Carey O’Connor Kolaja, Chief Executive Officer at AU10TIX shares her views on the biggest fintech trends that came out of this year’s global pandemic while talking about a few best practices that can help consumers and businesses protect their online identities in a time of increased digital crimes:
Can you tell us a little about yourself Carey and your journey so far, take us through a typical day at work at AU10TIX…
For 25 years, I’ve worked at the intersection of payments, identity and adaptive technologies to create a more inclusive and secure world. At PayPal and Citi, I was responsible for the global product vision in service to hundreds of millions of consumers around the world. I led international teams charged with designing, deploying and operating global product and commercial strategies for consumer products to effectively serve the local needs and interests of customers in the 200+ markets they serve. My roles allowed me to be at the epicenter of the collision between finance and technology, during a time of great growth and change.
Now, I am excited to step into the AU10TIX CEO role during a time in which our world is more digitally dependent than ever before and how we validate who we are, what we are entitled to, and what we can access has never been more important. Identity is core to everything we do; it is the key that unlocks access and opportunities for individuals and businesses.
As far as a typical day is concerned, I try to not have them! If you’re talking about the same tasks and problems day after day, then as a leader you aren’t making progress, uncovering new opportunities, building the business, or staying relevant for your customers. At AU10TIX, one day I am learning Hebrew and how to honor Rosh Hashanah and the next appearing on Cheddar’s Fast Forward to breakdown the identity challenge for businesses. It’s an incredible spectrum of local and global experiences, despite not being able to travel this year, that ladder up to a worldview around the dynamic challenge of protecting human identities and critical need to enable global businesses to provide safer services to further an inclusive and secure world.
How has the team at AU10TIX maneuvered through the new normal these last months?
As a company specialized in automation, machine learning and computer vision technology, the last few months have mostly been business as usual for AU10TIX. Yes, our workforce routines have had to change—not going into the office, not traveling to meet clients or speak at conferences, needing to respond to our employees’ health and safety needs—but our fully autonomous products are built for reliability and resiliency and have experienced no interruptions. We’ve sustained our existing customers and helped transform operations for new customers during this year’s mass digital migration that has impacted how we shop, work, attend classes, and even see our doctors. General identity data theft has also exploded, and we cannot afford to make assumptions about the safety of our personal online data.
We’ve been focused on how to utilize technology to ensure a more seamless and inclusive way of verification as identity’s role in society evolves. For instance, we recently partnered with Uber to launch new safety measures for cash-paying riders through the use of official identification such as their voting credentials, national ID, passport or driver’s license for verification. In the cryptocurrency space, we’re seeing all-time highs for traffic and demand, making customer onboarding at scale while also safe critical. In fact, safety is a theme across all our customers right now, from sharing economy to content and fintech, with physical-digital security becoming more connected as the virtual and real-world experiences blur. We’re equally proud and humbled to be growing during this unprecedented time.
What are some of the biggest trends you are seeing impacting the fintech market as a result of the pandemic?
The pandemic has accelerated four trends that have been emerging in the fintech sector over the last decade.
1.Embedded Payments: In May of 2017, I spoke to a small audience about the next pivot in payments: invisible, embedded payments in which a customer would not see the purchase, feel the monetary transfer or even swipe the card. I predicted an evolution beyond digital versions of traditional financial products to a phase when payments, loans and insurance became integrated into existing technology products and life experiences so that the money movement could happen autonomously, as an intelligent task without one’s conscious involvement. Prior to the pandemic, we already were seeing this play out. Voice-driven virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, powered by artificial-intelligence technology, were rapidly gaining popularity by making it simpler for people to interact with their money without touching a screen, a card, or cash. This year’s health and safety emergencies have only solidified this trend—developing and delivering fintech to serve a cashless and contactless society.
2.Open Banking: According to Consultancy.org, the market size of the global platform economy surpassed $7 trillion dollars in 2018 (as pegged to the value of 242 platform companies KMPG analyzed). Consumer habits and preferences across the top platforms like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon are defining the pace and shape and technological innovation. In this Platform Economy, one in which tools and frameworks are based upon the power of data, algorithms and digital interactivity to enhance the economic and social lives of our customers and businesses, you can see the future of the financial sector. Open banking—multi-threaded partnerships or “mashups” across brands, experiences, technology and financial institutions—is on the verge. Our digitally dependent world is pushing providers of traditional and fintech financial services to create a set of standards to seamlessly embed money in day-to-day activities, unexpected and connected places, so our buying power moves fluidly from one platform to the next without delay.
