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Is biometric verification the payments industry’s next big move?

Historically, the South African payments industry has been one of the most innovate in the world. This trend can be seen as far back as the 80’s when the first debit orders were cleared through the Automated Clearing Bureau and in the 90’s when South Africa embraced internet banking as a secure service.

The South African payments industry has at times even outstripped the US when it comes to adopting change. The Saswitch system, a world-first, went live in the 80’s, enabling consumers to withdraw from any bank’s ATM. We’ve also been ahead of the USA in adopting chip and phasing out magstripe in the continued effort to fight fraud and offer secure services.


What secure service will the industry be offering next to keep ahead of the curve?

This does beg the question, what is the next big move for the South African payments industry?

In this digital age, consumers expect to connect with services and products every day, online and instantly. Traditional, physical ID processes are no longer adequate in this new era, causing friction and mistrust. Every year, South Africans need to prove or verify their ID hundreds of times to carry out everyday transactions. This is frustrating and time-consuming for consumers, also failing to resolve the growing incidence of fraud for businesses and government.

Market research by Mastercard shows that 65% of South Africans have an interest in using biometrics as opposed to traditional authentication methods, with seven out of 10 people preferring to use biometric verification to access their account.

In addition, South Africa is currently moving to a Smart ID system that captures biometrics. However, according to report released in 2019, there has not been enough cooperation between the Department of Home Affairs and the private sector to optimally use this database for digital authentication.

The South African market is growing frustrated with manual verification and is ready to adopt innovative technology. These all point towards biometric verification being the next big secure service.

How can biometric verification serve the payments community?

Secure Citizen acts as a digital commissioner of oaths for identities. Our digital identity solution enables you to biometrically verify the identity of business owners or directors, cutting out the admin and delays associated with account creation. This secure service allows Payment Service Providers the ability to onboard verified merchants faster and more seamlessly, with less risk.

We work in partnership with the Department of Home Affairs and the South African Fraud Prevention Services to instantly and digitally verify that an individual is who they claim to be and that they are the business owners and directors listed on the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) certificate. We validate the information against the legitimate profile on record with the Department of Home Affairs. If there is no discrepancy, the process will be sped along and friction for both you and your merchant will have been avoided. Where discrepancies are present, you will have potentially saved yourself and the fraud victim against fraud.

Our facial biometrics technology is so advanced that identities can be verified regardless of aging, facial hair, varying hairstyles, and other factors. 

The process:

  1. Customer signs up
  2. CIPC Check
  3. Biometrically checks the identity of directors or owners
  4. FICA’s directors or owners
  5. Ta Da! Verified status is sent to merchant in seconds!


Secure Citizen allows citizens to claim their digital identity once, and easily and securely authenticate themselves millions of times thereafter. Citizens can view their details, as captured at the Department of Home Affairs, as well as apply for protective registration.


What about the fraud factor?

South Africa ranks sixth in the world in terms of nations most threatened by cybercrime. Research shows that the average data breach in the country costs R36.5 million.

Financial institutions are massive targets for cybercriminals because of the information that they hold. In fact, the card industry is one of the hardest hit by fraud. It has also undergone the most change when we consider secure services. If Payments Service Providers are to avoid a similar fate, they must lean into technology, in the same way fraudsters do, to counter-act fraud.


Does biometric verification mitigate fraud?

There is no fool proof secure service that will entirely eradicate impersonation fraud. However, intelligent technology like Secure Citizen’s biometric verification solutions go a long way towards closing the gap that fraudsters take advantage of. This is our best defense against fraud – creating a friction full environment for fraudsters.

In the world of online shopping, for example, adding friction for the customer is a no-go. Secure Citizen’s biometric verification can actually reduce friction for shoppers by prepopulating their personal information by linking to their verified account (this also helps avoid drop-off). However, this increases friction for the fraudster.

Another application is pay with face. The likes of Apple Pay and Samsung Pay have already begun adopting pay with face technology. This is not yet universal but has been able to increase payment ceilings because there is so much trust in the facial recognition software. In other words, Apple is so confident that consumers are who they say they are, that instead if the standard R500 tap and pay ceiling, Apple Pay offers a payment ceiling of R300 000.

Secure citizen is the only company in South Africa that has made it possible to pay with your face when you use your revolving credit through JD Group. This a prime example of a secure service pushing the payments industry forward towards a more secure, frictionless future.


How can Payment Service Providers take advantage of secure services?

Payment Service Providers can create efficiency, inspire trust and onboard merchants faster and more securely than ever before with Secure Citizen.

Make the next big move.

The South African market is calling for a frictionless, secure service to move the payments industry forward. All the while, fraudsters are taking advantage of the gap.

Secure Citizen believes in creating and maintaining a fraud-free digital environment for businesses and individuals. Our biometric verification services rose to the challenge, partnered with the Department of Home Affairs and the South African Fraud Prevention Services, and brings a secure, frictionless service to the table. We believe, it is the next big move.


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Picture of Dalene Deale

Dalene Deale

Dalene Deale brings extensive experience in the financial sector, having held a variety of roles in business analysis, process engineering, corporate acquisition and fintech management. Using her passion, knowledge and expertise, Dalene previously oversaw TransUnion’s FinTech strategy, assisting them throughout their various stages of growth. Now, as the Executive head at Secure Citizen, her passion and driving force is to “empower every African with a secure, digital identity.”

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