8 November 2011
South African banks Absa and FNB have introduced biometric identification and verification system at their branches as part of an industry-wide initiative that will allow the country’s banks to conduct online fingerprint verification of its clients.
The South African Banking Risk Identification Centre (Sabric) and the Department of Home Affairs entered into a co-operation agreement in 2007 to jointly address bank-related identity fraud.
In terms of the initiative, the department will allow banks access to the Home Affairs National Identification System (Hanis) to enable the biometric identification of current and prospective clients.
“Absa is the first bank to go live with the DHA interface,” said Absa executive Alfred Ramosedi in a statement this week. “Primarily, this service enables Absa to verify and authenticate client identity, thus limiting identity fraud.
He added that during the pilot at seven Absa branches, seven fraudulent cases whereby applicants tried to utilise the identities of deceased persons to open accounts, were detected.
“With the rise in identity theft it is crucial that we adopt measures that not only protect us as a Bank but also protect our customers,” said FNB Smart Solutions CEO Line Wiid. “Biometrics verification is one way to build trust with our customers.”
The system is currently live in 160 of FNB’s branches, of which 137 are FNB EasyPlan branches – the bank’s low-cost banking model. In future, all EasyPlan branches will have biometric identification and verification capability.
In addition to fraud prevention, the Hanis pilot also indicates many other positive trends. “The programme would also enable the bank to reduce paper consumption as all customer documentation would be electronically stored,” said Ramosedi.
Wiid said that the system was not used as a credit scoring tool for customers, but to verify that the person was in fact who they claimed to be.
“Combating identify theft is everyone’s responsibility,” she said. “Businesses and corporates need to play a role and support [the] government’s initiatives in fighting crime.”
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