Opening an account 100% online thanks to biometrics

For the first time in France, a bank offers its customers the possibility of opening an account entirely online, with no mandatory transfer, using biometric facial recognition with a dynamic selfie in order to verify the identity of the future customer. Societe Generale aims to achieve 30% of new accounts opened online by 2020 (compared with 10% at present).

In a world that is constantly being transformed by new technological boundaries and consumer habits, Societe Generale is giving a further boost to its determination to become the number 1 bank in terms of customer satisfaction. A bank committed to providing high value-added services, offering phygital (physical and digital) interfaces.

78% of French people consider that banks have managed to successfully blend these two forms of contact... according to the results of a survey carried out by Ipsos / Societe Generale: Banks and their customers… ready for a “100% digital world”? Significantly, banking is the only sector for which French people wish to preserve both the human and digital channels.

Setting a new benchmark

In this context, Societe Generale is launching a new service that is radically changing the way we open accounts online. This innovative service makes use of new technologies to ensure compliance with one of the rules of the Monetary and Financial Code, which imposes an extremely high level of vigilance in this area. To cite just one example, an initial transfer of funds from an account held in the person’s own name with another bank is usually required, in order to overcome the problem of verifying the customer’s identity as per standard banking regulations. Yet this can be an obstacle for customers looking to open their first bank account: i.e. half of all people who use the service offered by Societe Generale’s website.

The new option now enables us to authenticate the future customer’s identity in real time, bypassing the need for an initial transfer. The method combines state-of-the-art technology for verifying the prospect’s identity (facial biometrics) and a solid relational approach (a video discussion with a Societe Generale advisor). Biometric recognition is used with the customer’s full knowledge and consent (prior agreement is required).

Opening an account 100% online

Open an account in just a few minutes

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 the required 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 the 2 documents previously uploaded as proof of identity.

4. Customers then talk to a Societe Generale advisor via the online video call feature, either straight away or after scheduling a time of their choice (the facial recognition method is applied a second time during this video discussion).

5. The contract is signed remotely using an E-signature and new customers have an active account and access to the national ID number for their account within 24 hours.

A co-constructed offer based on simplicity and high security

To build this offer, the bank pursued a pioneering co-construction approach bringing together customers, regulatory bodies (CNIL and ACPR) and IDEMIA, the global leader in augmented identity whose facial recognition algorithms are renowned worldwide.

In order to verify a person’s identity based on a dynamic selfie, a facial recognition algorithm compares the photo provided on the proof of identity with the various photos (side view, facing the camera, eyes open or closed) taken during the dynamic selfie. The authentication process using facial biometrics is ten times more reliable than any human attempt to verify identity. The method - carried out in real time - results in an identification reliability score. The same biometric process is repeated during the online discussion between the new customer and their advisor. No biometric data is retained, since Societe Generale only keeps the results of the checks conducted each time biometric recognition is applied.

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.

Facial biometrics is considered to be a useful innovation by half of all French people (51%), more useful even than contactless payments with a mobile phone (46%) and voice control (44%) according to the Ipsos/Societe Generale survey "Banks and their customers… ready for a “100% digital world?”.

“We are constantly adapting our services to match new customer habits and expectations. I am fully convinced that we are currently setting a new benchmark for the opening of accounts online. This truly is a pivotal moment, both for customers and the bank. The new service offers customers a simpler, more secure banking experience without compromising the relational aspect. It underlines our ability to offer useful, innovative services in a spirit of co-construction with the undisputed major stakeholders in the sector,” explained Laurent Goutard, Head of Societe Generale Retail Banking in France.

The bank aims to achieve 30% of new accounts opened online by 2020 (compared with 10% at present).

The service will be available on iOS and Android Smartphones.


Published on 15/02/2018