Voice biometrics to be the 'front door' for all ANZ bank contact

The bank wants the country's financial institutions to 'collaborate' with telcos and the government to form a unified authentication solution.

The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) is looking to implement voice biometrics as the method of authentication in its call centres across all of its front doors, ANZ general manager of Wholesale Digital Nigel Dobson told the FIDO Alliance Seminar in Sydney on Monday.

Voice identification technology was rolled out earlier this month on the bank's Grow by ANZ app, and according to Dobson, the service has experienced "high customer acceptance and success" and as a result, the bank is keen to roll it out across its call centres.

"We will test and learn this capability, and our hope is to have it as a pervasive authentication capability for the bank for all of its front doors, if you like, within 12-24 months," he said.

"What we think we have found with voice biometrics as an addition to authentication is something actually that gives high security and a significant degree of convenience."

Pointing to other institutions in the space that are jumping on the biometrics bandwagon -- such as Barclays, HSBC, and USAA -- Dobson is concerned the market might become too cluttered with disparate methods of authentication. Instead, he wants to see financial institutions in Australia work together to form a unified solution.

"Every bank coming up with their own solution is probably not wise when you can have a standard response that is nationally utilised. Combing strong authentication coupled with secured credentials is the mission," he explained.

"We certainly have common interests as a banking community in implementing framework."

It is a similar approach financial providers in Canada are doing, he explained, with the Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC) also including telecommunications providers and government in the conversation with financial services providers.

"I think that's a really interesting combination. Not every country has managed to become that collaborative and I can see enormous benefits of having telcos and financial institutions with complementary datasets trying to solve national identity and security," Dobson said.

"I would hope the same thing might happen here in Australia."

With the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) launching its New Payments Platform into trial mode later this year, Dobson is concerned with the increase in fraud the platform may bring with it when it goes live with customer transactions from February next year.

"We're expecting an increase in the success of fraud just simply because of the velocity of transactions," he said.

"Transactions that are set, cleared, and settled and posted within 15 seconds obviously offer you a much greater viability to success in fraud attacks as opposed to slower payment tracks that have been used in the past.

"Coupled with open-data, we believe the market is upon significant innovation, but our collaborative energies need to be brought together to ensure that the customer experience is both convenient and secure."

The new payments platform will allow for near real-time funds transfer between bank accounts, regardless of who people bank with. All a user will require to perform an "instantaneous payment" with the forthcoming system will be the recipient's email address or mobile phone number.

In partnership with speech software firm Nuance, the bank's Grow by ANZ banking app allows customers to make "pay anyone" payments of more than AU$1,000 automatically, bypassing usual security measures such as visiting a branch in person. Voice ID can also be used to make BPAY payments of over AU$10,000.

ANZ announced its voice biometrics trial in April, kicking off the new technology with a pilot running with staff and select customers in May.

At the time, ANZ managing director of customer experience and digital channels Peter Dalton touted voice biometrics as the next step in making banking more convenient for customers while also strengthening security.

"One of the key challenges today for banking as the world becomes more digital is making it easier for customers to do what they want to do in a safe and secure way," he said previously.

Speaking with ZDNet in April, Nuance Australia and New Zealand managing director Robert Schwarz said voice biometrics is a more secure method of identifying and authenticating the user or the account owner in the financial services sector.

"What ANZ Bank has done around implementing voice biometrics is going to have multiple benefits for their customers," Schwarz said. "First and foremost is the security side, by being able to secure some of these larger transactions. They're using it for a step-up authentication process, because voice is a lot more secure than a lot of the other modalities that are out there."

Schwarz also believes there is an important place for voice biometrics to curb the influx of fraud that could emerge in the RBA's instant payments environment.

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