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Global Fintech Interview with Donnie Gates, SVP, Business Development at First Orion

GlobalFintechSeries Interview with Donnie Gates, SVP, Business Development at First Orion

A strong identity verification system can help banks connect with customers more efficiently, Donnie Gates, SVP, Business Development at First Orion chats about the importance of identity verification in today’s finance and banking market with us:


Tell us a little about yourself Donnie, we’d love to hear about your journey through the years in tech. How has your time at First Orion been?

I’ve worked with companies in financial services for the past 25 years. In my early jobs, I was responsible for identifying customers and doing customer recognition in consulting. From there I moved into fraud and identity verification. At First Orion, I am able to apply my experience from both those areas in my work with large enterprises, to increase customer satisfaction and retention.

As Vice President of Business Development, I service the strategic and enterprise accounts at First Orion. This includes those that subscribe to our call control, blocking, transparency, and management solutions which tell mobile subscribers who is calling and why before they ever answer the phone. It’s rewarding to see the difference transparency can make for customers when they are able to identify themselves over the phone and get their calls answered.

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I’m particularly proud of the fact that my career at First Orion has allowed me to play a role in ending fraudulent phone calls, which is a multibillion-dollar industry. It is the most rewarding part of my job and not something I take lightly. I’ve spent my career trying to put an end to fraud and the work we do at First Orion makes a significant impact.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the evolution of identity verification (and its growing importance) today?

First Orion initially set out to identify, tag, and stop spam calls. There’s an obvious need for this among almost everybody with a cell phone — most of us receive spam calls several times a week. However, the technology that allows us to take control of this fraud, also allows us to do more than that – if we know how to apply it. The identity verification industry can now stop mobile fraud but also assist companies in ensuring legitimate phone calls get through, connecting them with their customers faster and more reliably.

Only 4% of people have Caller ID. This is an astounding statistic. Many people assume they have Caller ID, but that is because they have so many numbers saved in their contacts. They fail to pick up the phone, however, when an unsaved number calls because they don’t know who is on the other end. As a result, 84% of calls go unanswered. Identity verification is making a real impact on this. Enabling businesses to identify themselves and the purpose of their call drastically changes the way they are able to communicate with their customers, putting an end to the dreaded game of phone tag between enterprises and customers.

What have been some of the biggest pain points of larger financial institutions and banks in 2020, how are you seeing them respond to these challenges of the new normal?

It’s no surprise that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been wary of going into businesses. This, of course, includes visiting their banks, which means most business has shifted online. However, while consumers value convenience and the ability to use technology to contact their bank when it comes to being contacted, a phone call is still preferred. 92% of customers said it was extremely or very important to be able to speak with a live person at their primary financial institution. But, 66% still report missing calls from their financial institution because they didn’t recognize the phone number.

While banks are looking for ways to more effectively communicate with customers, they are overlooking the most obvious way. Banks need to prioritize communicating with customers over the phone but need an effective way to identify themselves when calling.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced banks and financial institutions to embrace more digital transformation – when it comes to bigger institutes choosing a fintech partner to support initiatives here, what are some top thoughts that come to mind?

The Covid-19 pandemic forced enterprises around the world to digitally transform seemingly overnight. While banks have changed the way they communicate with customers as a result, they aren’t being effective. Financial institutions are focused on improving their websites, mobile apps, and chat functions to further digital transformation. But, they need to focus on customer service via a phone call and be able to properly identify themselves when doing so. In fact, an astounding 70% of customers would leave their bank for one that was properly able to identify themselves when calling. This not only shows that customers want to know who’s calling and why, but it also emphasizes the point that customers want to speak with a person when discussing personal financial matters.

Read More: Three Ways To Fight Bank Fraud

In what ways do you feel banks and financial institutions should focus more on ramping up their customer experience process for a better user experience across services in 2021?

The best customer service from financial institutions comes via a phone call. However, there is no user experience if a customer doesn’t pick up the phone. Since so few people have caller ID, it’s important for financial institutions to take the step to identify who they are and why they’re calling before a customer even picks up the phone. This will increase customer satisfaction and retention and eliminate the need for a back-and-forth phone tag to get in touch when a problem arises.

