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Colombian bank launches biometric ATM

A bank exec says the fingerprint-reading machines offer customers an "an easier and safer way" of handling money.

Bank customers in Colombia now have the option of using their fingerprints to withdraw cash from ATMs.

Colombia's Bancafe Bank has partnered with technology company NCR to upgrade its ATMs and allow its 2.5 million customers the option of accessing their accounts and withdrawing money using just their fingerprints and PIN numbers.

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According to NCR, around 50 percent of Bancafe Bank's customers have signed up to use the machines, and the bank expects that figure to grow as it upgrades its entire network of ATMs.

Mark Grossi, NCR's chief technology officer, said that biometric technology is now reliable and cheap enough to be used in a banking environment.

"The technology has now matured to a stage where it is sufficiently robust and affordable to meet the needs of specific markets," Grossi said. "In the case of Bancafe, fingerprint scanning has enabled the bank to expand their customer base by offering customers the option of cardless transactions."

Nelson Sanchez, commercial director at Bancafe, said the fingerprint technology has attracted new customers to the bank--many of whom were previously reluctant to open accounts.

"Biometric-enabled ATMs have allowed us to target completely new market segments and provide groups such as pensioners and coffee growers with an easier and safer way of handling their money," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said the bank initially tested the technology on 170 ATMs. The technology is now live on three-quarters of the bank's 486 machines.

NCR said that there are currently no firm plans to deploy the technology outside of Colombia.

Munir Kotadia of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.