Finger on the pulse
CUSTOMERS at a leading bank in Bahrain will soon be able to carry out their financial transactions the ‘eazy’ way by simply lifting a finger instead of carrying a card, thanks to collaboration with a Bahraini FinTech start-up company.
Ithmaar Bank has teamed up with Eazy Financial Services to launch the region’s first biometric payment network, with the support of labour fund Tamkeen, and the backing of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB).
The bank’s CEO, Ahmed Abdul Rahim, said: “As part of our digital strategy, we continue to invest heavily in technology that provides our customers a more convenient, simpler and more secure way to conduct their financial transactions.
“Our customers are tech-savvy and expect frictionless access to banking services - and the introduction of biometrics is another major step that direction. We’re leading the financial industry with this new, tangible solution which is a real-time example of how we put innovation and our customers at the forefront of everything we do.”
The term biometrics is composed of two words − bio (Greek word for life) and metrics (measurements). It is a branch of information technology that aims towards establishing identity based on personal traits.
Biometrics is presently a buzzword in the domain of information security as it provides a high degree of accuracy in identifying an individual as each human being is unique in terms of characteristics, which make him or her different from all others.
The physical attributes such as fingerprints, hand geometry and behavioural characteristics such as tone and accent of speech, signature, or the way of typing keys on a computer keyboard, make each person stand separate from the rest.
This uniqueness is then used by the biometric systems to −
l Identify and verify a person.
l Authenticate a person to give appropriate rights of system operations.
l Keep the bank and its customers safe from con-artists and thieves.
“Think of it like this: biometric identification is like a neighbour who looks through the peep hole at the person who just rang the doorbell. The neighbour decides it is Dave based on his height, hair and eye colour, and so on. Biometric authentication is the neighbour who looks through the peep hole to see who is calling at the door. If it’s Dave, the neighbour lets him in. If it’s not Dave, the door remains shut,” explained Ana Dascalescu, a cyber-security enthusiast.
The financial sector is finding the technology to be its ‘best friend ever’ and customers are happy to embrace the changes coming providing they offer a quicker and securer way to bank.
Faced with document fraud and identity theft, with growing threats such as terrorism or cybercrime, and faced with the understandable changes in international regulations, new technological solutions are gradually being implemented.
One of these, biometrics, has quickly established itself as the most pertinent means of identifying and authenticating individuals in a reliable and fast way.
Today, more and more applications are making use of the technology. What in the past was reserved for sensitive applications, such as the security of military sites, is now developing rapidly into the public domain.
The platform, developed by Eazy Financial Services, is built on a powerful Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), one of the most reliable and trusted biometric engines which is deployed and implemented in many countries around the world for both civil and forensic applications.
The company says it adopts a rigorous ‘identification algorithm’ which has earned the highest honours by several standards organisations and authorities.
Eazy Financial Services’ CEO, Khaled Al Ahli, said: “Payments stand out as the single largest driver for the biometrics market. We are driving biometric verification in the region, which is the future of the financial industry.
“As a local Bahraini start-up, we are extremely proud to bring a regional first solution from Bahrain, in partnership with a renowned local bank. Going forward, biometrics for financial products and services are expected to represent one third of the total market for biometric solutions in 2020.”
However, the idea of biometrics is not new, it has been around for a few years. In the 14th Century, China practiced taking fingerprints of merchants and their children to separate them from all others.
The 21st Century Bahraini-created solution, its backers say, promises to provide consumers with a safer, more convenient and more secure way to bank and carry out financial transactions.
When implemented, Ithmaar Bank customers will no longer be required to use their bank cards at ATMs. Instead, they will be able to use their fingerprint along with their PIN to process financial transactions. This provides a simpler, more secure way to process financial transactions than ever before. In future, this may also include points of sale.
Tamkeen’s support for the FinTech industry comes as part of its efforts to support enterprises across various stages of development and making the private sector a key driver of economic growth.
“We believe Ithmaar Bank and Eazy are both well ahead of the curve, and this strategic initiative will result in a major positive change in the kingdom’s economy and capital market,” said Tamkeen chief executive Dr Ebrahim Janahi.
The EDB’s chief executive, Khalid Al Rumaihi also believes the development is ‘truly showcasing’ Bahrain as a hub for innovation, specifically in the financial services industry.
“This partnership comes in line with our strategy to encourage innovation that supports high value job creation in the kingdom,” he added. “Bahrain’s forward -thinking regulatory approach provides an attractive environment for FinTech – particularly in areas such as Islamic finance and payments. We look forward to welcoming more home-grown initiatives such as this.”
And, likewise, the CBB, is convinced the ‘very forward-looking partnership’ is proof that FinTech initiatives are delivering tangible, real-world results – ahead of similar initiatives across the region – while maintaining the overall safety and soundness of the financial system in Bahrain, said executive director, Khalid Hamad.
The Biometric Payment Network is set to start in phases for Ithmaar Bank customers early next year.
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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