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Fingerprint Banking: Will convenience overcome security skeptics?

"Fingerprint banking", or the ability to conduct financial transactions from your phone with your fingerprint, without the need for a username and password, has quickly become a mainstream feature in banking apps around the globe.  But will this new feature convince mobile holdouts - those customers that don't trust mobile banking - to cross over?  Or will it further scare them away?

Security has always been a major obstacle for the adoption of mobile banking.  In a detailed report by the Federal Reserve in March, 2015, 62% of the users polled cited security as one of the reasons why they do not use mobile banking.

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I have been a huge fan of native banking apps since they first appeared about eight years ago. In those early days of mobile banking, a username and password made perfect sense: it was both familiar to users, and it gave them the confidence (at least some of them) that their mobile banking experience was as secure as their desktop experience.

But usernames and passwords on a phone have always been a terrible user experience.  First, think of the mobile moment: you are on the move, and can't remember either your username, or your password.  At home you would just look it up.  Don't we all write down passwords somewhere?  How many times, still today, are you unable to use a mobile app because you can't remember your credentials. And then there is the difficulty of typing in your username and password.  All those characters, and uppercase and special character requirements, all on that tiny little keyboard. 

Will those 62% now use mobile banking?

On the one hand, the creepiness factor of using your fingerprint is lessened by the widespread adoption of the technique.  When Apple introduced Touch ID, suddenly it became cool.  Even Disney World now takes your fingerprint as you enter their parks:

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But for mobile banking holdouts, being "cool" may not be enough.  "Now they have my fingerprint..."

The Fed report also asked users why they were concerned about security.  Looking at the responses, a fingerprint replacing a username and password will not likely change their minds.  "Someone using my phone without permission to access my account" would be the reason most closely associated with fingerprint login, yet only 4% chose that response.

The top response in this question was "All of the stated reasons", ultimately showing that there are some serious naysayers among those holdouts.

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What more can banks do?

Without question, banks must continue to work at convincing their "un-mobilized" customers to come aboard, and these efforts should focus on security.  Just like the early days of mobile banking, they must give users the confidence that their mobile banking experience is as secure as their desktop experience. 

For Akamai's part, we have over 100 banks worldwide using our security solutions: Kona Site Defender to protect their applications, Prolexic Routed to protect their datacenters, or Fast DNS to protect their DNS services.  These solutions protect both web sites and mobile applications, helping ensure that mobile banking is as secure as desktop banking.

Rich Bolstridge is Chief Strategist, Financial Services at Akamai Technologies

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