Blockchain Adopted by Canadian Banks to Verify Client Identities

Canada is making a big leap in modernizing identity verification, tapping blockchain technology to let consumers digitally prove who they are to securely access banking and other personal services.

SecureKey Technologies Inc.’s Verified.Me digital identity system is now available for customers of five Canadian banks through a mobile app, the Toronto-based firm said Wednesday in a statement. The system works at Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Desjardins Group, and is coming soon to Bank of Montreal and National Bank of Canada. Sun Life Financial Inc. also signed on to be the first North American insurer on the service.

The network is built on collaboration between banks, telecom firms and credit agencies, and SecureKey Chief Executive Officer Greg Wolfond said he expects Verified.Me to be used by consumers to prove their identities to access health records, open accounts at banks and telephone companies, and get government services by the end of this year.

“Everything from being able to see your health records in a secure way, being able to open a new bank account, being able to get a new phone — all this stuff that’s so time-consuming and painful is going to get easier for consumers,” Wolfond said in an interview. “They’re going to be able to share their data in a secure and trusted way, which they never really could before.”

The Canadian Bankers Association has been calling for adoption of digital IDs while the country revamps its payments system and the federal government explores “open banking,” a process of letting consumers share financial data with other companies. The group’s CEO, Neil Parmenter, has called for the nation to abandon outdated paper-based processes and move to a “federated model” of digital IDs that links federal and provincial systems.

Verified.Me, built on top of blockchain technology developed by International Business Machines Corp. and the Linux Foundation, has been in the works since October 2016. Canada’s biggest banks and Desjardins, the Quebec-based credit-union group, have collaborated on the system, as have telecom companies, credit firm Equifax Inc., government agencies and Toronto-based financial-technology firm Prodigy Ventures Inc.

“This is quite a significant development,” said Rami Thabet, vice president of digital products at Royal Bank, calling the collaboration “groundbreaking” for Canada. “What is quite compelling here is the fundamental unlocking of client value by simplifying the verification of personal information safely, securely and in a streamlined manner.”

Published May 1, 2019, 5:00:00 AM, by Doug Alexander (Bloomberg)

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