As global fintech trends change and the market shifts due to business environments (and also Covid-19), what are your comments on the state of fintech in 2021 and beyond?

An obvious majority of banking institutions have mobile banking platforms and, in recent years, have found themselves in a rat-race to constantly improve their software and have the best app on the market in an effort to increase customer satisfaction. While still very effective, customers’ trust in these apps is decreasing and customers aren’t making banking decisions based on which institution offers the best online experience. When a customer has a banking issue, they want to speak to a human on the phone to ensure their problem is resolved without any issues.

In the coming years, I think we’ll start to see a shift back to banks relying more on human-to-human interactions via phone call. As I mentioned, 70% of banking customers would leave their bank for one that can properly identify themselves when calling. Further, more than one in three customers see a phone call as the most secure way to resolve banking issues compared to mobile banking (18%), email (18%), and text/SMS (12%). With the constant competition for customers in the banking industry, financial institutions need to listen to their customers and start placing calls while correctly identifying who they are.

We’d love to hear about some of First Orion’s upcoming plans and innovations?

First Orion is aiming to eliminate two things: mobile fraud, and phone tag. We believe no one should feel the pain of scam calls, and everyone should know who’s calling and why. Most of us know somebody who has been tricked into losing money via a fraudulent phone call. In fact, in 2019 the FTC received 1.7 million fraud complaints for a reported total loss of $1.9 billion. The ability to identify play a part in identifying and stopping these calls is something we do not take lightly — it is radically changing the telecom industry and bringing back trust in a phone call.

With this same technology, First Orion has set another lofty goal: the elimination of phone tag. First Orion’s platform is not only able to identify bad actors making phone calls but we can identify the good ones as well. First Orion’s ability to tell users who is calling and why has increased answer rates by over 200%, eliminating the need for a constant string of callbacks for both parties. When customers are empowered with the information of who is on the other end of the call and what they’re calling to discuss, they provide the ability to make an informed decision on whether or not to answer the call. As a result, important calls get resolved in a timely manner and customers get the help they need the first time, ending the need for phone tag.

Before we wrap up, what are the biggest learnings and tips you’d share with fintech innovators and leaders?

It’s important to remember the human aspect of why this technology matters. It’s crucial to end fraudulent calls and connect businesses with their customers. In today’s digital world we continue to evolve and innovate constantly, but human touch is essential and customers need a voice — a phone call is that voice. Connecting over the phone increases trust and satisfaction among customers in a way that cannot be replicated by any other medium. It’s exciting to see the technological advancements happening, giving us infinitely more ways to communicate, but it’s important to remember that nothing will ever replace a good, old fashioned phone call.

Read More: GlobalFintechSeries Interview with Vishal Pasari, VP and GM, Digital Solutions at Fiserv

First Orion

First Orion helps the world’s leading carriers, enterprises, and mobile apps provide mobile users with the protection they need from scams and the identity verification consumers need to answer trusted calls. The company’s flagship First Orion Call Protection Suite currently provides call control, blocking, transparency and management solutions to tens of millions of mobile handsets. Additionally, First Orion’s Call Enhancement Suite, INFORM® and ENGAGE®, tell mobile subscribers who is calling and why, empowering them with the ability to take action, while also providing businesses the ability to verify their identity when calling their customers. On average nearly 87 percent of calls go unanswered because consumers don’t recognize the number or don’t trust the identity. With First Orion – enterprises, SMBs, financial services, insurance providers, COVID tracers, hospitals, government entities, non-profits, last-mile logistics, retailers and more can now deliver critical communications and have their calls answered.

Processing nearly 100 billion calls annually, First Orion powers communication transparency solutions for T-Mobile, Metro by T-Mobile, Boost Mobile, Sky, Virgin Mobile and Sprint Prepaid mobile networks along with PrivacyStar and other mobile apps. Established in 2008 and led by Charles Morgan (former Founder & CEO of Acxiom), First Orion is headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas, has offices in Seattle, London, and Dubai, and employs over 250 people globally.

Donnie serves as Vice President of Sales at First Orion, a leading provider of communication transparency solutions.

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