Banking with your personal assistant could be here soon
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Banking with your personal assistant could be here soon


It appears that asking your phone assistant for your bank account details could be here sooner than you think.

Samsung recently partnered with three of South Korea’s largest banks to make voice command banking a reality for its South Korean users.

Bixby — which is shipped with the Samsung Galaxy S8 — can make financial transactions by voice command via Samsung Pay and Samsung Pass, the tech giant’s answer to Touch ID.  

It’s a concept that’s similar to the partnership Amazon made with Virginia-based Capital One last year, where Capital One customers could be able to check their account balances, recent transactions, and even pay bills just by speaking to Alexa.

The prevalence of personal and home assistants mean that banks can find a cheaper and better option by piggy-backing on Alexa, Siri or Bixby, since the technology to support voice-activated banking is already built into smartphones.

“It is in the bank’s interests to push the service as it helps cut back on manpower and costs,” Chia Tek Yew, head of Financial Services Advisory at KPMG Singapore, told Mashable

“And at home, it will be a convenient channel of choice given the prevalence of home assistants — Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod,” Chia added. “[People] will be drawn to shop and transact via voice.”

Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

Regulators are unlikely to push back regarding voice-activated banking, said Michael Yeo, a Singapore-based research manager at marketing research firm IDC. 

“We will continue to witness developments which should push the edge on what can be done with voice,” Yeo told Mashable. “We have already seen examples in China and Singapore where voice commands can issue payments.”

Voice-activated banking hasn’t been explicitly barred, said Chia, adding that in some countries, banks have already used voice assistants to perform banking transactions. Spain-based Santander, for one, is offering voice command banking in their mobile app.

Your eyes could be at the centre of all this

If recent developments are of any clue, biometric scanning could be a major part of voice-activated banking.

Since Apple’s Touch ID made fingerprint scanning a must-have with smartphones, biometric authentication has been a mainstay. It’s likely that iris scanning will take off, with the iPhone 8 rumoured to have a front-facing 3D camera system that could unlock the phone based on detailed iris or facial recognition, similar to the S8’s iris scanner.

Image: lili sams/mashable

Bixby’s integration with South Korean banks could mean that South Korean users could say good-bye to their clunky banking dongles, for one. 

That’s definitely more secure than Amazon’s integration with Capital One, where users are only asked to add a PIN number. 

“Iris scanners and fingerprint recognition technology are generally beyond many existing methods, such as passwords, which are used by the majority of banks out there,” Yeo said. 

Antony Eldridge, a financial services and fintech leader at PwC Singapore, said that iris and fingerprint scanners are more secure as they are “much more difficult to fake.”   

“These appear more acceptable to both [the] public and authorities,” Eldridge said.

A customer sets the Touch ID of his new iPhone 7 at an Apple Store in Madrid, Spain.

A customer sets the Touch ID of his new iPhone 7 at an Apple Store in Madrid, Spain.

Image: Getty Images

Still, most banking security standards written by regulatory bodies like the European Banking Authority and the FFIEC have required multi-factor authentication for bank transactions.  

Multi-factor authentication depends on more than one of three things — what you are, like your fingerprint or iris pattern; what you have, like a physical token, an ATM card or your phone; and what you know, like a password.

So while banks could integrate biometrics into a two-factor authentication framework, the whole aspect of having another method — like your banking dongle or password — isn’t likely to change, said Yeo.

“[The] whole essence of two-factor authentication [is that it] requires confirmation by other means,” he added. 

But if your identity is tied to your phone — like in Samsung Pass, where each device can only be programmed to recognise one set of irises — it could still be, in the eyes of regulators, considered two-factor identification, said Chia.

While the industry has made moves to integrate banking with personal and home assistants, updates are coming slowly. Amazon’s partnership with Capital One came in March 2016, and there has yet to be anything like it since.

Whether voice-activated banking will take off would depend on how ubiquitous personal assistants are. It’s likely to remain an option, but just that, as some will never use this feature at all, Yeo said. 

“Many still find it awkward to use Siri or Google Assistant on their smartphones,”  Yeo said.

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June 11, 2017
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