Biometrics: The Pinnacle of Payment Innovation Shows Promise for the Future

By Steve Pedersen, Head of North American Corporate Card Products, BMO Financial Group

Steve Pedersen, Head of North American Corporate Card Products, BMO Financial Group

How many times have you attempted to log into an account – whether a credit card account, email server, social media platform or online subscription – and gotten nowhere because you forgot your password? It wouldn’t be surprising if your answer is high. It happens to all of us, and comes with an annoyance level that parallels misplacing your glasses, keys or wallet. Passwords are easy to forget, especially given almost everything we do online these days requires a unique key, with each platform requesting its own set of frustratingly specific criteria and character limits.

Passwords are complicated because fraudsters are increasingly becoming more skilled at cracking the codes. Five years ago, using your dog’s name or your birth date as a key might have protected you from payment fraud, but now, someone trying to access your information is much more likely to uncover these basic facts about you online. By requiring a unique string of letters, numbers and symbols, the possible combinations for hackers to guess are endless, making it harder (but not impossible) for them to obtain access to an account – and highly unlikely for you to remember your own code.

Thankfully, technological innovation has brought us a solution to this problem when it comes to corporate card payments: biometric authentication. Biometrics has become one of the most noteworthy developments in corporate cards, setting a foundation for future payment innovation and offering a whole new level of peace of mind for business professionals. Facial recognition, iris scanning and fingerprint identification are progressively eliminating the need for manual password entry and making identity verification much easier, safer and more convenient than pure password use.

"With fingerprint readers becoming as common as smartphones, biometrics bring to payments a level of innovation we’ve seen in the movies"

Over the past few years, biometric technology has become much more common. We can now use our fingerprint to verify entry into our smartphones or facial recognition to board a plane, depending on which airline you fly. The way we authenticate ourselves in our personal lives is beginning to trickle into the business world, offering that same level of security coupled with convenience and usability for commercial payments.

Three in One: Security, Convenience and Cool Factor

Innovation, by design, opens companies up to new frontiers, which often comes with vulnerabilities. For payments, cutting-edge technology and processes mean new security concerns. As digital transformation brings sweeping organizational changes and new methods for online transactions, CIOs are increasingly focused on ensuring security and mitigating the risk of fraud.

Biometrics makes authentication easier than password entry and strengthens the security of the entire payments ecosystem, which means business professionals don’t need to sacrifice convenience or the cool factor that comes with using James Bond-like eye scans and fingerprint matching for security and data protection. Biometric technology ensures the integrity of the entire authentication process, from capture to matching. While our faces are public, and fingerprints are left on every surface we touch, biometrics is only one part of a layered security system that corporate card issuers use to protect cardholders from identity theft. If a fraudster has your biometric data alone, it is not enough to access your credit card account, and with encrypted biometric signatures, it’s very unlikely that stolen metrics can be used to gain control of your payment security.

With low adoption barriers and greater security, fraud protection and convenience to cardholders, it’s no wonder biometrics is expected to kick-start a new phase of growth in the payments industry. The new technology establishes best practices for secure transaction processing in corporate environments and continually minimizes customer service requests, like when you submit a ticket to your card issuer to reset your password or ask for login help. Biometric authentication will soon become more widely available to businesses, allowing users to feel protected when making payments that don’t include a face-to-face interaction, and reducing the chance of a card being used by anyone who is not the cardholder.

Laying the Groundwork for Payment Innovation

While biometric technology isn’t new, it shows tremendous promise for the future of payments. Bringing the already popular and accepted elements of consumer pay to the corporate card industry is the next step in customer convenience and security. We’re already seeing rapid adoption of biometric identification at airports, and this progress will accelerate across many other industries. With fingerprint readers becoming as common as smartphones, biometrics bring to payments a level of innovation we’ve seen in the movies, and it will be very interesting and rewarding to watch how it will continue to develop.

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