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Banks use emerging technologies to modernize operations

By Jiang Xueqing | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-07 11:30
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Commercial banks in China have stepped up their efforts to deliver better services and improve their business operations with the help of financial technologies. [Photo/IC]

Commercial banks in China have stepped up their efforts to deliver better services and improve their business operations with the help of financial technologies, repositioning themselves as technology-driven financial service providers.

Real-life applications of technologies are becoming increasingly visible among financial institutions.

Earlier this year, Citibank (China) announced the launch of voice biometric authentication. The verification technology uses customers' voiceprints, which are as unique as fingerprints, to identify them.

The technology speeds up verification processes when customers make a call to a Citi service hotline officer. Customers will no longer have to remember complicated passwords or answer multiple personal questions on each routine call, and as a result will enjoy enhanced security and a more convenient authentication experience.

Customers have been able to call Citiphone, Citi's service hotline, to enroll for voice biometrics authentication since May 7. With the customer's agreement, a recording is made of their voice while speaking with a Citiphone officer. When the customer calls next time, the bank's system automatically checks and compares the caller against the stored voiceprint. The verification is automatically completed within 15 seconds, shortened significantly from the current 45 seconds it takes to complete the traditional authentication method.

Bank of China, the country's fourth-largest State-owned commercial lender by assets, is exploring smarter ways to allocate financial resources and control risks more effectively by using artificial intelligence and big data.

The bank introduced a real-time risk monitoring and control system to a new version of its mobile app in February. Through its partnership with Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings, the bank developed a risk analysis model based on the data it collects from clients, using technology provided by Tencent Cloud.

On Feb 1, the system issued fraud risk alerts on 5,408 transactions, flagging 0.11 percent of the 5.05 million transactions cleared on BOC's online and mobile banking platforms that day.

Aside from enhancing risk management, the bank also allows its clients to open a mobile banking account on the new app and link a debit card to the account through facial recognition software.

"Mobile banking has become a major battlefield that each bank is entering with massive force, and is also a key arena for the application of new technologies," said Yan Dawei, deputy general manager of BOC's e-finance department.

Positioning itself as a fintech bank, China Merchants Bank will increase its investment in technology to deepen its transition toward asset-light operations, said Chen Kunde, chief information officer of the bank.

Shenzhen-headquartered China Merchants Bank, one of the largest national joint-stock commercial lenders by assets, has set up a fund of about 2.2 billion yuan ($317 million), or 1 percent of its net operating income in 2017, to encourage fintech innovation associated with the banking business.

The bank spent the majority of the funds on projects to increase the number of monthly active users on the bank's mobile applications, and also on exploring technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence in various business areas, Chen said at a news conference on May 24.

"Financial technology is at the core of our work right now ... We are trying hard to learn from fintech companies in terms of infrastructure construction, the integration of information technology and the banking business, the establishment of a mechanism for innovation, and the restructuring of human resources to hire more talented personnel specializing in digital and information technologies," he said.

China Merchants Bank will expand its reach beyond financial services through the integration of such services with a growing number of real-life applications, in order to catch up with tech giants' investment in research and development focused on customer interaction, customer behavior and internet technologies, he said.

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