Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank
Keep up with the digital identity landscape.
The digital identity industry has seen compounding growth in recent years. In the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses looked to solutions to facilitate more remote work, which in turn spurred the need for cybersecurity measures to protect data.
Years of the pandemic have accelerated digitization in how individuals interact with businesses, governments, and other individuals, and these changes are expected to be long lasting. Governments and institutions are now making more investments into digital identity initiatives, seeing the potential benefits it can bring about in digital transformation and inclusive growth.
To understand the impact of the industry in the future, we talked to three leaders in the space on the value of digital identity and their companies’ visions.
Aidan McCarty, co-founder and CEO of Unum ID, is tackling the challenge of reusable identity. Unum ID aims to streamline the process through the use of a reusable ID card and web wallet, which they filed a patent on.
“We bind digital data back to people as a digital ID card and make that shareable across organizations,” he says. The core focus for the network is in fintech onboarding, where extremely high friction and attrition in the account creation process is common.
“Something like 30 to 40 percent of people don’t finish the account creation process after they start it, so that’s an extremely high abandonment rate because of the high friction,” McCarty notes.
Unum ID has been backed by Tim Draper, Outliers, Samsung, Franklin Templeton, and more. They recently closed a strategic funding round at $2 million led by 1414 Ventures, a digital ID focused VC fund and Outliers Fund, a Web3-focused VC fund.
A key milestone in the future for Unum ID is the growth in distribution. “We draw a close analogy between the digital ID network that we’re building and credit cards that came out of the fifties in the US,” McCarty says. In the same way that credit cards got off the ground by distributing cards to people very quickly, McCarty emphasizes how Unum ID is working to scale the network up faster and further than other companies in the next year.
“There’s only so much growth [ID companies] can have in digital online verification that’s single use, and everyone else that they’re working with are starting to see that there’s a better way of doing it with age,” he says.
As standards in the identity space are slowly emerging. McCarty says services are seeing similar models to the adoption of credit cards decades ago.
“They’re getting comfortable with the technology that’s been accepted more widely. They see the writing on the wall of: they’ve gotta do something or they’re going to miss out.”
McCarty points out the $100 billion opportunity in digital identity. Big companies such as Mastercard, Microsoft, and Apple are trying to venture into the space, and similarly, banks have launched Authentify as the industry booms.
Unum ID has worked with crypto exchanges, mortgage decisioning companies, and insurtech companies on top of digital identity verification companies.
“We see this as one of the biggest opportunities in tech, both economically and socially. How we see the world today is relying on this piecemeal system of shared secrets: ‘What’s your password? What’s your home address? What’s your email? What’s your social security number?’ and so on. If you can answer these questions…you can get access to services,” McCarty says.
However, he sees this as a broken model. “We think it results in terrible user experience, terrible privacy and security, and frankly a lot of lost business opportunities for both users and companies.”
“By reinventing that framework, we can change the interaction cycle online so that instead of going to a site and it’s the big wall of forms and shared secrets, you simply tap a button to a biometric…way more private, more secure, more usable,” he says.
Unum ID is excited to transform the way that people interact with businesses online. While the company is focusing on fintech at the moment, McCarty believes reusable identity will move quickly into other verticals like e-commerce, healthtech, insurtech, and more.
“We see this again as really a sea change on the same level as something like a credit card where it’s transforming the way people do business all across the board.”
Chief Customer Officer of OneID, Keith Mabbitt has a career focused on leading initiatives to help individuals and companies improve through the use of information technology (IT), from hosting businesses in the cloud to transformation through the usage of more innovative digital identity technology.
As an example, Mabbitt discusses a process we’re all familiar with: logging in. When a user visits a new website, they often must go through an account creation process for access. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could use our digital identity to log on for us and know that we trust that identity?…It’s secure — it’s not going to be sold for profit, trigger advertising, or worse, for the dark web,” Mabbitt says.
A digital identity use case could be as simple as reducing the friction of logging on to different websites. Mabbitt highlights other instances where digital identity is critical, such as an important financial transaction or estate planning.
“We’ve all adopted the internet; it’s made our world so much easier, but it’s actually becoming a bit hard to control our identity online and who knows about us, so digital identity is a good solution to that [issue],” he remarks.
