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The Importance of Being Verified as Being Earnest: Final Day – Money 20/20

By Matthew Dove

Attendees blinked in the dawn of day three at Money 20/20 yesterday morning, “de finale” as it’s known in local parlance. By this point, a collective fatigue hung over delegates, organisers and hacks alike. The cumulative malaise was especially pronounced in the countenance of TFT’s own senior editor…

In the pantheon of humanity’s greatest mistakes, the conference hall is sandwiched somewhere between nuclear weapons and the plastic packaging headphones come in. Webster’s dictionary describes the phenomenon as follows;

An open-plan nightmare whose true layout only reveals itself 15 minutes before you’re due to leave for the airport. Abject disorientation is further compounded by the insistent rumble of upbeat/off-brand pop music.

With our man in Amsterdam’s existential fugue reaching feverish levels it was appropriate the final day’s lectures focussed on identity.

Over on the Commercial Galvanisation stage, delegates hoping for tips on the rust-proofing of billboards and hoardings were to be left seriously disappointed (and presumably ill-prepared for the rainy season). Digital identity dominated the agenda with Nikhil Kumar (Setu), Robert Prigge (Jumio), Natasha Vernier (Monzo) and Michael Salmony (equensWorldline) setting the scene with a panel entitled; A World of Digital Identity: Exploring the Most Powerful Asset of the Modern World.

Discussion centred on the need to reconcile state-issued “foundational” ID (passports, birth certificates etc.) with service-related “functional” ID like bank cards, biometrics, usernames and passwords. A seamless conflation of the two would dramatically reduce the potential for fraud as well as the friction which accompanies accessing new services. Nikhil Kumar cited the Indian model – in which self-sovereign identity is established with digitally signed state-issued credentials – as one to follow.

Jumio’s president Prigge argued that the area is so fertile for innovation that he expects to see a pan-sector “war over who can verify ID.” He sees this conflict primarily taking place between telcos, social media giants, utility providers and banks, dead-panning that, “begun the ID wars have, if I was Yoda…”

Why so much corporate interest in user and institutional authentication, you ask?

Nikhil Kumar defined the value of authentication in finance in the following terms, “there’s a real threat from giving away authentication” venturing that it’s from this basis that all other financial interaction springs. Salmony concurred, illustrating the point with an anecdote about a professor from his university days. Refuting the notion that identity verification is an outlier to finance proper, the unnamed Prof apparently asserted that, “everything else is just accounting.”

Elsewhere, delegates were treated to real-time demonstrations of the issues surrounding identity in finance, specifically self-generated identity. On Main Stage, Andrew Vorster vociferously lambasted those who self-identify as “Java ninjas” and “code wizards” whilst only belatedly acknowledging the irony of his own designation as an “innovation catalyst.”

On a panel tackling KYC, Nico Strauss of Rabobank was having a full-blown identity crisis! Listed in the agenda as a “chapter lead”, Strauss appeared on stage as an entirely metamorphosed “tribal lead.” At least the transformation didn’t leave anyone perplexed as to what the man does for a living, no more than they were already at any rate.

Confused and unkempt, TFT shambled over to the ING Cafe for our final interview of the event. When we asked the bank’s chief innovation officer Benoit Legrand what his proudest achievement was he responded; “Still being alive after three days at Money 20/20.” Amen, brother, amen.

And on that note, we’re heading home…has Trump left yet?


  • Editorial Director of the The Fintech Times

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