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One of the World’s Biggest Banks Is Swapping PINs for Selfies

Comcast Corporation And USA Network Ring The Nasdaq Opening BellComcast Corporation And USA Network Ring The Nasdaq Opening Bell
Actor Gabriel Macht takes a selfie after ringing the Nasdaq opening bell.Brent N. Clarke Film Magic

The world’s 6th largest bank by assets is making use of selfies in a bid to increase both security and convenience.

HSBC (HSBC), with roughly $2.4 trillion in assets as of December, is allowing U.K. businesses to open new accounts using front-facing cameras and facial recognition technology, the U.K.-based bank released in a statement Monday.

The “selfie” will be matched with a photo from a passport or driving license.

“We also expect the convenience and speed of a selfie to become the verification method of choice for our customers who no longer need to visit a branch to complete the process,” said HSBC’s global propositions head, Richard Davies in a statement released Monday. The bank has roughly 45 million retail customers, and is already using voice and fingerprint recognition software.

HSBC’s decision to introduce facial recognition is part of an industry-wide push to incorporate new technologies into the banking process, as banks try to match rapidly evolving consumer preferences while cutting costs. Not only are banks investing more funds in mobile banking, financial giants are also testing and applying biometrics such as facial recognition, fingerprint scans, and retina scans, as a replacement for the more cumbersome process of using pins and passwords when it comes to account verification.

Citigroup told Fortune back in June that it plans to role out an upgrade to its mobile offering in the fourth quarter that will include facial recognition. Wells Fargo (WFC) introduced a new security feature back in May allowing some customers to login using eye scans, while Bank of America has taken advantage of the ubiquity of fingerprint scans on smartphones, and installed Touch ID sign-in.


On the flip side, the rise of digital banking solutions has also resulted in cuts in physical branches and layoffs. Banks, suffering from weak revenue, have sought to lower expenses while investing more funds in digital and services that can’t be handled by computers.

HSBC has closed some 2,100 U.S. and U.K. locations over the past decade, while Bank of America has closed nearly 1,200 branches since the end of 2010—transferring those funds saved into hiring expert salespeople such as mortgage loan officers and small business bankers.