3.Convergence of Payments and Identity: A financial transaction starts and stops with a person at either endpoint and Amazon’s recent news of “Hand-Waving-Payments” provides no better proof point of how fintech and identity have been and will continue to be intrinsically interwoven. This sector trend started nearly six years ago with the launch Apple Pay, which was quickly followed by similar products from Google and Samsung. These innovations required new layers of verification, like biometrics, to safely enable new payment processes. Prior to COVID-19, there were issuers exploring demand for “One Card,” a card that could simultaneously pay and ID. In the post COVID world, we are seeing a movement towards biometric verification, digital driver’s licenses, virtual payments, and zero-knowledge proof tokens that allow consumers to gain access to goods, services, places, and spaces based on who they are and what they can afford without sharing PII data. The threat is no longer the stereotypical lone hacker. Rather, identity fraud is a global, organized and interconnected adversary. Cybercriminals now have everything they need to create complete, convincing identities that bypass existing fraud detection solutions, so the fintech industry must continue to strengthen the bind between payments and identity in new ways.
4.Brand Trust = Identity Data Privacy: Fighting fraud in the global digital economy has become more complex and more central to enabling a thriving ecosystem since the pandemic. There are people making more frequent use of the internet or in some cases going online for the first time to live their lives this year, which has opened fintech up to exceptional rates of cybercrime. The Economistnotes COVID-19 has led to a 75% increase in daily digital crime, while the FBI reports a 300% increase. The impact on customer growth is significant: “A recent study found that almost half of all U.S. consumers have abandoned an online account opening process in the past year because they thought it was too difficult or untrustworthy — an increase from the 37 percent of consumers who said the same the previous year. Two-thirds of respondents also felt that companies did not adequately protect their personal information.” So, in this cyberwar, brand trust is and will be increasingly synonymous with the perceived protection of identity data privacy. What fintech brands do with consumer information, how they use and protect it, is becoming the foundation for customer affinity(AU10TIX ).
There’ve been a significant rise in digital crimes and identity issues during this time, how are you seeing digital crimes intensify now and what are your biggest tips to share?
Global digital crimes, which traditionally have been financial in nature, are expanding to misuse of technology, unapproved access to goods and services, the manipulation of information and false claims of accreditations.
For example, with the significant rise of unemployment claims this year, flawed fraud protection systems have denied unemployment to millions of people with valid claims to jobless benefits while fraudulent claims were left unnoticed. The Department of Labor’s Inspector General estimated that scammers could have stolen $26 billion in fraudulent coronavirus pandemic unemployment claims.
For businesses, there is a need for real time identity verification now more than ever. Technology needs to be adaptive enough to seamlessly verify information about a person based on the context of the transaction and the level of risk. It is a balance of compliance, risk, experience, and desired growth(AU10TIX ).
For consumers, it is important to play an active role in protecting your identity and becoming identity literate. There is a wealth of resources available online, such as this FTC website, which lists how to protect your identity and discover identity fraud.
What are some of the biggest vulnerabilities you feel financial institutions and banks need to prepare better with better technologies?
Synthetic identity fraud is not only one of the biggest vulnerabilities, it is the fastest-growing financial crime, according to the Federal Reserve. This is in part because it’s one of the hardest types of fraud to detect.
85%-95% of synthetic fraud goes undetected by regular fraud models as these actors behave, act and look like regular customers. And the costs to businesses are significant: Aite Group estimates synthetic fraud-related losses up to $1.2 billion by the end of 2020, while others predict losses as high as $8 billion.
Financial institutions and banks need to look to adaptive analytics and data to detect identity risk based on historical behaviors to better prepare for these vulnerabilities.
Can you share a few thoughts on the evolution of global fintech and the parallel need for better security tools and your thoughts on how you see these segments complement each other and shape up?
According to the Business Research Company, global fintech is expected to grow to $309.98 billion at an annual growth rate of 24.8% through 2022. This growth has also created an industry that is uniquely vulnerable to security breaches. Why? With every new personal device that is linked to digital monetary actions, a new pathway is opened for cybercriminals; and, while our fraud-fighting algorithms get more sophisticated every day, fraudsters are using the same technology to create fraud that we’re using to fight it.
So, we must keep evolving how we ensure immediate, reliable access to money of all kinds in today’s remote world. I believe collaboration is key in doing this well. Identity verification is not a siloed task, linked to one company, one department, one moment in time. It’s a continuous, cross-functional, multi-sector imperative that is best solved through diverse perspectives and expertise with a particular focus on technology and security. Together, companies like AU10TIX and leading fintech brands can fight fraud while promoting privacy and commerce through best-in-class experiences that move money according to modern consumer demands.
Before we wrap up, a few parting tips for global fintech leaders?
The acceleration to a cashless global society is a catalyst for traditional financial institutions, healthcare providers, and other legacy systems to adopt remote customer due diligence and identity verification(AU10TIX ).
As leaders with the ability to impact infrastructure, we have to embrace and adapt to this ever-changing industry landscape. Along with that, we need to make it personal by taking a step back and thinking about the industry on a human level. Remember, fintech touches every facet of our lives, what we can access, afford, achieve as a globally connected ecosystem, and we as technology leaders should be presenting innovative solutions with that in mind.
Have a willingness to be imperfect, vulnerable and authentic, which means you must be willing to make mistakes, own them and, more importantly, share them. The cycle of what matters today versus in the future is growing shorter each year. For leaders, that means being able to move quickly through mistakes, which are inevitable when you take risks and act fearlessly for the greater good.
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