A Man Walks into a Bank with a Severed Arm

He thinks he has a plan, but it’s just dead weight.

“What if someone chops off my hand and steals all my money?”

Since we began researching and testing biometric identification at ATB (and we’ve been doing it for quite a while), this is something we’ve heard a lot more than we expected. It’s why one of our main focal points has always and will always be customer education and support.

We’ve already rolled out touch ID login on all of our apps, and we use retinal ID to serve the Boyle Street community in Edmonton, many of whom are homeless and can’t get a bank account without traditional ID (more on this in September!). Now, we’re looking to take things much further. Voice and facial recognition across multiple channels are the next stops on our road map. We’re envisioning a future where our call centre instantly connects you to your account info upon hearing you say “hello” and enabling you to do your banking through your smart home or car. Paying bills while driving to work: talk about taking care of business.


What we’re currently grappling with are the challenges of voice and facial recognition. Unlike your thumbprint or retinas, there’s a lot that can interfere with voice recognition (street noise, laryngitis, etc.), and your face shape and appearance could change drastically from year to year depending on how life is treating you.

Our greatest barrier, however, is the imagination, and not technology. The fears surrounding biometrics have been interesting, to say the least. Many fear having their faces and fingerprints stolen—by way of a sharp cleaver to the wrist. What they don’t realize is that we’re not storing a photo gallery of facial scans and thumbprints. In fact, there are no images at all—just digital translations of your face, voice, and fingerprints on a database. Long story short, it’d be much easier for someone to save your profile photo and throw it into Face Swap than hack our system. While possible, it would require next level skills and resources.

As strong as biometrics are, two-factor authentication would always be in play: your device and a biometric token. Never either or. And despite increased security, there’s no increased friction. You don’t leave your house without your phone. You don’t leave your house without your fingerprints. You do the math.


Beyond transporting you into your favourite sci-fi film, biometrics could continue to make significant social strides, especially when it comes to the underbanked: those who may not have the standard tools or resources required for traditional banking (things like ID or a stable mailing address). As we’re learning through our work with Boyle Street, using biometric identification to help individuals secure their funds despite not having access to other basic services is potentially a game changer.

It’s not about technology for technology’s sake. It’s about mapping the right tools to the right application to solve the right problems to make banking—and life—better.

Interested in joining our ATB transformation team? Check out our open opportunities here.

We are ATB transformation - innovating at the forefront
of robotics, AI, blockchain and the future.