Thibault De Barsy: can we say goodbye to the PIN?

Thibault De Barsy, Vice Chairman & General Manager of The Payments Association EU, talks about how biometric authentication can help accelerate payments

FinTech Magazine gets the words of Thibault De Barsy, speaking on LN24, about the future growth of biometric authentication and how it will accelerate the payments industry while adding social value. As far as De Barsy thinks, it may soon be time to say goodbye to the PIN…

Paying with a bank card or smartphone simply by using your physical characteristics, such as your fingerprint or face, will soon be possible. Please could you explain how this would be achieved with biometrics?

TDB: To simply open your smartphone, you put your fingerprint and it recognises your physical characteristics. So, everyone who uses Apple Pay will know the system well. You register your card on your iPhone and then your face will authorise the transaction. The long-term goal would be to completely dematerialise payments. We would no longer need anything, neither cards, nor codes, nor smartphones. The difficulty would be simply to register a biometric profile that will then be recognised and will authorise transactions.

So in the long term, will we only pay with biometrics?

TDB: I think it will be extremely interesting and helpful for particular audiences; for example, the elderly, people with disabilities, people with mobility problems. Unlike simple swipe cards and PIN codes, your fingerprint can’t be dropped in the canteen, or shared with a colleague, making them a valuable tool for physical security. Obviously, the goal of the payment industry is mainly to make it easier to authorise transactions and to let consumers choose the method that suits them the best.

Does the public seem to adhere to the idea or are we a bit reluctant?

TDB: There have been surveys conducted by Mastercard, among others, and the majority of people prefer to have a solution where they can avoid using a PIN code. Some people would also argue that it would be a reason to switch banks if one bank offered a biometric solution versus another.

Are there any concrete examples? Is it slowly materialising today?

TDB: It’s mainly materialising through what we call the biometric payment card. So, you still have a card, but the identification is done with your fingerprint on the card. This has already been launched in France by BNP Paribas and in Poland by Pocztowy Bank.

So how do you integrate your fingerprint into your bank card?

TDB: You either go to your bank or at home you receive a small card reader where you scan your finger once and for all.

Like you do with your smartphone?

TDB: Exactly, I asked this to the experts of a company called IDEX Biometrics where they explained that your fingerprint stays on the card so it can’t be hacked, and it won’t be stored elsewhere.

But this is still a hybrid solution, a world where you can pay without a card at a retailer?

TDB: So, if you go to São Paulo in Brazil, there is what is called a ‘Biometric Checkout Program’ which was launched by Mastercard. The programme offers consumers the option to register your profile via a selfie and then when you pay at your merchant, the merchant’s device will scan your face and the payment is immediately authorised.

But, unfortunately, at the European level, we are not the pioneers?

TDB: No, so actually at the European level there is a certain willingness to say that this is a valid technology but as always in Europe, we try to weigh the pros and cons because the protection of the consumer is very important. Consumer data is clearly transforming business, and companies are responsible for managing the data they collect. Protecting the interests of the consumer and their privacy is pivotal to building trust and developing lasting relationships. Today, the different regulators have still not agreed yet on unified standards but we’re making progress.

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