Trulioo’s Stephen Ufford: “Missing element to provide financial services for the 2.5 billion unbanked lies in a digital footprint”

investing in fintech

Stephen Ufford is CEO & Founder of Trulioo

What is Truiloo? What was the inspiration/genesis story for why you founded the company?

Stephen Ufford, CEO, Trulioo
Stephen Ufford, CEO, Trulioo

Data has been around for decades, but the industry has drastically evolved in the last 10 years thanks to the Internet. I fell into the industry quickly after moving to the U.S. after high school. As a Canadian living in America, the experience of proving my identity and establishing credit was horrendous and inefficient. I have spent years building a good credit history for myself in Canada, but when I crossed the border and entered into the states, it felt like someone just hit the reset button and my identity was non-existent. I instantly knew this was a huge problem that could easily be fixed and launched, one of the first companies that made consumer credit reports and scores available online. This was my first foray into the data economy.

Fast-forward 9 years and I’ve successfully launched and exited three data-driven companies with my co-founder, Tanis Jorge. We both decided our next company would have a more meaningful and significant impact on lives around the world. We wanted to go after something profound that would improve quality of life – not just for you and me – but for the man in Chile who doesn’t have access to financial services and wants to start his own business, or the woman in India who works 12-hour days and walks another 2 miles at the end of her day to pay for water. The missing element that could help provide access to financial services for the 2.5 billion unbanked citizens of this world lies in a digital footprint.

Why is identity verification important? What kind of opportunities does doing it at scale open up?

In today’s digital world, trust is the backbone to the success of this truly global phenomenon. What really greases the wheels of today’s fast-growing global economy is trust. As in most online interactions and transactions, anonymity becomes the biggest threat to trust, hence why identity verification is an important element for creating a framework of trust online.

The ability to instantly verify identities around the world will break down the walls that create barriers for cross-border commerce, payments, communication, and consumption. Verified identities helps build the first layer of trust between consumers, merchants, financial institutions – pretty much anyone doing business online.

Has the proliferation of social media made it easier/harder to identify people correctly?

Social media is a double-edge sword. While it offers an abundance of unique data about consumers, there are also ways to create fake accounts. When verifying identities online, it’s best practice to have a layered approach that leverages multiple data sources in combination with advanced machine learning algorithms and fraud prevention tools so that you can weed out the fake accounts before they engage in nefarious online activities.

What’s it like for a Canadian fintech/big data company to compete globally? Are there unique challenges/opportunities?

Globally, Canadian companies have the upper hand in big data thanks to the country’s revolutionary privacy laws and transparency. We have the legal framework, expertise, and know-how needed to be a global leader in the data-driven economy.

Canada is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the growth in the data economy, especially after the recent safe harbour rulings in the European Union.  U.S. companies are now scrambling to find a solution for their data storage needs leaving the door of opportunity wide open for Canadian companies.

Designed to protect both the consumers and the companies that are collecting personally identifiable information (PII), the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) was enacted in April of 2000. PIPEDA provides individuals with the right t know why any group collects or discloses their personal data. This level of transparency offers consumers peace of mind when they are looking to invest, buy products from, or associate with Canadian businesses. PIPEDA also ensures that the companies collecting an individual’s data only use the information for a specific purpose with consent from the individual.

Due to the increasing number of data breaches, how PII data is being handled by businesses and government is at top of mind of consumers, policymakers, and regulators. Exporting PII across countries and jurisdictions is a recipe for disaster, increasing risk for data breaches and regulatory compliance issues. Canadian companies are in the best position to enable the enterprise to leverage their global data assets with advanced technologies in a secure, highly regulated environment.

Where is your business headed in 2016? New products/services/geographies?

We are very excited to announce that our global identity verification API or platform, GlobalGateway, now verifies over 4 billion consumers around the world, the largest Know Your Customer (KYC) coverage in the market. Riding on the heels of China, we recently secured unique data sources in India, which will enable our clients to quickly expand into emerging Asian markets that are dominating our global economy with its unprecedented growth.

We are on a mission to provide verified identities for the entire global population, making Trulioo the largest marketplace for global data where businesses and organizations have instant access to consumer information to perform specific checks and activities granted by the user (consumer).

We will continue to disrupt traditional data aggregators around the world with our unique market place model while raising the bar for consumer consent and privacy protection. I believe that Trulioo will play an essential part of developing Canada’s global reputation as a safe haven for digital information into a robust new industry and major contributor to our economy.

Photo credit: charlesdyer / / CC BY