HSBC corporate clients in 24 markets offered use of facial recognition technology

Largest lender in Europe and Hong Kong to push facial recognition while Citi focuses on voice, as major players embrace latest fintech

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 7:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 7:31pm

HSBC is to introduce facial recognition technology for its corporate clients in 24 markets worldwide, including Hong Kong and mainland China, instead of them having to use passwords to log onto their mobile accounts.

The bank said the latest move will improve efficiency as well as add further security against fraud.

The largest lender in Europe and Hong Kong, HSBC said on Friday that corporate customers can use the new technology on mobiles, using its HSBCnet mobile app, claiming it will speed up log in times to less than a second. 

Facial recognition technology works by analysing over 30,000 reference points on a person’s face to create what’s called a “depth map” of their features.

HSBC’s new system connects securely to the bank’s “mobile application programming interface” (API) – software which authenticates the user – which claims less than a one-in-a-million chance of mistaken identity. 

Diane Reyes, global head of liquidity and cash management of HSBC, said its customers are benefiting from using the convenience of HSBCnet, and now they can enjoy the added security of the introduction of facial ID technology.

HSBCnet use has grown 60 per cent in the last year alone, she said, with up to US$1 billion worth of business carried out and authorised using the app.

“We know our customers will appreciate the additional security and ease that our new ‘Face ID’ system allows,” she added.

The introduction of facial recognition for corporate account holders is HSBC’s latest move to use biometric authentication – essentially, security processes that rely on the unique biological characteristics of an individual to verify who they are – to identify customers, other that by finger print, voice or photography.

Bringing Face ID to corporate clients in 24 markets is considered the largest roll-out of facial recognition by any major global bank, however.

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US giant Citi has until now preferred to focus on the use of voice recognition systems other than facial ones, and it launched that service for its mainland Chinese customers on Monday, after allowing Hong Kong customers to use it for the past two years.

Citi now claims to have 4.48 million customers across Asia-Pacific using their voices to identify themselves, with 30 per cent of its Hong Kong customers adopting the technology.

Hang Seng Bank and Citi Hong Kong have also been using certain facial recognition technologies, for users of Apple’s iPhone X model, to log onto their mobile banking platforms, since December.

The city’s other traditional lenders, however, have been slower to embrace such financial technology (fintech), and employ the services of the fintech specialist companies that have been moving in numbers into Hong Kong in recent years.

We know our customers will appreciate the additional security and ease that our new ‘Face ID’ system allows
Diane Reyes, global head of liquidity and cash management of HSBC

Ping An Insurance (Group), the mainland’s second-largest insurer by premium income, has been using facial and voice recognition systems to combat fraud for a number of years, claiming its systems enjoy a 99.7-99.8 per cent success rate, according to its deputy group chief executive Jessica Tan Sin-yin.

Online money lender WeLab has been using facial recognition technology in Hong Kong and mainland China since 2016, and claims to have attracted more than 5 million individuals’ ID, according to Simon Loong Pui-chi, its founder and chief executive.

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But Hong Kong certainly lags the mainland when it comes to adopting facial recognition, where biometric authentication applications have become commonplace across many sectors – ranging from aircraft boarding passes to accessing offices and museums – rather than relying on databases of digital images to identify individuals.

The global facial recognition market is forecast to be worth US$6.5 billion by 2021, up from US$2.3 billion in 2016, according to estimates from research company Technavio.