Hello, Barclays? Why hello, John Smith. We meet again

UK bank drops passwords, rolls out voice recog for phone banking


Barclays is abolishing passwords for its telephone banking customers in favour of voice recognition.

The UK high-street bank – which has been trialling voice recognition technology with a limited number of customers for three years since 2013 – said that technology that identifies a caller based solely on their voice is a “highly secure method of identification that removes the need for security questions and passwords”.

“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. 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,” it added.

Barclays voice recognition technology is being supplied by Nuance Communications and has been "fully tested", a Barclays spokeswoman told El Reg.

If a customer has forgotten their password, it takes two minutes on average to get through the alternative security measures. Voice Security will speed up this process significantly as well as being more secure, according to Barclays.

Steven Cooper, chief exec of personal banking at Barclays, commented “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 said the success of its trial means that it is now rolling it out to all its personal banking customers over the age of 16.

Richard Lack, director of sales EMEA at customer identity management experts Gigya, welcomed the UK high street bank’s move away from difficult-to-remember passwords.

“The news that Barclays is abolishing passwords in favour of voice recognition technology for its telephone banking customers comes as no surprise. In Europe, consumers tell us that they are struggling to remember what is now an average of more than 100 passwords across their personal accounts and devices.

“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. What’s more, our most recent survey found that 80 per cent of all consumers believe that biometric authentication is more secure than traditional registration,” he added.

Barclays was the first bank in Europe to begin moving away from passwords towards voice recognition. For example, UK rival HSBC announcedplans to begin trialling voice recognition and Touch ID as an alternative to conventional passwords back in February .

Moving to biometric authentication is beneficial for both businesses and their customers, according to Lack.

“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,” Lack concluded. ®

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