first direct Uses Voice Biometrics To Verify Clients

Despite there being an app for almost every part of our daily lives, we are still a nation of ‘talkers’, according to new research by first direct.

first direct

The poll, commissioned to mark the launch of first direct’s roll out of voice biometric technology – the first retail bank in the UK to make it the primary verification method for customers – concludes while everyday banking transactions are increasingly carried out online, voice-led communication is the preferred means of contact for matters of the heart and sensitive issues.

Topic of communication Percentage that feel a human voice is most appropriate
Breaking up with someone 93%
Calling in sick 90%
Sacking someone 90%
Asking someone on a date 87%
Medical results 85%
Communicating bank details 71%
Passport details 69%

’Toucher’ vs ‘talker’

The research coins the phrases ‘tapper’ and ‘talker’ to define those whose first instinct it is to reach for their touch-screen phone, tap an app, send a text or type an email versus those who immediately pick up the phone and call, or even prefer face to face.

According to those polled, it’s ok to reach for a screen to get in touch with someone when it comes to more everyday occurrences. Almost half of adults in the UK (48%) send text messages, What’s-Apps, or email to let someone know they’ve arrived, and more than a quarter (27%) would use a message to give directions to an address.

Commenting on the phenomenon, Geoff Beattie, TV Psychologist, said:

“When dealing with confrontation, or handling a sensitive subject, it’s all too easy to hide behind a screen to avoid facing the situation face to face.

“However, despite the digital revolution, the research shows some things are quite simply, too sensitive to communicate via digital means. The abundance of communication gadgets and mediums is sometimes no substitute for straight talking – while gadget to gadget is fast and convenient, there are times when you simply can’t beat verbal communication.”

Women admit to hiding behind screens more than men

The research, overseen by Geoff Beattie, was also designed to uncover any obvious gender differences of the two communication camps. Interestingly, 44% of the women questioned admitted to hiding behind texts and emails when it comes to communicating something difficult, compared to 27% of men.

When probed, more than a third of women (35%) have cancelled an appointment with a friend via a message, compared to a quarter of men, and 58% (vs. 42% of men) will type something to let them know they’re running late.

Convenient and secure

Tracy Garrad, chief executive of first direct, said:

“Understanding our customers is a big part of why we are the UK’s most recommended bank. With the roll out of Voice ID and Touch ID to log on to your account, instead of using a password, it’s never been more convenient or secure to access your banking app on the go.

“This type of research gets us closer to our customers’ daily lives and helps us understand how they really use smart technology to enhance them.”

The voice biometrics technology being used by first direct is supplied by Nuance Communications, Inc. It works by cross-checking against more than 100 unique identifiers and includes both behavioural features such as speed, cadence and pronunciation, and physical aspects including the shape of larynx, vocal tract and nasal passages. For customers that choose to opt-in, they simply enrol their ‘voice print’ and are no longer required to remember or recite their current telephone security password letters or PIN.

“Beyond exceeding consumer expectations and preferences, voice biometrics can materially improve the security of first direct customer banking accounts,” said Robert Weideman, executive vice president and general manager, Nuance Enterprise. “Unlike PINs and security questions, which can be more easily compromised by fraudsters – on a massive scale – voice biometrics ensures that the person calling first direct is indeed the authorised account holder – with the unique characteristics of their voice.”

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