Working with UK fintech HooYu, the bank has made it possible for new customers to open a current account using a selfie as proof of their identity


Selfies can be used as proof of ID to open a BBVA current account

NatWest bank accounts can now be opened directly from a customer’s smartphone simply by taking a selfie.

The digital self-portrait is analysed using biometric facial recognition technology – supplied by UK fintech HooYu – to verify the identity of the person attempting to open a new account.

The lender claims to be the first UK high street bank to allow customers to open an account in this way.

NatWest chief digital officer Frans Woelders said: “We know customers want to be able to open accounts at a time and a place that suits them and not have to worry about sending precious ID documents in the post, or taking time out of their day to go to a branch.

“That’s why we’re making it easier, safer and faster to open accounts, allowing customers to get on with the things that matter.”


Selfie bank account opening can also reduce cases of fraud

Prospective new customers are also required to upload images of personal identification documents – such as a passport – which are checked against the selfie using artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

This can be done in real-time, meaning a person could theoretically open a new current account in a matter of minutes, if all the correct documentation is at hand and the checks are verified.

selfie bank
NatWest partnered with HooYu to introduce the technology

NatWest says it will accept international identification documents in the process to allow people of all nationalities to open a current account, provided they are a UK resident.

As well as making it easier for new customers to sign up by removing the paperwork long-associated with the process, Natwest claims the service will reduce fraudulent activity.

A pilot scheme of the technology involving more than 60,000 customers is said to have produced positive results in terms of fraud prevention.


UK fintech HooYu provides the selfie technology to open NatWest bank accounts

NatWest partnered with UK fintech HooYu to provide the identity verification technology, which combines ID document validation, digital footprint analysis, geo-location and facial biometrics with traditional database checks in its customer on-boarding platform.

HooYu marketing director David Pope said: “In today’s digital age, customers expect to be able to do everything on-demand, they don’t want to have to go into a branch or wait for a day or two for account opening to be completed.

“Our work with NatWest balances the twin demands of compliance and convenience.

“Our unique identity platform that combines many forms of identity verification technology is designed not only to bring extra security into the account opening process but also to make customer on-boarding simpler and quicker.”


Selfie technology could create ‘phenomenally smooth’ experience for bank customers

For Sean Durkin, head of enterprise in the UK & Ireland for Canadian software firm OpenText, the move by NatWest provides “clear proof” that technologies like AI are gaining momentum in society.

He said: “Today’s digital generation is used to streamlined, instant services.

“For businesses in any sector, getting the brand experience right is key to forging a loyal relationship. The secret to creating a special customer journey lies in analysing data to really understand what will improve the customer experience.

“Brands are increasingly recognising that consumers have a preference for fast and flexible services and that AI could provide a way to meet these expectations.

“Natwest’s new process has the potential to offer a phenomenally smooth customer experience for those looking to open a new bank account – going one step further than some of the more ‘gimmicky’ customer experience concepts which don’t necessarily add real value.”