Marking a first for Australia’s banking industry, National
Australia Bank (NAB) has begun offering its 3.3 million personal
banking customers voice biometric identification and verification
as an alternative to PINs and passwords. The launch in June
followed a successful internal pilot involving 2,000 branch staff
conducted during May.
“Our objective is to provide customers with a more convenient,
faster and easy-to-use telephone banking experience while
simultaneously improving identity security,” explained NAB Personal
Banking’s executive GM Warren Shaw.
“With identity theft-related fraud increasingly moving to the phone
channel, the use of voice biometrics enables the effective
identification, authentication and verification of customers,
offering an extra layer of protection,” he added.
As technology partner in its voice biometrics service NAB selected
Salmat VeCommerce (SVC), a unit of Salmat – an Australian company
with interests including communications, financial services
security and business process outsourcing and automation.
To use the NAB voice biometric service customers are required to
enroll by speaking a unique identifier which SVC explained is
converted to a numerical algorithm and entered into a database.
Whenever a customer phones the bank their voice is compared to
those existing in the database to determine a match using some 100
Highlighting the effectiveness of voice verification SVC noted that
research by the British Government’s Communications Electronic
Security Group and Edinburgh University has demonstrated that voice
verification accuracy results are superior to those of fingerprint,
hand print and face recognition systems and are 100 times better
security than PINs and passwords.
SVC explained that in verification solutions two parameters are
used to assess accuracy: the false reject rate (FRR), and the false
accept rate (FAR). The point at which the FAR equals the FRR is
known as the equal error rate (EER) and the lower the EER, the more
accurate the system is considered to be.
Based on EER voice verification, according to SVC, achieves
accuracy rates of over 99 percent compared with EERs of 92 percent
for fingerprints and 75 percent for face recognition technologies.
Only iris scanning exceeds voice verification accuracy.
A considerable advantage enjoyed by voice verification compared
with other security alternatives is clearly its compatibility with
call centre operations. Additionally, it is a technology that is
available at a time when consumers are growing increasing concerned
about the level of security offered by PINs and passwords.
Growing security concerns were highlighted by a survey conducted on
SVC’s behalf in April 2009, in which 67 percent of respondents
expressed fears that PINs and passwords do not provide adequate
protection of their personal information.
In addition, 51 percent of respondents felt that someone else may
be able to accurately guess their password, PIN or security details
for interactions over the phone, while 59 percent said they believe
someone else may actually know these details.
SVC noted that when extrapolating this response to the wider
Australian population, this equates to about 44 million accounts
held by Australians being regarded as currently vulnerable.
The dislike of having to remember multiple PINs and passwords was
also extensive with 57 percent of respondents reporting that they
regarded this as “frustrating.”
Against this background, the appeal of voice verification was found
to be significant with the highest proportion of respondents – 45
percent – selecting it as the most preferred method. In a parallel
survey conducted in New Zealand an even more significant 52 percent
of respondents selected voice verification as the most preferred