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How will 3D printers help improve banking KYC?

Yes, you just read this title correctly. 3D printers are widely known to offer the potential to be a game changer in the physical supply chain across many sectors and industries. However, the opportunity in Financial Services seems less likely, particularly in any form of real, practical application. Do you agree, or not with my statement here? Well, either way, I suggest you read on to find out more.

KYC – Why is it a sensitive subject?

Today, every Financial Institution runs their KYC processes themselves, for lots of reasons. At the top of the list of reasons is the reputational and financial risks that remove any appetite to give control of KYC to a 3rd party, such as a shared utility or data service. A bank caught by its regulator servicing the wrong client is usually exposed to millions or billions of dollars in fines. As we’ve seen in the news over the last 3 years, such occurrences fall into the public domain, usually with lasting reputational damages.

Approach to KYC nowadays and alternatives

The typical KYC process is executed manually, leveraging a combination of paperwork, de-materialisation and archiving. Overall, it is a costly and lengthy process that happens every time a new client comes on-board, when a new signatory is allowed into the relationship. It also needs to be refreshed and verified regularly. KYC processes also delay the “time-to-revenue”; typically the period of time between the agreed contract and the first day of transaction processing.

A number of initiatives have been introduced over the last few years, trying to tackle this challenge from several angles. One common method that keeps coming back is to enable KYC to be done once and for all, and shared between all Financial Institutions and Counterparties. This idea of a shared utility, which would enable a client, counterparty, as a business or as an individual, to “passport” its KYC identity across all its financial suppliers. The benefits and advantages seem very compelling and include: reduced costs of processing KYC, reduced time-to-revenue for the Financial Suppliers, less hassle for the clients and counterparties. It’s a win-win for everybody, isn’t it?

Why is this nut so tough to crack?

Cost reductions and improved client experience benefits look very small when put in perspective with the potential risks and costs associated with non-compliance. We’re talking about millions or billions of dollars in fines, the risk to lose a banking or insurer’s license, even shutting down the business entirely. The incremental gains and advantages of digital and shared KYC do not yet appear to offset these risks. Every few months we read about a government fining a Financial Institution for facilitating illegal activities, a shared utility or international business losing its clients personal information and payment details to hackers. Surely this is not a good industry backdrop to encourage digital KYC!

What about 3D printers, what’s the link?

As a consumer, I find that home 3D printers are overpriced gadgets with little practical purpose. As a B2B professional working with the largest Supply Chains in the world, the potential opportunity just blows my mind. Analysts agree that most global Supply Chains will be affected, shifting current patterns of commerce and logistics to a complete transformation over the next few decades. The biggest shift will happen around companies focusing on the production of Intellectual Property, delivered in the shape of Digital Assets – such as the files containing the 3D model and assembly specifications for their products. Other companies will focus on the physical production of commercial items, based on those Digital Assets. Analysts agree that most of this world will never be exposed to consumers, just like the world of global logistic is today.

The disruption: Digital Assets and Digital Identity

If you download music, movies or games regularly, (legally of course) then you probably know about Digital Rights Management (DRM). This early 2000s technology somewhat enabled contents producers and commercial online sharing platforms to ensure you are the only person able to play a track, or rent a movie for a certain period of time. 3D printers bring a new, bigger compelling event for such DRMs, the opportunity to control who can print a product, how many copies, for how long, with verified raw materials and on certified printing equipment. There are typically two facets for this technology: the Digital Asset itself (the 3D design combined with printing requirements and authorised users), and the Digital Identity (the certified, authenticated businesses and users).

You see where this is going now…

Digital Identity management will spread fast and wide, surfing the 3D printing revolution both for B2B and consumer markets. Digital Assets owners and producers will have an enormous stake and KYC shared utilities will probably continue to experiment and grow over the next couple of years, with more and more “use cases” coming into the frame.

I don’t believe that shared utilities for a single industry will gather enough critical mass. Payments and Cash Management itself is already changing, with the introduction of PSD2 rules in Europe, the rise of Blockchain technology and distributed payment ledgers. If we look broadly, banking users (business or consumers) also begin to require a unique Digital Identity for other aspects of their life. Combining innovation with regulation over the next five years is going to be key and the winner will likely manage to combine Digital Identity across several industries and markets, similar to the IT Certificates Authorities (CAs) that spread across all industries since the early 2000s.

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Jerome Tillier

Jerome is a Senior Solutions Consultant in Financial Services, based in the UK.

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