NatWest is issuing a payment fob linked to a customer's fingerprint that will allow contactless payments of up to £100 to be made without the use of a bank card or mobile phone.
This is the first biometric payment fob issued by a UK bank and NatWest’s second venture into the biometrics space following a biometric card trial launched in October 2018. Linked to the user’s fingerprint scan, the fob can also be registered in the comfort of the customer’s home using their mobile device for activation.
NatWest is working with Visa and Giesecke+Devrient Mobile Security to trial the service in UK markets - an attempt to overcome the issue of back-and-forth message verifications required in other forms of biometric payments.
David Crawford, head of NatWest Effortless Payments, says: “After the successful pilot of our biometric debit card we are looking at how we can further develop the technology and push the boundaries to integrate it into our customers everyday lives.”
In conversation with Finextra, Peter Hahn, dean of the London Institute of Banking & Finance, contends that in the case of biometrics, the fact that transactions can be made without multiple verification steps leaves a big gap for fraudsters to crawl through.
Hahn argues that “while it’s easy enough to change my signature or my PIN number when data is compromised, I can’t really change my face or my fingerprint. There is a trade-off.”
He explains that biometrics is just the next example of how banks are trying to keep pace with fraudsters: “Banks will put bars across the windows, and then they’ll add reinforced glass, and then they’ll add bars that go up to the ceiling to try and keep the criminals out. It’s a continuing process of the good guys trying to stay ahead of the bad guys.”
Earlier this month, Barclays released an improved version of its VeinID reader for corporate clients, enabling users to authorise secure payments by scanning their unique vein pattern just below the finger’s skin surface.
Sharmeet Shah, director of digital client access, Barclays, tells Finextra that biometrics “provide the perfect balance of security and usability. We’re keeping our clients safe without making it more onerous for them to go about their business.”
Shah adds: “The main challenge was around helping people to understand what finger vein biometrics is, how it works and the benefits it brings.
“Increasingly, the companies we work with need their banking tools to be more mobile to fit the way they run their businesses, which drove the decision to make the device smaller, more portable and provide wireless connectivity.
The latest iteration of the device adds another layer of security with a ‘Sign What You See’ (SWYS) screen, displaying written instructions to the user describing the activity being authorised.
Says Shah: “The ‘Sign What You See’ screen was something we wanted to introduce to help provide additional security against vishing and malware fraud.”