Identity verification in a socially distanced world without face-to-face

face-to-face social distancing
Face-to-face social distancing. Photo by Odua Images

The COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on the way people engage face-to-face. Many countries are starting to emerge from lockdown with a variety of government-led strategies in play. However, the common theme across every strategy is the maintenance of social distancing. 

Social distancing will remain a feature of inter-personal engagement until COVID-19 is no longer deemed a health threat, and there is no certainty around how the timeline might look. 

Organisations that have depended on having the customer present for an identity check are now faced with the knowledge that returning to this process post lockdown will not be possible. 

  • Social distancing restrictions will make face-to-face interaction impossible or at best very awkward. 
  • People will be reluctant to share their personal identity documents physically for health reasons. 
  • People will be reluctant to make what they see as unnecessary journeys for both health and convenience reasons. 
  • The lockdown will have reminded consumers of the convenience and ease of digital onboarding and verification. 
  • Consumers will favour organisations that make remote verification simpler and respect consumer wishes for no face-to-face engagement. 

So not providing consumers with a digital identity verification process will put an organisation at a commercial disadvantage. 

Many organisations that do allow remote onboarding now also rely on face-to-face contact, either to complete the process, or as a fallback when there’s a problem with remote verification. Some banks fall into this category. Many of the offices that perform this backup function are currently closed, and some will never reopen. Every organisation that uses digital onboarding with a face-to-face fallback needs to examine its onboarding process to identify how to remove the face-to-face component from the process. 

Organisations that only use face-to-face checks need to adopt a digital process now to have a sustainable process that will function in a post lockdown world. This process needs to be compliant with regulatory best practice, and not a process that while compliant in theory represents practices open to abuse by fraudsters. Mixed messages coming from some regulators should not be taken as a signal to adopt poor compliance processes. 

Some government-mandated checks still require a physical examination of an identity document with the individual present. There are temporary exemptions around these face-to-face checks under lockdown, and there is government recognition that permanent change is needed here. Already many such obliged organisations are using digital checks to supplement the physical check and will be well placed to move to a fully digital process when regulation allows. 

Each organisation’s risk assessment will determine the level of checks required, but that assessment should consider data checks, digital identity document validation and biometric checks. 

Adopting a robust and sustainable digital identity verification process will deliver compliance certainty in an uncertain post lockdown world. 

Originally published on LinkedIn

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