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The Globe and Mail

Tangerine brings biometric tools to its mobile banking

A Tangerine bank branch is pictured in downtown Vancouver on June 11, 2014.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

To stand out from rival Canadian lenders, Tangerine is stepping up its mobile banking app, adding biometric tools such as voice recognition and fingerprint scanning.

The move comes as Canadians embrace mobile technologies, prompting the country's banks to spend heavily to keep up with change. And in some cases, such as with Tangerine, which was formerly known as ING Bank Canada, the lenders are embracing these technologies in hopes of getting a leg up on their competitors.

Because so many Canadians now own smartphones, most Canadian lenders have developed mobile apps that let clients conduct their banking in the same way they would online. Tangerine has plans to take this technology one step further, adding biometric software that will let clients talk to their app and ask questions such as, "How much did I spent at the restaurant last week?"

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Fingerprint technology will also be added to serve as an extra security measure when logging in – a service that Tangerine clients will soon be able to use on Apple and Android devices.

The goal, according to Charaka Kithulegoda, Tangerine's chief information officer, is to be "more than a financial utility," meaning the bank seeks to make life easier for its clients. Tangerine has long operated with this mindset, offering online banking services as far back as the late 90s, and this trend has become all the rage in Silicon Valley, with companies seeking to 'delight' consumers – something banks are now adopting.

However, the Canadian lenders that are leading this charge in the mobile market have also learned that it is easy to race out of the gates with new products only to find that they are too far ahead of their customers.

Tangerine is well aware of this conundrum. At an event to announce the new technologies, chief executive officer Peter Aceto said the bank worked on rolling out a biometric mouse that clients could use to conduct their online banking a decade ago, but management quickly realized it was too futuristic.

And even if the latest tools are embraced, Mr. Aceto acknowledged there is much more change to come in the mobile market, so the banks can't afford to relax. "We have so much more work to do," he said.

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