.Despite customer apprehensions over mobile device security in banks, 63% of smartphone users have used a mobile app to connect with their banks during the last year, thereby indicating high prospects for mobile banking usage.

Now the question arises – will banks have to compromise data security for a richer customer experience? The answer brings us to a new era of mobile banking, one embedded with the technology of voice biometrics. Since voice biometrics maps a
highly unique personal characteristic – voice – for security authentication, the chances of fraud are very limited.

Voice biometrics – The new buzz!

Voice biometrics is the technology used to extract individual voice arrays to authenticate the person. Voice biometrics basically associates various characteristics taken from a person’s voice, such as modulation, pitch, language, etc., and maps them with recorded voice samples taken earlier. Voice biometrics is highly impactful in securing customer data over and above the PIN-based password mechanism. Key areas where voice biometrics reduces fraud are credential sharing, hacking, phishing, vishing, password resets and social reengineering.

Voice biometrics usage in a mobile app scenario:

Voice biometrics has the potential to redefine customer experience in the m-banking arena, due to which the application of this technology is being piloted and deployed across various m-banking functionalities.

• Secure access to banking applications: Using voice biometrics, banking applications active on smartphones and tablets can have two-factor password access, one of which can be a voice print master key.

• Password reset: A mobile banking app can deploy voice biometrics for securing and simplifying the process of resetting a password. Voice biometrics helps the app provide an automated password reset process with biometric speaker authentication, thereby enabling customers to reset their password from anywhere, at any time.

• Verification for mobile banking transactions: The potential benefits of the application of voice biometrics technology for identity verification in various mobile banking transactions (like fund transfers and bill payments) is being seriously considered by many banks. By verifying the customer’s uniqueness with their voice print, mobile banking transactions can become faster and safer.

A case application of this technology includes a scenario where a customer logs into his bank account through his m-banking app using a plain vanilla voice command, and completes his banking transactions with the mobile banking app’s virtual support! The below graphic illustrates such a real-life application of voice biometrics technology in m-banking:


Win-win situation for banks and customers

Voice biometrics has been recognized by financial institutions as one of the most effective ways to secure customer accounts and financial information. Voice authentication provides a supplementary layer of security for logging into mobile applications. It eliminates the weaknesses associated with passwords and helps consumers tackle the issues of typing long passwords and multiple security questions into their device.


Real-life deployments of voice biometrics in mobile banking

A few banks have started testing voice biometric tools for voice verification in banking through mobile apps. Recent pilot deployments include:

• U.S. Bank, which is piloting a voice biometrics software that allows customers to state an artless phrase, like “my voice is a password”, to access their card account through their mobiles. Their voice is used as the password to enable the customer to login to their card account to check account balances, examine transactions, etc. through the mobile app.

• USAA has implanted a voice biometric service, called Nina, into its iPhone application for mobile banking. Customers can use it for fund transfers, auto claims, bill payments, etc.

• National Australia Bank is getting ready to substitute its SMS pass codes with voice biometric authentication to safeguard mobile banking clients

• ANZ Bank is testing voice biometrics technology that will enable the authorization of large fund transfers to external accounts using mobile banking

Challenges in implementing voice biometrics in mobile banking

"Voice biometrics is highly impactful in securing customer data over and above the PIN-based password mechanism. Key areas where voice biometrics reduces fraud are credential sharing, hacking, phishing, vishing, password resets and social reengineering."
~ Irene Varghese, Consultant, Financial Services, Infosys

There are many factors that can adversely affect the effectiveness of a voice biometrics solution, rendering it potentially ineffective. These include:

• Trashy voice samples

• Inconsistencies in the speaker’s voice due to a variety of reasons (such as sickness and anger)

• Variations that may creep in over time (such as with old age)

• Background noise

The distinctive challenges that the usage of voice biometrics holds in mobile banking includes the necessity to support a full mobile environment, the integration of audio into mobile applications, and getting the mobile app ready for a real-world scenario,
including variations caused by mobile network conditions.

Interoperability (IOP) is also a key challenge faced in implementing voice biometrics in mobile banking, since executing banking transactions simultaneously with other events like incoming calls, messages, email, roaming, etc. can be a huge challenge for service providers

Another serious issue is the absence of recognized international standards for application programming interface (API). Only established API standards can help solve issues related to cost, time-to deployment, and other facets of building banking applications with voice biometrics features.

Peek into the future – Your voice is the new banking password!

"To gain a cutting competitive edge, banks should step up on innovation and blend voice biometrics into m-banking apps, since it assures customers of a richer and safer m=banking experience."
~ Shivani Aggarwal, Lead Consultant, Financial Services, Infosys

The banking sector is likely to spend at least US$750 million on voice biometrics by 2015. With banks moving forward with voice biometric authentication on mobile apps today, it is predicted that by 2016, voice biometrics will be the most used biometric in mobile devices.

With the rising usage of banking through mobile apps, voice recognition looks like a great way to serve customers in a secure manner for key banking transactions. While introducing voice biometrics to customers for m-banking apps, banks should essentially be focused on gaining customer trust and convincing them to adapt to this smarter banking technology. Banks should also be future-minded about further upgrades and new technology inclusions later on.

To gain a cutting competitive edge, banks should step up on the innovation wagon and blend voice biometrics into m-banking apps, since it assures customers of a richer and safer m-banking experience.