March 12, 2015

Importance of Bank Verification Number

THE Bank Verification Number, BVN, is another important step the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is using to strengthen the security of banking transactions and to ensure that fraudulent transactions are minimised, if not totally eliminated. The campaign is on, but the public may not realise its importance until it closes in June 2015.

Yet as the public embraces the initiative with enthusiasm, it should be aware that some fraudsters are trying to undermine the exercise by providing seemingly easier registration options for bank account holders. They request these details online and threaten that the account would be closed if the owner does not provide them the details. Their target is the account holder’s money. The best way of enrolling remains direct communication with one’s bank.

BVN uses biometric technology to register customers in the financial system.   It records these physical features which are unique to individuals – fingerprints and the face. The record would be used to identify the person afterwards. Once a person’s biometrics have been recorded, and BVN issued the account would be accessed through BVN. The major objectives of the initiative are to protect bank customers, reduce fraud and strengthen the Nigerian banking system.

Biometric enrolment is helpful to people who cannot read and write. Their finger prints and pictures would serve the same purpose as signatures. Multiple account holders would be covered with a single registration in any of the banks where they have accounts.

BVN will help the banking system reduce situations where loan defaulters, for instance, move from one bank to the other and the banks extend new credits to them, without knowing their history.  Banks would be able to track transactions across all banks in Nigeria with more ease.

As CBN implements the BVN initiative, it has to ensure the security of the data, from rogue bankers and also importantly from damage, as has been the experience with other sectors that engaged in biometric enrolments. It should also create measures to punish banks that might exploit the information they have to blackmail customers with whom they have disagreements.

BVN is a great initiative that would reduce illegal banking transactions and improve national financial intelligence gathering. The interests of account holders should be accorded importance so that their increased confidence in the banking system would improve the financial standing of banks. Customers will use banks more when they know that their transactions are safe. BVN offers vast opportunities to protect customers, banks and the entire financial system.

The CBN should enhance the security of BVN to protect the entire financial system. It should be on the watch for technologies to keep improving BVN capacities.