Biometric security tested by UK bank using vocal passwords

Barclays Wealth & Investment Management is using Nuance's FreeSpeech voice biometrics solution to automatically confirm and identify customers, instead of using security questions that rely on the customer's ability to remember a number of different details.

Security questions—often referred to as "knowledge-based authentication"—can be time-consuming and frustrating for customers that have to provide often hard-to-recall information on obscure topics.

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Also, even when a customer is successful in answering all the necessary questions, if they call back a few minutes later, the process has to start all over again—a frustration Barclays is trying to tackle. (See also "How to find happiness in a world of password madness.")

Now, when a customer calls in to Barclays to access their account, they engage in a 20- to 30-second conversation with a customer service agent and during that time Nuance FreeSpeech is used to compare the customer's voice to their unique voiceprint on file.

The tool then silently signals to the Barclays representative when the customer's identity has been verified. If it is not verified by the system, Barclays agents can revert to a traditional, knowledge-based authentication process.

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"In this competitive environment we need to make sure that clients' needs for convenience and ease of access are effectively balanced with our mutual need for security," said Matt Smallman, Client Experience Strategy and Change, Barclays Wealth and Investment Management.

"Nuance's voice biometrics technology is playing a vital role in ensuring our wider client service transformation project is an outstanding success. Both our clients and colleagues love that it increases security and convenience at the same time whilst making client calls shorter and reducing our overall cost to serve."

Since its introduction, more than 84 percent of Barclays' customers have enrolled in using the new technology, with 95 percent of those customers successfully verified upon their first use of the system.

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