Voice recognition will let Barclays customers clear security
Barclays is to start storing the vocal imprints of its personal banking customers in order to allow them to clear security checks by just speaking rather than remembering a password.
Explaining the move, the bank said that each person's voice is "as unique as a fingerprint". It originally started offering voice security technology to a small number of customers in 2013.
In 2015, Barclays introduced biometric finger vein scanning technology for authenticating online banking transactions for its corporate customers.
Now, it has announced it is making the option of using voice security instead of passwords open to all its personal banking customers. The service is not yet available for corporate and business clients.
The initiative identifies callers based solely on their voice, removing the need for them to answer security questions or give passwords.
Barclays' telephone banking service will create a digital profile of customers' voices, like a unique fingerprint, over the course of around three phone calls.
Once Barclays has built up a sufficient profile, customers can then opt in to use voice security technology rather than a password to identify themselves, if they want to.
"Each person's voice is as unique as their fingerprint, made up of over 100 characteristics based on the physical configuration of the speaker's mouth and throat,” Barclays explained.
"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."
The bank said if a customer has forgotten their password, it takes two minutes on average to get through the alternative security measures, so voice security should speed up this process significantly.
As well as potentially making the process of telephone banking quicker for customers, Barclays said it will also create a greater barrier against fraud, "due to the highly personal form of identification".
Steven Cooper, CEO 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 became the last major bank in April to support the Apple Pay platform after holding out possibly to encourage take up of its in house bPay system.
“Research indicates that as many as 90 per cent of consumers prefer voice biometrics over traditional authentication methods, it is clear that we are at the tip of an iceberg for customer service transformation,” said Brett Beranek, director with Nuance Communications that specialises in speech technologies.
“In fact, recent data from Opus Research predicted that the voice biometrics authentication market will grow from $200m (£151m) in 2013, to $750m globally in 2017.
“And as the greater security and convenience offered by voice authentication becomes the norm for customer experience in financial services, we are likely to see this trend extended to all customer-facing industries.”