Barclays replaces passwords with voice authentication for telephone banking

High street bank aims to speed up interactions and reduce fraud with new security tools

Barclays will roll out voice authentication for telephone banking tomorrow, in order to make customers less reliant on passwords.

All customers will be enrolled in the program automatically, but Barclays will ask if they wish to opt out the next time they use telephone banking.

"We can all relate to the frustration of forgetting a password at the crucial moment," said Barclays' personal banking CEO Steven Cooper. "Voice security can cut out that part of the call completely and, unlike a password, each person's voice is as unique as a fingerprint."

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Barclays will join other high street banks who have implemented alternative types of authentication, including First Direct and HSBC.

The primary use for this technology, the bank said, will be to speed up its telephone banking service. It currently takes an average of two minutes to progress through alternative security methods if a customer forgets their password.

It takes an average of just two calls for the system to build up an accurate 'voice print' of a customer, Barclays said, and its system can then identify that customer on future calls.

While a Barclays spokeswoman stressed to IT Pro that the company was not removing passwords altogether, she admitted that voice recognition will help to cut down on telephone banking fraud. "As the fraudsters are getting more sophisticated, our back-end is getting more sophisticated too," she said.

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The news has been well received by security specialists, who have been calling for traditional passwords to be replaced by biometric authentication for years. "In Europe, consumers tell us that they are struggling to remember what is now an average of more than 100 passwords across their personal accounts and devices," said Gigya's director of EMEA sales, Richard Lack.

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"Biometric authentication is a powerful enabler, allowing businesses smart enough to deploy it to significantly increase rates of registration, gaining data and insight about their customers, while also increasing customer security. This is a win/win scenario which sounds the death-knell for awkward and insecure passwords sooner than we may imagine."

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