Al Hilal Bank seeks to ensure customers never forget their identification documents ever again by introducing thumbprint recognition in all of its branches.
A forgotten password not an obstacle at this Abu Dhabi bank
Al Hilal Bank is hoping customers will give a thumbs up to a biometric identification system that is intended to cut down on paperwork at branches and process greater numbers of customers more quickly.
The bank has launched a system across its branches in the UAE that uses thumb scanners to identify customers for teller transactions. It means customers will be able to use bank services even if they have forgotten their identification documents.
The procedure, which stores customers' information in a central database, is also expected to limit the need for photocopied documents, the bank said.
The bank, which is expanding its network this year, was seeking to distinguish its customer service at its branches, said Mohamed Berro, the chief executive of Al Hilal Bank.
"The thumb verification technology is inspired by Al Hilal Bank's vision to constantly redefine the standards of Islamic banking and to introduce state-of-the art technologies that simplify the banking processes for customers," he said.
The system is not mandatory for all customers.
Al Hilal Bank, a Sharia-compliant lender based in the capital, is fully owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council.
The UAE has already tried fingerprint verification for its banks, without much success. Barclays Bank introduced fingerprint recognition for some of its cash machines in 2007, although the innovation failed to catch the public's imagination.
Banks may gain some slight advantages over their rivals through use of biometric identification by branding themselves as more modern, but it was fast becoming old technology, said Umer Rabbani, the retail banking sales manager for the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan at SunGard, an IT provider to the financial services sector.
"It's a great way to become more electronic, but the infrastructure has to be there," he said.
The cost and difficulty of securely storing biometric data on customers was one of the biggest concerns, he added.
Poorly maintained thumbprint scanners could also present a barrier to transactions when the scanners became dirty.
In 2009, Bank of America created controversy after it was learnt that staff at one of its Florida branches had barred a man with no arms from cashing a cheque because he could not provide a thumbprint, CNN reported.