Will The 2020s Be The Digital Trust Decade?

With summer upon us, it might have escaped notice that the decade of the 2010s is about to end. We don’t mean to get nostalgic or weepy-eyed (not just yet), but it’s worth noting that the past 10 years or so have brought significant, even historic, innovation and disruption to the world of payments — trends that promise to build and converge in the 2020s.

That’s not all.

The last decade has seen an increase in what might be called matters of trust. The role of trust in the digital economy has become more visible and important, and it’s pretty much a given that few online or mobile-focused companies will scale and succeed without winning the trust of consumers and other participants in their specific ecosystems. That holds true for a variety of areas in commerce and payments, including the gig economy, the sharing economy and mobile financial services.

The Role Of Trust

In a new PYMNTS discussion, Karen Webster and Debbie Gamble, chief officer of innovation labs and new ventures at Interac, spoke about what trust really means to digital commerce and payments as 2019 tilts toward 2020, and how online and mobile players can make sure they are on the right path. Not only are the financial and reputational losses from data breaches and hacks at stake, but the growth of new businesses and their hopes for global expansion.


To understand the importance of trust, Gamble discussed how interconnected devices will outnumber human beings by about four to one in 2020. “Businesses are becoming more, and digitally, connected,” she said, and that makes trust more than just table stakes — that makes trust as vital to business and the digital economy as blood is to human life. “Trust needs to be embedded into those interactions, setting the stage for authentic engagements.”

That notion of “authentic engagement” came up more than once during the PYMNTS discussion between Gamble and Webster. It matters in our world going forward because, as she told it, so many consumers, businesses, payment services providers and others “are not necessarily speaking to each other, or seeing each other,” even when vital transactions and financial onboarding tasks are being performed.

According to Gamble’s view, authentic engagement stands as a “pillar” of trust. “When creating these great experiences and engagements, you have to anchor them in things [that] are irrefutable,” she said. That means one must have data about a consumer that can verified, authenticated and trusted — generally, via government-issued ID documents, or perhaps even biometrics. Information that is, as she noted, “something that we know to be true.”

Other pillars of Gamble’s trust framework for the digital work in 2019 and beyond are inclusivity and relevance. “You are either solving an existing problem or creating a fabulous experience,” she explained. Data, of course, plays a big role in all this. “The data element becomes even more important as everything becomes connected to everything else.”

Trust Details

The devil is always in the details, but when it comes to trust, the trick is to get everyone to agree on those details. For instance, what credential can provide a foundation upon which ID verification and authentication can be built — and in a way that provides relatively friction-free commerce and payments? How does one solve for that problem, as Webster asked? To put it more simply, does that imply the introduction of some form of universal ID, or does that mean better back-end technical work?

“I don’t think one size fits all,” Gamble responded.

However, she noted, to make sure trust holds its own in the coming decade, there is a need for “collaboration between the private and public sectors.” That certainly makes sense, given that the public sector already stores so many ID data elements — which are, in most instances, trusted more than other such ID data points.

Furthermore, Gamble added, “you can leverage some of the digital applications” and processes already in use, and perhaps craft a workable and trustworthy combination. She pointed to Canada, and the use of banking logins as one example of that. “You can combine [that] with government-issued credentials, and add tech on top of that, like a cryptogram,” she explained.

That said, the future will likely bring standardization when it comes to trust — “standardization on multiple levels to help stitch these ideas together.” No doubt this will all play out in the new decade as Open Banking and APIs gain steam, and spark more payments innovation, “putting customers right in the middle of this stuff,” giving them more ways to control their data and building their own trust experiences.

The future is now. Sure, that’s a cliché, but it’s true. Thinking about trust now, and figuring out how to build it, will certainly pay dividends in the 2020s.