OneID, as evident by the company’s name, aims to enable the utility of individuals using one identification to log on and one identification to prove who they are, as well as interact with others who do the same.
“[Digital identity] has demonstrated to improve other challenges in the world, not just online harms and fraud, but financial inclusion as well,” Mabbitt says.
“If people have an identity, they can prove who they are, then they can take out financial products, then they can go and get a job, then it just helps enable so many other social benefits.”
On customer profiles for OneID, enterprises are the largest segment. Although digital identity virtually impacts everyone, Mabbitt notes that many people don’t understand the term. Often, customers look to OneID to solve a problem such as reducing fraud or easing the onboarding experience for their own customers.
“Part of our social purpose in OneID is helping small and medium enterprises,” Mabbitt notes. “Our product is equally accessible to those small businesses…who struggle to buy and pay for the big tech required to go through the due diligence to prove their customer base yet wants to protect their customers and themselves in fraud.”
Having worked with large businesses looking for global solutions, Mabbitt points out initiatives in governments surrounding digital identity. “The UK government at the moment is looking at…the breadth of identity and digital identity, and looking for one solution that may fit all kinds of use cases for identity,” he says.
George Amanatiadis, VP of Sales and Customer Success at Scrive, has over his career been studying flows for customer onboarding, including the finding of contracts and also user authentication. Scrive allows for more customers to authenticate in a variety of platforms — banks, to ecommerce platforms, healthcare providers, and insurance companies. As a Swedish company, Scrive has seen increased eID interest because of its widespread adoption in Nordic countries.
“For us, as part of digital transformation projects that we’re involved in, both digital signatures and eID are quite crucial components,” Amanatiadis says.
Looking forward, he’s most excited about the “willingness from governments and institutions in a variety of countries to centralize the way that they look at identity online.”
“For instance, there are initiatives with e-wallets in Europe, in Congress in the US, and in the APAC region as well, [looking] at ways to enable online infractions in a secure manner, which gains traction in state sponsored initiatives,” Amanatiadis says.
In Sweden, 98.9% of the population has adopted BankID, according to Amanatiadis. This digital identity solution allows individuals to access government e-services, access online banking services, sign documents, and make secure payments at e-commerce stores.
“It’s quite exciting because it’s unlocked a lot of possibilities that were not possible before,” Amanatiadis says.
Especially in the last few years, digital transformation has accelerated due to COVID changing the way companies conduct business. “Transformation projects were on the table for… at least 10 years, but we didn’t realize that there are situations where physical interaction or in-person visits will not be possible as it was with COVID,” Amanatiadis says.
“Customer expectations are now changing. COVID showed that this is something that can be done, so I think these changes are not only here to stay, but they also have been identified as an ongoing risk…the lack of such structures is an ongoing risk for organizations everywhere.”
In terms of the biggest challenges in the future of digital identity, Amanatiadis highlights complexities in regulation and adoption.
“When it comes to the challenges…with regulation and how we can make solutions meet, there are regulators that have the perspective of enabling people to interact with institutions as much as they can, and there are others that are taking a much more risk-based approach.”
Usually when an identity solution is launched for the first time, it is a challenge for the regulators in the aspect of securing personal data, especially if the launch occurred in a region without a previous similar solution.
The second challenge Amanatiadis emphasizes deals with adoption and “how easy the customer experiences [are] on these solutions so they gain enough traction” to be usable at scale.
One example of this is how Scrive created an eID hub based on popular banking solutions in the Nordic region.
Looking forward, Scrive’s biggest goals are to follow and impact digital transformation projects in big hubs. Amanatiadis will mainly be working with banks and financial institutions and “looking at improving customer experience across the board… to provide digital enabling and customer onboarding flows in as many channels [as Scrive has].”
When it comes to Scrive as an organization, Amanatiadis believes the identity solutions provider will represent both the Nordic region and Europe when innovation discussions enter a more global phase.
ABOUT IDENTITY REVIEW
Identity Review is a digital think tank dedicated to discussing issues in regards to the evolving data economy. We work with governments, financial institutions and technology leaders on advancing digital transformation, with a focus on privacy, identity, and security. Want to learn more about Identity Review’s work in digital transformation? Please message us at email@example.com. Find us on Twitter.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Katherine Zhang is a contributor to Identity Review from the University of California, Berkeley.
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