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Has Barclays signalled a new era of phone banking?

The death of the password has been predicted for some time now and, thanks to an ever-growing list of security breaches, the idea is gaining more and more support.

Now, British bank Barclays has moved a step closer to getting rid of passwords altogether by announcing that personal banking customers will have the option of using voice recognition technology rather than having to answer security questions.

The technology works by creating a digital profile of a customer's voice over the course of three phone calls, allowing customers to opt for the voice security option after a suitable profile has been created. It was first trialed in 2013 and Barclays is now ready to roll it out to its wider customer base.

"Each person's voice is as unique as their fingerprint," the bank said, "made up of over 100 characteristics based on the physical configuration of the speaker's mouth and throat. Therefore, when a customer calls up to use telephone banking, the technology will be able to identify them simply from the first few words that are spoken."

Steven Cooper, head of personal banking at Barclays, said: "We can all relate to the frustration of forgetting a password at the crucial moment. Voice security can cut out that part of the call completely and, unlike a password, each person's voice is as unique as a fingerprint."

Barclays is not the only bank making steps to get rid of passwords. In February, HSBC announced the launch of voice recognition and touch security services for its internet banking customers.


Richard Lack, Director of Sales EMEA at Gigya:

"The news that Barclays is abolishing passwords, in favour of voice recognition technology, for its telephone banking customers comes as no surprise. At a time when the number of devices we own is rising sharply, the future lies in methods of authentication without passwords, which consumers clearly favour, both in terms of convenience and enhanced security.

"Of course, using one’s voice is far more convenient than creating and remembering yet another username/password combination, along with the answers to tedious security questions. Biometric authentication is a powerful enabler, allowing businesses smart enough to deploy it to significantly increase rates of registration, gaining data and insight about their customers, while also increasing customer security.

"This is a win/win scenario which sounds the death-knell for awkward and insecure passwords sooner than we may imagine."

Charles Read, Regional Director of UK, Ireland and Benelux at OneLogin:

"The news that voice-recognition technology has been introduced by Barclays for telephone and online banking as a replacement for passwords is great news for the continued success of biometric-authentication technology. This is another prime example of how the technology has seen rapid adoption within the consumer arena, gaining traction as the primary form of authentication to protect devices, apps and data. However, when it comes to the corporate environment, biometric authentication has a long way to go in order to catch up to the level of adoption seen within the consumer realm today.

"Whilst convenient, very few people realise the potential flaws behind the use of such methods, which can be a hindrance for organisations looking to include the authentication method as a single form of authentication. Rather, biometric methods should be used as an additional layer of authentication as part of a wider Identity and Access Management (IAM) strategy, particularly as recent research from OneLogin revealed that 35 per cent would actually share passwords with close friends and family.

"To avoid this, financial institutions in particular must embrace methods of biometric authentication which are easy to use, non-invasive and non-threatening, no matter where customers are accessing their bank accounts from."

Image Credit: Shutterstock / chrisdorney