digital identity

In the modern age of global diplomacy (or lack thereof), migration to new countries to pursue new opportunities is more common than in the past. A report published by the Harvard Business Review found that 72 percent of company executives expected a greater need for globally mobile employees within the next two to three years. In an international survey carried out in 2015, an average of 47 percent of over 830 companies surveyed saw an increase in international assignments over the last two years. Overall, 50 percent of these companies also expected to see further growth in the next two years.

Despite the greater ease with which migrants can change their country of residence, financial services have not kept up with this trend. New immigrants from industrialized nations with spotless credit records back home are often unable to open a basic savings or checking account, establish critical utility services, or even apply for employment due to a lack of established financial history in the country where they have moved to.

In the European Union (EU), where transcontinental job transfers are common, the difficulty in opening a bank account in a different country is a problem that is acutely felt by many. The Open Identity Exchange (OIX) has been working closely with GOV.UK Verify, the UK government’s online identity verification service, on a project to make it easier for citizens from other EU member states to access UK financial services.

However, the EU is not alone in pursuing digital identity without borders. The concept of enabling consumer selected federated digital identities for cross-border and even cross-application use has been progressing outside the EU and UK in regions such as the U.S. as well.

The following conditions must be present and are foundational to a process by which consumers can self-select one of many regional or specific application-based portals to establish a ‘verified’ digital identity for use in myriad cross-application and cross-border applications:

Measurability

There must be a standard governance policy that provides metrics and thresholds within those metrics to ensure normalization in the use of disparate data sources, data verification rules, match criteria, risk analytics, etc.

Transparency

There needs to be an ability for relying parties to have insight as to not only the state of a binary “verified identity” condition but also the underlying methodologies employed to achieve such “verification”.

Levels of assurance

A consistently tiered process (agreed to and adhered to by verification authorities) must be in place by which relying parties can map specific levels of identity verification to use cases based on account or transactional risk profiles in granting consumer access.

Global coverage

Consumers will expect, as advertised, an ability to self-select various applications through which they can establish verified identity credentials. It is paramount that those available applications are powered by sufficient data coverage to address disparate populations with respect to data footprint and tenure in a specific country or region.

Consumer populations will quickly lose faith in the concept of federated ID unless they can successfully pass verification checks with relatively positive customer experience (e.g., real-time, reduced reliance on documentary evidence and associated manual review and approval, and remote account opening) and use those credentials across various applications. Trust must therefore be established across relying parties and the service providers facilitating the identity verification processes.