Why the number not the user name?

User name and password. Ever since setting up my first hotmail account, since buying my first book on amazon these are the two unique peices of information that securely identify me. It’s a pattern I’m used to. Sometimes the username I want will be taken, but I’ll find another one. I remember my user names. Passwords are a little harder, I seem to be forever changing them, but at least with a user name I can usually click on a link to get a password reset emailed to me.

So why do the banks do the whole identifcation thing differently? The majority of banks don’t allow you to have a user name that you define. They allocate you a “customer number” or a “membership ID” or some other randomly generated number that you are almost certainly not going to remember. You are going to write it down. So this number can’t be more secure than a user name. And it is not as if you don’t already have a plethora of numbers with the banks; card number, account number, sort code. Couldn’t they use these numbers as identifiers? With HSBC you can generate your “IB” number from these information, but it is a more lengthy procedure. First Direct have an on-line support ID and an on-line access ID (whatever they are!?)

Security is paramount with on-line banking; as banks renew their security infrastructure they should review the customer experience; how security manifests itself to the end user and how easy it is to use, as well as ensuring it offers the highest level of protection to themselves and their customers.

bank sign on

1 Comment

  1. Dustin · Friday, 5 January, 2007

    In most cases what you are trying to gain by all this is proof of identity. Check out some of the talks at sxip.com. He addresses this stuff. Microsoft is talking a lot about their InfoCard initiative (or whatever they’re calling it now). There are much more interesting ways to prove identity than a number or a username.

    Also, not all banks use a number to identify you and your account. My bank uses the number on my bank card.

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