South Africa’s Absa Bank Pilots Visa's EMV Chip-based Biometrics

Let’s face it, if financial institutions are going to have any chance of defeating cybercriminals, banks are going to need a multifaceted approach to fraud prevention and security. Mitigating the risk of a security breach is one of many banking concerns that need to be addressed; with innovative technological solutions and intel from payment companies, banks just might have a fighting chance.

The shift to EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) is expanding on a global scale, but could biometric verification be the new normal in banking?

South Africa’s Absa Bank, a subsidiary of Barclays Africa Group, is the first to pilot a new specification that combines biometrics with chip card transactions. Visa announced their EMV chip-based biometric specification on Tuesday, September 15, 2015. The biometric technology detects human characteristics to provide identity authentication—the specification can enable palm, voice, iris, or facial biometrics.

Biometric cardholder verification was designed on the EMV chip standard, which will make for a seamless integration on a global scale. Absa will use Visa’s specification to deploy a proof-of-concept trial starting fall 2015. Cardholders will complete transactions using their fingerprints instead of a PIN (personal identification number).

There is increasing demand for biometrics as a more convenient and secure alternative to signatures or PINs, especially as biometric technologies have become more reliable and available, said Mark Nelsen, Senior Vice President of Risk Products and Business Intelligence at Visa Inc. However, to support wide adoption, it is equally important that solutions are scalable and based on open standards. Building on the EMV chip standard provides a common, interoperable foundation, as well as encourages innovation in cutting-edge biometric solutions.

An interoperable infrastructure for biometrics is an integral component in the payment ecosystem, Visa will offer to contribute the technology to EMVCo (the global technical body that manages the EMV specifications) to further develop and administer the standard for the benefit of the entire payments industry. While this platform is still in the beginning stages, introducing biometric technology into financial institutions may provide a more secure banking consumer experience. This innovative collaboration will provide an eye-opening insight into the greater potential of biometric verification.

An industry report forecasts that by 2017, over one billion customers will be using banking services through biometric systems and by the year 2020, biometrics will become the predominant identity authorization method for accessing bank services.

About Visa Inc.:

Visa is a global payments technology company that connects consumers, businesses, financial institutions and governments in more than 200 countries and territories to fast, secure and reliable electronic payments. Visa is not a bank and does not issue cards, extend credit or set rates and fees for consumers. Visa's innovations, however, enable its financial institution customers to offer consumers more choices: pay now with debit, pay ahead of time with prepaid or pay later with credit products.

Absa Bank Limited:

Absa Bank, with preference shares listed on the JSE Limited, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Barclays Africa Group. Absa Bank offers a range of retail, business, corporate and investment banking, and wealth management products and services primarily in South Africa and Namibia.