Call it the curse of innovation, perhaps. It’s that tendency (seen often in payments and commerce) to always think years, or a decade or two, ahead. The future is always coming — the present is just a bridge. Such a mindset certainly pays handsome dividends, but there are significant blind spots.
That’s what one might think about when listening to a new PYMNTS interview, as Trulioo CEO Stephen Ufford described to Karen Webster his company’s new “strategic partnership” with Refinitiv, a global giant when it comes to financial market data and infrastructure — an effort announced today (June 4).
Trulioo said it is teaming with Refinitiv — operator of the World-Check Risk Intelligence database — to promote global financial inclusion and fight fraud. The goal is to provide expanding digital identification capabilities to encourage more seamless financial services onboarding and Know Your Customer (KYC) tasks for people and small businesses that might otherwise go without. The technology helps to ensure compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and other compliance regulations, and Refinitiv is among the biggest players in this space.
According to Ufford, the new service via this strategic partnership will run through Trulioo’s GlobalGateway data and security service — making this, as Webster pointed out, something akin to a David-and-Goliath story, given Refinitiv’s scale and reputation. The deeper value of all this, he said, is that the partnership seeks to address a significant current issue in digital payments and commerce, instead of focusing on a problem that is coming years from now.
There is no shortage of “enterprises trying to solve for 2030,” Ufford said. “They keep solving for 10 years out, but people are suffering drastically now.”
To illustrate that point, he used an example of a woman in Uganda who sells scarves — a small business in a part of the world that is still catching up to digital payments, and where ongoing innovative efforts don’t always have prime importance. With better digital ID verification and KYC processes, that merchant “can pull out her phone, [and] open a bank account with a big brand or someone else,” he said. “She can be treated equally.”
In other words, the technology can tell financial institutions (FIs) that this particular merchant is trustworthy, and not some criminal bent on fraud who is trying to slip through the cracks. That access to financial and banking services, he added, results in her gaining more trust from her customers, both real and potential.
That’s the promise, largely because the Goliath in this story (Refinitiv) operates a product (World-Check) that is used by some 10,000 FIs around the world, according to Ufford. “It’s the gold standard,” he said. “Everyone trusts the brand.”
In addition, Trulioo’s GlobalGateway enables verification checks on some 5 billion consumers around the world. Those details, of course, speak to an even larger story going on here: not only the increasing importance of digital ID verification in the global digital economy, but the role of FIs in that trend.
Banks And Digital ID
“Banks are on the forefront of digital identity, whether they like it or not,” Ufford told Webster. Not to mention, because of the participation of FIs in these ongoing and ever-more-sophisticated digital ID pushes (banks and credit unions being among the most trusted businesses that consumers deal with, and having one of the most significant impacts on consumers’ lives), it is all but certain that digital ID deployments and use will be fueled even further by FIs. “We are at a moment in time when every bank, big and small, wants to have a digital ID solution in place to onboard their customers,” he said.
Of course, big challenges remain for the growth of digital ID technology and processes. Chief among them is the lack of standardization that would enable businesses to build on top of that widely accepted foundation. “The interoperability issue is just making it worse,” Ufford said. “There is no gold standard for anything,” though World-Check comes closer than anything else.
The new Trulioo-Refinitiv offering takes immediate effect, he said, though existing customers are likely to be sent a new URL to access the program. “The hope is that, with this combined capability, more financial institutions throughout the world will be more comfortable providing service to those who’ve been excluded from the financial system, without fear of introducing bad actors,” Ufford said.