Moments after she answers a call, Amy Ingrim can often tell by an urgent tone of voice if the caller — sometimes a soldier, sailor, aviator, or U.S. Marine deployed somewhere around the world — is in harm’s way.
Whether they are in Baghdad, the South China Sea, or some other faraway location, military customers still need to conduct their banking and take care of business at home, said Ingrim, a Wells Fargo phone banker in San Antonio. Now, many are finding it easier than ever to bank from afar using Voice Verification, a technology available to Wells Fargo customers that allows them to use their voices as their passwords.
“They usually don’t have much time to talk or go through a lot of steps to verify their identity,” said Ingrim, who works in the Military Banking Contact Center. “With Voice Verification, they can be authenticated right away, without answering any other questions. Our goal is to make their banking easy and let them get back to their mission as quickly as possible.”
Since introducing the service last fall, Wells Fargo has enrolled more than 52,000 customers, including 2,000 members of the military, according to data from its Virtual Channels business. The company’s user surveys indicate that the strong majority of customers find Voice Verification easier to use than previous authentication methods and are “extremely satisfied” with the service.
With its simplicity and security, Voice Verification is especially useful for military customers as they deal with the stress of being deployed or stationed far from home, said Tandra White, head of the Military Banking Contact Center team. Earlier this year, the center began to proactively encourage its customers to sign up for the service.
“When they are training or on a mission, they need to move fast and don’t always have their account number handy or don’t want to give it out because they are surrounded by other troops,” she said. “Voice Verification really helps in those situations. As soon as they use their voice as their password, they’re ready to go.”
Giving customers a ‘greater peace of mind’
Voice Verification is easy for customers to use, but the technology behind the service is far from simple, said Adam Vancini, head of authentication for Wells Fargo Virtual Channels. The software-driven system is able to detect and recognize the unique audio characteristics of a customer’s voice, making it difficult and unlikely that someone could fake a voice to access another customer’s account, he said.
“For customers who want a simple and safe way to protect their accounts, Voice Verification is an innovative, biometric technology that lets them use their unique voice as their password,” Vancini said. “We are using this innovation as a way to make our customers’ lives simpler while also advancing our security to help protect customer information, and give them greater peace of mind.”
Voice biometrics — once viewed in banking circles as edgy or exotic — has reached the financial services mainstream in recent years, according to Opus Research, a consulting and research firm that specializes in biometrics. In a 2016 survey, the firm found 137 million people globally use voice biometrics for various personal business services, including banking.
Wells Fargo has become well known as a leader among the global financial institutions embracing voice biometrics, said Ravin Sanjith, a voice biometrics analyst and program director for Intelligent Authentication at Opus Research.
“Whenever I present to industry groups on this subject, Wells Fargo always comes up as being quite current with voice biometrics technology,” he said. “There’s clearly been a lot of effort put into its innovating and marketing. And anyone who has an interest in what is really happening in bank innovation definitely has Wells Fargo on their radar.”