Bob Steen, chief executive of Bridge Community Bank, takes security seriously — so seriously that his bank will be the first in the nation to implement a biometric security process for consumers created by digital identity firm TASCET. The free and optional program will be offered to customers “in a few weeks,” Steen said.
The TASCET system, known as ICONN, creates a unique “signature” for a customer using fingerprints (TASCET calls them “fingerproofs”) facial recognition, and biographical information. Customers receive a unique 16-digit number that can be used instead of account numbers for financial transactions.
Bridge Community Bank has $75 million of assets. Bridge’s main location is in Mount Vernon, Iowa. The bank operates at two other locations in the Midwest.
It was Bridge’s venture into mobile in May 2012 that led Steen to adopt these security measures. The bank was an early adopter of person-to-person electronic payments. “Many bankers don’t put a proper value on payments revenue,” he said. “The community bank’s role has to be connected to a payments solution.” As online and then mobile adoption grew, customers needed passwords for their banking. Steen said, “They’re tired of passwords and they may not be adequately protected.”
The decision was not related to particular security fears, according to Steen, but rather a forward-looking wariness regarding security challenges on the horizon. “Most of our customers have never had a problem, but for those that have, it’s a life-changing experience,” he said.
The Biometrics Research Group projected that biometric technology has the potential to cut financial institutions’ operational risks by 20% over the next 10 years.
The TASCET ID can also serve to ease risk on transactions between banks. “We can’t just be a conduit for other services like PayPal,” Steen said. He described a P2P payment with a customer at another bank. “Everyone has to trust us. We can’t just have half the solution. We need to clear these transactions quickly between banks, which can mean translating between two vendors.”
If both banks honor the same ID system, however, the trust and security of interbank transactions will be greatly increased.
Regulators are expected to look kindly on this process, Steen said. “They appreciate any effort to lower risk for the customer.”
And how will customers respond?
“We think we serve a critical role in the community, supporting schools, community development, and business development,” he said. “We sit next to our customers in church and our grandkids go to school with theirs. There is a difference — it’s not just looking at a credit score on a screen somewhere. We were very early in check imaging and other payment solutions. Our customers trust us.”