Citi is going to start using voice patterns to authenticate customers over the phone in Asia

Can you authenticate me now?
Can you authenticate me now?
Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Passwords are quickly becoming a thing of the past. And to paraphrase Martha Stewart, that’s a good thing. Passwords are easy to guess (though somehow never when you’re fumbling around trying to remember your own) and easy to hack, making them terrible for security.

Biometric security promises to be much more effective. Millions of smartphone users have become familiar with using their fingerprints to confirm who they are, instead of a password. Just like fingerprints, everyone has unique vocal patterns, which makes it possible for companies to confirm you are who you say you are just by listening for patterns in your voice.

Citibank announced yesterday (May 18) that its added voice biometrics for customers who bank by phone in Taiwan, with support in Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore coming in the next few weeks. Throughout 2016 and 2017, Citi plans on bringing voice biometrics to its entire Asia Pacific region, where it has 15 million consumer banking customers—3 million of whom are expected to use the new voice-biometric authentication system within the next three years.

To opt in, customers can record their voices, which will create a ”voice print” that the bank will then store. The next time they call Citi to check on their account or ask questions, the system will authenticate them by matching their voice to the voice print in Citi’s database.

In addition to offering the promise of extra security, voice biometrics can be a time saver. According to Citi, it takes 15 seconds or less to authenticate customers using voice biometrics. Verifying a customer’s details using more traditional methods typically takes around 45 seconds, Citi says.

Citi isn’t the only bank exploring voice biometrics. Bank of America has applied for a patent on a system for utilizing voice biometrics.