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South Africa’s Biometric Power

Embracing biometric identification is crucial to a business’s success.

Biometric identification is nothing new. It has literally become a fabric of our everyday routine, with most of us having things like fingerprint recognition readily accessible on our mobile phone to stop others from accessing our device.

In the corporate world though, biometric identification plays a much more important role in fighting crime and saving businesses millions of lost Rands each year.

“Our technology advanced world gives criminals a sophisticated means to commit fraud. Biometrics is the golden source for identification – an undeniable way of verifying that the person is who they say they are,” says Shanaaz Trethewey, chief operations officer at Comcorp, a software innovator and specialist in authentication technology solutions.

South African businesses of all sizes and in all sectors but especially in the financial sector must already ensure they meet strict identification checks and regulations set out in The Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) and Know Your Customer (KYC), which are designed to verify a customer’s identity and identify risk factors.

However, these anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism legislations are set to be adapted in February 2023, placing greater pressure on businesses that were previously not listed as accountable institutions to increase regulatory vigilance and implement stricter consumer due diligence.

The Benefit of Biometrics

The truth is that there are several plusses for any company who implements biometric identification. “The phrase ‘time is money’ is very relevant here. Biometric identification provides a quick and efficient solution to combat possible fraud and thus helps reduce downstream costs of a business,” says Trethewey.

These digital processes are also very relevant and appealing to the new generation of consumers and businesses outside of the traditional financial service sector. These generations are accustomed to the latest technology, and do not see the need for manual processes. They instead appreciate the levels of vigilance, protection, and compliance in the financial sector and are keen to extend this to all spheres of everyday life – from elevating their ability to secure communal premises to even helping courier services deliver parcels to the correct recipient.

“It is all about ensuring that the right technology is used at the right time to make customers transact with ease. Right now, the biggest challenge for businesses is to educate those consumers who value manual processes in the benefits of biometric technology. These consumers need to feel like businesses are working with as opposed to against them, in implementing processes that protect their identity and prevent them becoming a victim of crime. Anything that creates a high barrier to entry for fraud to take place is a positive step not just for a business but for a consumer too,” says Trethewey.

As a reputable software innovator with over 25 years of financial industry expertise, Comcorp is determined to change this, and possess world class technology. Their Liveness checking technology is advancing facial recognition beyond static biometrics, which still plays a vital role in authentication and identification.

Whilst criminal activity will always seek to find ways to overcome the ID check or “fake” features, Liveness checking technology pushes the barrier to entry that much higher.

Likeness checks prompt a person to move in a certain way. The images are then captured during this movement process and because it requires active engagement and the following of instructions, the process proves that the person is alive and the intended recipient.

Overcoming the challenges

The biggest challenge with implementing any kind of new technology is consent. A great deal of concern revolves around where and how data from this technology will be stored and for what purpose it will be used.

Surprisingly, the concerns don’t always come from the legal sector, but from ordinary consumers who are afraid of mismanagement, mishandling and misuse. Very specific laws which are in place to protect consumer rights like The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) for example should be a welcome comfort.

Another challenge is getting businesses to understand the cost they risk from not implementing these cutting-edge technologies. As Trethewey explains, the cost factor is determined by how long a company is willing to wait until implementing such a change, and what they will lose until then.  In some cases, the cost of a lack of FIC compliance can result in a fine of up to R1 million and suspension of the business, also non-compliant parties can face jail time of up to ten years.

“The good news is that most companies already have platforms that make a roll out easy. After approvals and process discussions have been administered, and all stakeholders are aligned and trained, these integration projects can be turned around quickly and seamlessly by a company like Comcorp. The main challenge still remains; to take the first step. The recent FIC revisions will hopefully create a greater need and desire for change,” she concludes.

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Comcorp is a reputable software innovator with 26 years financial industry expertise. The company creates a solid digital foundation for companies, through software that securely integrates directly with the source of information they need to do business. Their solutions include automated access and verification of financial information, payslips and KYC documentations to onboard customers, verifying of digital identities to combat fraud, and streamlining mortgage applications. Their tried-and-tested solutions help banks and financial services companies, retail credit providers, education institutions, courier companies and more and they are continually innovating to bring more solutions to market.

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