LEADER Q&A: Gunnar Nordseth, CEO of Signicat

Since launching in 2007, Signicat has been one of the companies to watch in the world of eID and electronic signatures. In our latest Leader Q&A its CEO, Gunnar Nordseth shares some of his views on how financial institutions can better use digital ID to improve customer on-boarding. An issue that currently causes 52% of applicants to abandon the process.

Can you please introduce Signicat for the few who may not be aware of the company?

What we offer our customers is digital trust—trust in their customers’ identity, trust in the agreements their customers sign, and trust in the integrity of documents. We do this by digitally verifying a consumer’s identity, whether via document scanning, live video detection, or connection to the growing number of digital ID schemes from across Europe.

For example, when it comes to on-boarding someone with no previous connection to one of our customers, what would have meant a visit to a branch to present ID credentials, or risking sending documents through the mail, now means an application for a service can be completed entirely online using digital identity.

Signicat also offers secure authentication of returning visitors, digital signing of documents, and digital seals to ensure the integrity of electronic documents. All of Signicat’s solutions are designed to solve the trickiest issues of digital transformation—how to digitally replicate secure and trusted physical identity verification.

Our focus is on financial services, but equally has value for any other market that has strict regulations when it comes to identifying customers. Banks, insurers, credit card providers and more all face the same problem—they need to meet ever-tougher anti-money laundering (AML) regulations by ensuring that they perform the appropriate Know Your Customer (KYC) checks.

What can we learn from the implementation of BankID in Norway?

It’s key to involve the institutions that will make the most use of digital ID. In some countries, digital ID schemes have been designed and are being used solely for public services. The problem is that people don’t use public services that need ID very often, severely limiting adoption.

BankID started as a collaboration between financial institutions, which meant that it was built with the needs of the highly regulated financial services in mind, and no one institution would own BankID. The digital IDs we are seeing gain traction, such as itsme in Belgium and iDIN in the Netherlands, are following this model.

How does poor onboarding lead to financial services losing customers?

Earlier this year we revealed the results of our Battle to On-board II report, a follow up to our research from two years ago. The first report revealed that 40% of bank account applications in the UK were abandoned and the new report revealed that not much had improved in two years. We found that retail banks now lose 52% of potential customers at the on-boarding stage.

The problem banks have is that people are comparing the time taken to apply for a financial service online with other online services that take seconds—however unfair this is, people just don’t care about the regulations that makes on-boarding so time-consuming.

There’s good news for those who get on-boarding right, however. 72% of consumers want their banks to offer a fully-digital on-boarding system, and 52% would be more likely to use additional services from a bank that allowed them to on-board without the need to use paper-based identity.

How has the market changed in the time that you have been at Signicat?

We launched Signicat at a time when the deployment of Nordic BankIDs was just taking off. The first banks launched the BankID service in 2004, but it took around two or three years before use of the service began to take off in a big way. Signicat helped to kick off this development by making it easier for businesses to use eID for digital on-boarding. 

In the Nordic region, the eID service is currently used for several billion transactions each year. Almost everyone, businesses and customers alike, understand the benefits of having a widely deployed infrastructure of eID that can be used across sites. Signicat has also been busy extending its service offering to include expanded geographical coverage and more value adding identity services. This is in keeping with our vision of being a one stop shop for our customer’s electronic identity requirements. 

In the last couple of years we have also seen electronic identity becoming a common infrastructure in countries outside of the Nordic region The eID market has developed from a Nordic-specific one into an emerging pan-European market. The Nordic market itself has matured significantly with over four billion transactions a year.

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Netherlands seem to be leading the field in the usage of digital IDs and electronic signatures.’ Why do you think this is the case?

The Nordic region has a long tradition of banks cooperating on digital identity infrastructure, with national direct debit schemes being in operation since the eighties. Nordic banks are pioneers in exploring opportunities for interoperable electronic identities. The first banks started to look at digital identity as early as the start of the millennium, long before banks in other regions.

The three factors that have driven adoption in the Nordic region are: rapid deployment of eIDs due to bank customers being able to enroll using their existing internet bank credentials, fast roll-out of sites that accepted eID across the public and private sector and at least one killer use case for eID that created an urge for users to actually use their eIDs. 

The Nordics started building these systems around eight to ten years before the rest of the world. But, I do think other countries are going to catch up much quicker because the lessons learned from the Nordic region can be reused in other regions.

For more information about Signicat visit: www.signicat.com