Why Digital Identity Needs To Be Fully Inclusive

‘Identity is a critical element of an overall business strategy for ensuring the Post Office matters as much to customers tomorrow as it does today,’ says its Chief Product Officer for Identity Services, Bryn Robinson-Morgan – a panellist at our upcoming Think Digital Identity for Government 2018 (Friday, 18th May, central London)

Posted 29 March 2018 at 8:54am by

‘Identity is a critical element of an overall business strategy for ensuring the Post Office matters as much to customers tomorrow as it does today,’ says its Chief Product Officer for Identity Services, Bryn Robinson-Morgan – a panellist at our upcoming Think Digital Identity for Government 2018 (Friday, 18th May, central London).  We recently sat down with him to find out more.

Who is Bryn – what is your role and responsibility at The Post Office?

I am the Chief Product Officer for Identity Services within Post Office. This means that I am responsible for the innovation, design and continued development of our identity product across both digital and physical channels. My role is to champion the voice of the customer, so it is absolutely critical that I understand the outside context, market landscape and real-world user needs.

What is the story of Identity at the organisation right now, 2018?

The Post Office is a crucial part of the social and economic infrastructure of the UK. Through our 11,500 branches and an increasing digital presence, we provide convenient access to essential services – mail, banking, government services, telecoms – for households and small businesses throughout the country.

We also have a long history in the provision of identity services, from passport and driving licence applications to document notarisation used for financial, employment and lifestyle services. In recent years, we’ve also been at the forefront of the Government’s flagship digital identity programme, GOV.UK Verify. With over 2 million registered users, thousands more joining by the day, and a growing range of government services connected to the platform, Verify has proven the basic concept of digital identity in providing customers with an efficient and secure means to prove who they are.

The opportunity now is to build on this success and expand the benefits of digital identity to a much broader range of users and organisations. We believe the Post Office is ideally placed to help grow this wider market.

We want to provide our customers with one simple and safe way to prove who they are that is re-usable online and in person, and with all their favourite providers, too.  Imagine being able use your digital identity to prove who you are when renewing your passport.  Then re-using it to get your holiday money, providing passenger information when booking your flights, and passing quickly through security and boarding your plane at the airport.  The possibilities are limitless.

What is your organisation doing about connecting the physical and the digital aspects of Identity?

As more of our customers migrated to online channels, we initially viewed digital identity as a way of helping them reliably prove who they are when accessing products and services over the Internet.

This left us with our legacy, document based, identity for real world interactions, and digital identity for online… but for customers, this actually makes no sense – they expect a way of proving that they are who they say they are regardless of which channel they’re transacting in! As Europe’s largest retail network, we have around 17 million customer visits to our branches every week. Putting that together with our increasing digital presence, it is important to us that our identity services product works just as well in the real world as it does in the digital one.

To meet this challenge, we’ll make the creation of digital identities work seamlessly for customers in both the physical and digital worlds. This could be linking a photo taken in one of our branches to a digital identity account, or being able to increase the assurance or strength of a digital identity by providing physical evidence in branch, for instance. We’re also working to make sure that once you have established a digital identity, it can be used to prove who you are both online and in our branches – for example when you are picking up foreign exchange or a high value parcel.

How do you see this aligning with the Post Office’s commitment to helping society?

We know sections of society are under-served due to the lack of provable identity. This particularly impacts young people, those new to the country, older people, or vulnerable individuals. That’s a problem, as a lack of a provable identity often results in digital, financial and social exclusion.

A striking example of this was a young man who participated in one of our customer insight sessions: he had been forced to leave his family home, leaving behind every shred of evidence of his identity – passport, birth certificate etc. That meant that he couldn’t obtain a bank account, couldn’t rent his own flat, or get a mobile phone contract.

To meet this challenge, we need to think how identity can be fully inclusive and doesn’t just replicate the traditional, legacy ways that we ‘do’ identity in the UK. As mentioned, one of the ways that we’ll do this is by linking up our digital and physical channels, but we do recognise that not everyone has access to the latest smartphone, or the capability to complete a process on their own. That’s where our unique ability to bridge the physical and digital worlds comes into its own: we will use our huge branch network and digital presence to make digital identity accessible, convenient and inclusive.

Where will you be with Identity in, say, 12 months-time, do you think?

We have an ambitious and challenging programme of work to deliver our 2018-19 strategy for identity. Changing how customers prove their identity, and how organisations trust identity is no easy matter. We know that we’ve got to tackle technology, legal, compliance, regulation and client and customer adoption challenges – and bring all of these strands together at the right time… think of it as being like bringing a new product to market in the middle of the perfect storm!

To make Identity successful, we know that we’ve got to create something that customers want, is easy to get, and that they can use in a number of different contexts, over and over again. That’s our big challenge for the coming year, but I am confident that in 12 months we’ll have brought the use of identity together in our digital and physical channels.

I also hope we’ll have made our first steps in making Identity more inclusive – helping transform how our customers prove who they are when accessing our products and services.

Fascinating stuff, Bryn – thanks very much for sharing your thoughts on Identity with us.

If you are interested in both what Bryn and the Post Office identity team are doing and the wider context of public sector Digital Identity, don’t forget to register for your place at the upcoming Think Digital Identity for Government 2018 conference (Friday, 18th May), where he will be speaking on stage as part of a special panel discussion on Trust. Don’t forget that your place will be FREE if you are a public sector professional – go here to find out more.