Open a bank account online thanks to biometrics

For the first time in France, Societe Generale is giving its customers the chance to open an account online using biometric facial identification and a dynamic selfie. Ever committed to providing its customers with a first-class service, the bank is deploying this technology to simplify the banking process and reinforce personal data protection and confidentiality.

In today’s world, transformed by new technological boundaries and consumer habits, Societe Generale stakes claim to its ambition to be the benchmark bank in terms of customer satisfaction: a bank focused on high added-value services and equipped with phygital (physical and digital) interfaces. In this context, it is developing a pioneering service to allow its customers to open an account online, quickly and securely, using biometric recognition. 

Societe Generale is the first bank in France to obtain agreement from the CNIL to deploy this disruptive biometric facial recognition technology in the commercial arena. Societe Generale aims to achieve 30% of new accounts opened online by 2020 (compared with 10% at present).

Biometrics and personal data confidentiality

For Societe Generale, all technological innovations in the banking sector must have a corresponding arsenal of cybersecurity measures, and nothing goes ahead until that arsenal is 100% operational. Because of its universal, unforgeable nature, biometric recognition has emerged as the answer to the question of how to reinforce the security of bank accounts and combat fraud, without compromising the data protection rules imposed by the CNIL. Only the customers themselves keep a copy of the data analysed: it is encrypted and illegible during the verification process and automatically deleted from the servers as soon as authentication is complete.

Biometrics, the science of identity applied to banking

Biometrics, which literally means “body measurements and calculations”, is a science devoted to analysis of the physical (fingerprints, DNA, vein system, face shape, etc.) and behavioural (voice recognition, dynamic signatures, body language, etc.) characteristics unique to each person.  It makes it possible to identify and authenticate a person using recognisable, verifiable data, which is unique to that person and cannot be duplicated. 

Until now, in order to identify new customers in compliance with the rules applicable to banks, the only option was to ask customers to transfer an initial sum of money from an existing account held in their own name with another bank: a requirement that constitutes an obstacle for people opening their first bank account. Biometric identification means new customers are no longer subject to this condition. Thanks to a facial recognition algorithm, new customers are formally identified by comparing their proof of identity with dynamic selfies taken when they open the account. The authentication process using facial biometrics is ten times more reliable than any human attempt to verify identity. Biometric identification, combined with proof of identity and an online exchange between the customer and the bank, means that new customers are identified in a simple, secure and reliable way: no biometric data is retained. Only the results of the checks performed are stored by Societe Generale.

With this easy-to-use service, Societe Generale offers its customers more choice and freedom as well as peace of mind: a high level of cybersecurity means their personal data is protected and their identity cannot be usurped.

What do customers want? More online services along with increased human contact

Societe Generale and Ipsos joined forces to conduct a survey on the various channels used by French people when contacting businesses and public institutions.  The results revealed that French people (78%) are aware of and welcome the efforts made by banks to provide more online services. Banks are judged to perform better than other service industry stakeholders, particularly as regards their ability to balance human contact and online presence, given that customers’ needs vary depending on the type of transaction in question (degree of sensitivity, whether the transaction is complex or involves commitment). 

Opening an account online: do you have 10 minutes to spare?

Future customers download the Societe Generale app. They click “Become a customer” and allow themselves to be guided through the various stages:

1. They enter their personal information before selecting their preferred offer and branch.

2. They send their proof of identity (photos/electronic files) and take a dynamic selfie (several different views).

3. An initial biometric recognition system is applied, and the result is compared with one of the 2 documents provided as proof of identity.

4. Discussion with a Societe Generale advisor via the online video call feature, either straight away or by appointment (the facial recognition method will be applied a second time).

5. The contract is signed online via an electronic signature:  new customers now have an account and can consult their bank details (account no., etc.) within 24 hours.


Opening an account 100% online