In times of COVID-19, many services and transactions have increasingly moved to digital platforms. Therefore, securely authenticating users in the digital world has become a crucial challenge for businesses.
The phrase “digital identity” is often mentioned in e-commerce and online transactions, but what does it mean? Nam Ma — Director of trueID, VNG Corp, who worked at many Silicon Valley startups — will explain the definition and formula for establishing “digital identity” infrastructure through trueID — an automatic customer identity verification and authentication solution.
The necessary premise for the digital economy
Identity is crucial for all human-to-human interaction as it specifies who each individual is. Identity cards, or passports, are all forms of identity documents. Similarly, digital identity is the information that specifies who the individual is on digital platforms.
For example, banks that want to open accounts entirely online for customers must know the real identity of the applicants. E-wallets also require users to take a photo of their ID card and a selfie to identify them.
In the digital economy, all transactions take place online, making it difficult for businesses to know who exactly is doing the transactions. Therefore, this can be a dangerous environment if businesses cannot verify their user’s identity. According to Nam, transactions cannot take place on a large scale because of the risk of forgery. Businesses need a tool to accurately identify who is conducting transactions online, so trueID was born to meet that need: helping build a foundation of trusted connection between businesses and customers, based on digital identity.
trueID was born by chance. At first, VNG established its Data & AI Lab to develop data and automation products for gaming platforms and payment systems. In 2018, ZaloPay wanted to add an online identification solution, requiring advanced AI technology. Nam gathered a core team to work on the problem, and trueID was born with ZaloPay as the first internal client.
At that time, ZaloPay would need to identify hundreds of thousands of users per month, and even millions during marketing campaigns. Manual authentication required tens to hundreds of employees to perform days and nights. More importantly, users did not get immediate results. Therefore, the primary value of trueID is to help save labor costs and increase customer experience. However, this is not the only goal of trueID.
The long-term value that trueID brings, according to Nam, is to prevent identity fraud hence creating a safe and convenient environment to acquire users and make transactions online. To him, trueID is like a COVID-19 vaccine, providing a safe premise for commercial activities.
Going beyond international standards
After six months of testing by ZaloPay, trueID was proven to be highly accurate and secure. Noticing the need for online authentication in banks, financial institutions, and credit providers, Nam knew that trueID was at the cusp of reaching out to a broader market.
From the early days, his team’s goal was to develop products that meet international standards in terms of accuracy and security. Not only does trueID follow a best practice process set by global providers (e.g. requirement of ID verification, face matching, life check, face existence check for reporters), but it also has its own higher standard of efficiency and accuracy at every step for the local Vietnamese market.
trueID also provides a tool to audit results of the identity verification, helping back-office staff monitor the accuracy and customer experience through the following factors: How many people complete all the steps? At what stage did they leave unfinished? The staff can also re-evaluate the results to provide a reference for trueID’s AI models to make sure the machine and human decisions are the same. Ideally, when the manual review agrees with trueID’s decision, the client can trust trueID’s automated process.
Security and data privacy are trueID’s top priority when working with clients from the financial and banking industry. To give clients control over their data, trueID provides two deployment options:
- Installing the entire system on the bank’s internal infrastructure, so that banks have complete control over their data policy.
- Installing system on a chosen cloud provider, which complies with international security standards like PCIDSS or ISO27001.
The customer identification process does not stop at just the account registration. Before any subsequent transaction, if there is any suspicious behavior, the customer still needs to verify their face again to ensure that they are the true account owner. Without this authentication system, account takeover frauds are still possible.
A crucial feature in this authentication process is “liveness detection”. It verifies if the submitted face is a “living” face, or if the user is faking using a stored picture of another person. trueID is the only vendor in Vietnam that has achieved iBeta level 2 certification for Liveness Detection, ensuring that scammers cannot fake selfie photos even with advanced technology like 3D masks or deep fakes.
Beyond achieving global quality, trueID put a lot of effort into localization to suit the Vietnamese market. Vietnamese identity documents, especially the old ones, are easy to fake and edit. Users can replace their photos on their ID documents, or use pen and paper to re-write their identification number and information. Therefore, trueID has trained specifically to detect these signs of ID counterfeit accurately, something foreign solutions cannot do well.
Sustainable product development strategy
Nam shared with us his “formula” to develop sustainable and competitive tech products:
- First and foremost, a strong technological foundation is a must. trueID is lucky to have inherited the R&D resources from VNG’s Data & AI Lab.
Second, Nam advocates being open to market feedback and collaboration. The team is constantly in a feedback loop with the customers, to understand the market needs and develop relevant features and products.
Third, trueID has always received support from VNG leaders for long-term vision. Nam shared that Mr. Le Hong Minh — CEO of VNG, always encourages and challenges the team to maintain world-class products that create value for customers, instead of focusing on commercialization too fast and too soon.
As a result, trueID has focused on developing a set of core products and on launching eKYC services successfully for a group of core client partners. Even without aggressive sales activities, many large companies still reached out to try and then chose trueID after careful evaluation.
Regarding the team behind trueID, Nam has built a strong AI R&D team to develop the core AI technologies. In order to deploy products to the clients, trueID has a team of capable software and system engineers. Now, at the rapid scaling stage, Nam has been growing a team of forward-thinking product operation, analysis and business development.
Nam shared about the importance of attracting and motivating talents. To him, good products come from people who have not only inherent capability but also strong motivation. Nam suggests three elements to attract talents, and keep their motivation. First is to have a problem that is meaningful and challenging enough to solve. Second is to surround them with equally capable and fun colleagues. And the third is to provide a good compensation or potential for the future.
But most important of all, is to create an environment of trust between everyone in the team. When there is trust, people will continue to work together for a long time.
So far, trueID’s most successful case study, according to Nam, is its partnership with a top commercial bank in Vietnam. They are known to be very strict in risk management; but while working together, trueID found them to be open towards new digital transformations.
After a few months of allowing users to open accounts with trueID’s eKYC, they have achieved amazing results. New account opening once exceeded 10,000 in one day. trueID also rapidly improved its accuracy and automation rate, to the partner’s delight.
Now, Nam is setting his sights on expanding trueID support for new service offerings of the bank: from onboarding new customers to raising their engagement with more transactions, and to improving customer services at the counters and ATMs. With potential values of its services, trueID has received tremendous support from the leadership team.
Translated by Thao Van