Biotechnology of the digital bank

By Fabrice De Windt | 11 November 2014

Customer experience and loyalty are front of mind for most banks, especially in an age of easier switching. So what do banks do when they want to find new and innovative ways to make a customer journey more interesting, personal and secure?  They turn to technology. 

Some of the particularly fascinating technology that’s making its way into the bank of the future involves the different ways you can use an individual’s unique physiological or biological characteristics.  Banks are using these features to find new ways to identify and engage with their customers.  Let’s explore some of these in more detail.

Facial biometrics

As the customer enters the branch their identity is automatically recognised by cameras equipped with facial biometric recognition capabilities. The system operates unobtrusively and can recognise faces even at an angle of 25-30 degrees. The cameras link to customer records, meaning that members of staff can welcome the customer by name, have their relevant information ready on screen, along with the relevant customer information such as the types of products they currently have or need quickly.

Demographic sensing digital signage

Making sure that window or in-branch signage is up-to-date and consistent across branches can pose a challenge for banks.  Digital signage can help address this challenge.  It’s equipped with a camera that uses facial biometrics to monitor passers-by and analyse their characteristics to push out information that might be suited to their demographic. Or it can be used while customers are waiting to see an adviser. They can tap the screen to indicate their area of interest and be routed instantly to more product information and options.

Gesture signage

Replacing a traditional counter with a surface teller — a large touch screen embedded in a flat counter — can change the way staff interact with customers, moving the interaction into an open plan environment. Bank staff and customers can discuss products and services on the interactive electronic display, moving product information or application forms back and forth to each other across the surface as they talk. And by touching their NFC-enabled (Near Field Communication) mobile to the surface, customers can quickly download brochures or information to their smart phones, cutting out the need to carry around paper copies.

Palm vein readers

Who needs a chip and pin device when you have a hand!  Palm veins are said to be more unique than finger prints.  So banks could move towards using a palm vein biometric reader to authenticate the customer’s identity for transactions like large cash withdrawals. This will help remove much of the repetitive work associated with routine banking transactions, including identity checks.  And it could help to decrease fraudulent transactions.

Speech to speech translation

Language barriers could be broken down using a combination of speech recognition, language translation, and speech synthesis.  This means a conversation can be held between two parties effectively, even when they are speaking different languages. So a customer can enter any one of a bank’s global branches and communicate effectively with staff.

What is clear is that the branch still has a role to play in customer’s lives, they continue to visit branches to seek help and advice and carry out routine transactions. But the question facing banks today is how to maintain and evolve their branch estate in a landscape where technology, regulation, payments and customer behaviour are moving at such a pace that the future remains unpredictable.

While some of this technology is a little way off wide scale adoption, one thing that is certain is that high street banks will need to adapt to reflect the changing technological preferences of their customers. The evolution of the digital bank is upon us.

By Fabrice de Windt, VP Europe and global business development, global banking & financial markets, BT Global Services

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