INTERVIEW: John E. Ahrens, CEO, Veratad

INTERVIEW: John E. Ahrens, CEO, Veratad

Mobile ID World President Peter O’Neill recently interviewed John E. Ahrens, CEO of Veratad, a world class provider of age and identity verification solutions. The conversation begins with discussion of the company’s origins involving the convergence of online banking and payments with age verification technology. Ahrens proceeds to outline Veratad’s product lineup, including its document reading technology, as well as the diverse range of vertical markets the company is serving, including finance, healthcare, education, and child online privacy. The conversation concludes with a review of the company’s excellent year, a reflection on its recent period of substantial growth, and a preview of what’s next.

Veratad will be launching its new IDMatch+Predict solution at Money20/20 USA in October. Stay tuned to Mobile ID World for live coverage of the event.

Read our full interview with  John E. Ahrens, CEO, Veratad:

Peter O’Neill, President, Mobile ID World: John, you have been in the industry almost as long as I have, can you please tell us about your background and the background of your company?

John E. Ahrens, CEO, Veratad:  Thanks, Peter, for this opportunity to share with you and your audience our story. I guess I can’t avoid dating myself in answering this question but as we both remember, in the 90’s and early 2000’s, the whole technology world was changing with the advent of the Internet. Having spent a good number of my years prior to that in the insurance and risk management industry, I saw an opportunity to leverage my experience in the technology space and decided to jump right in.

In the late 90’s, my partners and I had our first opportunity to invest in a small company that was building a PC based online banking and payment software suite. Just a few years later, in 2005, we were presented with another opportunity to purchase the assets of a small e-commerce company that was offering an age verification service with their online shopping carts. That opportunity had particular interest to us as by happenstance, our payments software company had a project that required an age verification solution.

It was the convergence of these two opportunities that became the genesis of what is now Veratad Technologies. While our initial objective was to leverage the newly acquired age verification technology, we quickly saw there was also an opportunity to develop solutions aimed at an online identity verification which at the time was still somewhat of a novel idea.

The initial technology we acquired was a viable and reliable method by which we could offer a service that would validate personal identity information. We were primarily verifying age and identity based on the association of a name, address, date of birth and perhaps some other elements of personal information, by comparing that identity data with trusted and verified non-public data sources to which we had access.

So, the roots of our company’s platform go back to the early 2000’s, but it wasn’t until 2006 that we officially formed Veratad. I would say that over the last three or four years, we’ve seen a really significant ramp-up in our technology and a corresponding increased interest in our industry with respect to the importance of online age and identity verification. So, we had an interesting beginning, but I believe we have an even more interesting future ahead.

Peter O’Neill, President, Mobile ID World: Can you run through what your current product line-up is for us?

John E. Ahrens, CEO, Veratad: Sure. The world that we live in for the delivery of an age or identity verification to our end-user customers is driven by three major methodologies as the basis for our solutions. The first method is based on identity data, the second on identity documents and the third is based on biometrics. Veratad’s IDresponse platform delivers our suite of verification and fraud prevention solutions and allows our clients to consume the various solutions we offer either separately or in tandem based on their needs.

In the first method, we use trusted and verified data sources, both public and non-public. Access to this data allows us to take our end-user customer’s query and in just seconds compare it against these trusted and verified data sources. We do this in a variety of different ways based on our client’s objectives and tolerance for risk.  

As far as a product line-up, AgeMatch is our age verification solution. Our customers use this solution as an important tool in meeting their compliance obligations for age restricted commerce. IDMatch is our solution that’s designed to verify an identity. This solution is often augmented with data to address KYC and AML compliance requirements by adding our OFAC, PEPs and Sanctions data. So, it’s a solution our fintech and financial services customers can use to address compliance and fraud prevention. We can deliver these solutions worldwide with identity data available to us in over 130 countries. We do have another solution we call IDMatch+Plus which is our IDMatch service that includes multiple choice challenge questions that we can deliver. This is more commonly known as a KBA, or a Knowledge-Based Authentication. So, on the product side for data verification, these make up the core of our age and identity verification solution offerings.

The identity document methodology is based on the capture of a document such as a government issued ID, like a driver’s license or a passport. Our two current solutions around document capture and verification we call D-CAMS and D-CAMS+Plus. Our D-CAMS product is primarily there for management and manual review of a document by our customers and their call centers where they can securely review a document to verify that it meets their requirements to validate or verify an age or identity. Our D-CAMS+Plus is an automated service we deliver where we actually authenticate documents and provide a confidence score which demonstrates whether or not we feel that document is real or not, in real-time. We can deliver our document solutions for passports worldwide and in over 90 countries for driving license verifications.

