Trade-Off Gets Tougher Between Security, Convenience

by Edward O'Brien 0

An old dilemma is growing more vexing as cybercriminals get better at impersonating customers to loot their accounts and as regulators increasingly push banks to adopt multifactor authentication.

The stronger security features designed to keep fraudsters out — passcode key fobs, for instance, and so-called challenge questions (What was the name of your best friend in elementary school?) — can also block legitimate customers from accessing their own accounts. Many banks’ mobile apps’ listings in the app stores are littered with complaints from customers who had trouble logging in to their accounts. The same is true for desktop banking.

“What customers get frustrated with is if we lock them out of their online banking because they’re using their cousin’s computer on Christmas break, so they’ve logged in from a different state, on a different computer with a different IP address, and they can’t remember what city their parents met in,” said Dominic Venturo, chief innovation officer at U.S. Bank. “All they were trying to do was transfer money so they could cover some yearend expense. They get pretty crabby about that.”

Insisting that customers provide a passcode from a multifactor token they may have lost, accidentally run through the washing machine or simply left at home won’t go over well.

The challenge of toughening security without irritating customers is part of broader cultural changes in our society.

Trying to balance robust security with banking customer convenience can be difficult, but a well-thought-out education and communications strategy coupled with crisp execution can go a long way in ensuring a safe and efficient user experience. But transaction safety and ease-of-use don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. As banks and credit unions begin to introduce highly secure options such as biometrics, and banking customers begin to see the importance of such security measures as multifactor authentication and tokenization, both security and the overall customer experience should improve.

Overview by Ed O’Brien, Director, Banking Channels Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group

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