Selfies are the latest way to pay

HSBC customers in China can now make payments with a selfie, thanks to the introduction of facial recognition technology.

The innovation allows people to add new payees to their account and transfer money easily and securely via their mobile phone. It is the latest way that HSBC is using biometrics – the measurement of unique physical, gestural or behavioural characteristics – to help verify people’s identity, making banking simpler and faster.

With the new system, the customer simply blinks into their camera using the ‘selfie mode’. Their identity is then checked against a photo held on a database. If the pictures match, and the customer enters the correct passcode into their banking app, they can transfer up to RMB50,000 (about USD7,600) a day.

Previously, they had to use a token device for authenticating and making transfers. China is the first country where HSBC is using facial recognition technology in this way.

People in Asia are more likely than those in Europe and North America to have confidence in new technologies, according to a recent report by HSBC. More than 60 per cent of Chinese people believe that biometrics, such as facial or fingerprint recognition, will be the only way to access banking services within 10 years, the Trust in Technology report found.

“We believe there is a huge growth opportunity, stemming from Chinese consumers’ enthusiasm for new technology,” said Richard Li, Executive Vice President and Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, HSBC China. “Investing in digital banking is one of our priorities to ensure we continue to provide the services people want and expect from us.”

You can be your password

Banks, governments and other organisations are using a range of biometric technologies to make identification simpler and more secure:

  • Voice: Voice is becoming more popular among banks as a means of secure identification, allowing customers to access telephone banking without a security number. The technology can check a large number of vocal characteristics, including cadence, speed and pronunciation
  • Fingerprints: Long used to identify criminals, fingerprints are a handy security device and, with a compatible phone, a simple way to log on to mobile banking. Fingerprints are considered to be several times more secure than traditional alphanumeric passwords
  • Finger veins: Small 3-D scanners can record and recognise the unique pattern of veins in an individual’s finger. Some banks have piloted finger vein scanners on ATMs
  • Eyes: Newer mobile phones often have built-in iris scanners. The latest eye recognition software also analyses the veins in the white of the eye, giving an extra level of security

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