The onboarding process of a new customer is where these solutions are mostly deployed, but we also have products that are designed to authenticate a user that is already trusted. We offer a two-factor authentication solution to our end-users where they can be authenticated once they’ve established trust and that customer is coming back for a second visit. Our two-factor authentication solution can also include a biometric component, like an individual’s voice.

The third method we are using as a basis for developing new solutions is biometrics. The deployment of online solutions that are based on this method is relatively new. I already mentioned voice with our two-factor solutions, but we are also working to include a facial recognition complement, we are calling it SelfieMatch, in customer-not-present transactions as an extra layer of certainty the person presenting a document is actually present.

So, we are always working on or exploring new solutions that we can add to our suite as we go along but for now that’s the core of what we’re offering.

Peter O’Neill, President, Mobile ID World: Following up on that, I believe you have a new product related to IDMatch that you’re announcing at the upcoming Money 20/20 event occurring in October in Las Vegas. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

John E. Ahrens, CEO, Veratad: Yes, of course, at Money 20/20 this year we’re going to be announcing the launch of our new product which we are calling IDMatch+PredictSM. This is our identity verification solution with an added benefit of a fraud score which will be based on our client’s specific fraud prevention objectives.

We are very excited about this new product because although we’ve been delivering and perfecting our identity and age verification data and document solutions, we’ve been receiving more and more calls from our clients wanting a stronger fraud prevention component. With all kinds of technologies that are designed to capture data points behind the scenes like an IP address, or device ID, we can deliver a solution that not only verifies identity, but also includes some confidence around a fraud score for the transaction. We’re very excited to bring this product to market.

Peter O’Neill, President, Mobile ID World: What vertical markets are you focusing on as a company? I know that financial is an important one being at Money 20/20, but what other vertical markets are you seeing growth in?

John E. Ahrens, CEO, Veratad: You’re right about the financial services and we are very focused on our growth in that vertical. We have a very robust offering for financial services and fintech that includes strong Identity verification with KYC and AML. I would say age restricted commerce and mobile are also important verticals for us as well.

In addition though there are other verticals that we’re working in, for example healthcare and education, these are more or less verticals where the organizations are looking at being sure that they’ve got the right patient or online learner. For example, it’s critical for an online service managing your medical records to be sure that the patient having access to those records is who they say they are. Especially with the digitization of all these healthcare records as mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to assure the record is properly associated with the right patient. The association of the patient with that record is not only a best practice, but also vital for compliance with the Healthcare Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements that might be upon them. So, generally speaking our solutions can be used in this vertical for compliance, to prevent fraud or an improper association of a patient with a record.

There is a similar application for the online education vertical. They’re not only looking to verify new students during onboarding, but also for compliance, to make sure they have the right identity associated with a student record. We also have a number of clients that are using our solutions for proctoring exams online.

There is another vertical that we have been working in for a number of years now regarding child online privacy. We are part of an FTC Safe Harbor for Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) compliance where we are providing a Verifiable Parental Consent (VPC) for our clients as they board new customers online that are under 13 years old. This vertical until now has been aimed mostly in the U.S but with the advent of GDPR, we see a similar opportunity for expansion in the EU along with our international capabilities.  

Peter O’Neill, President, Mobile ID World: Has this been a good year for Veratad?

John E. Ahrens, CEO, Veratad: This has been a very good year. We’ve experienced a significant amount of growth over the last few years. Some of that is predicated on the long-standing position we’ve had in the industry. We’re a company that’s almost 13 years old now, so we’ve established ourselves in the marketplaces as a trusted provider of services regarding identity and age.

I also think that we’re gaining a keener awareness of the challenges developing around identity in not-present transactions. It’s generating quite a bit of new innovation from our growing development team and our customers notice and share their own success with our services with their colleagues as referrals.

Peter O’Neill, President, Mobile ID World: What can we expect to see next from Veratad?

John E. Ahrens, CEO, Veratad: Well, there are a lot of things in our hopper, actually. They’re all around finding ways to enhance the full suite of ID verification services we currently deliver through product enhancements and some new product offerings. For example, machine learning is something we’ve been working into our products as an enhancement. We’ve also been exploring blockchain to see how it might fit in with the services that we currently deliver. So, there is always quite a bit going on here. We’re always looking for ways to enhance our solutions and for new technologies that we might be able to either leverage or deliver alongside of the solutions we currently offer.

Peter O’Neill, President, Mobile ID World: Thank you very much for speaking with me today. I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas at Money 20/20 in October.

John E. Ahrens, CEO, Veratad: Thank you, Peter. Looking forward to seeing you there as well.