Anyone who has been through the homemoving process knows how repetitive and time-consuming the verification of identity process (“VOI”). Even with the introduction of digital ID providers into the market, the experience for consumers is still onerous where they might have to download multiple different digital identity apps and complete the same process multiple times.
This article looks at why VOI is being repeated in the homemoving journey and up and coming innovations set to improve the process for all involved.
Why all the repetition?
Before the advent of Digital ID providers, estate agents often performed rudimentary identity checks by examining an individual’s passport and other relevant material in their office. Under those circumstances, it was entirely justified that downstream brokers or conveyancers would not place reliance on what were sometimes cursory identity checks and would consequently undertake their own VOI processes.
However, as Digital ID providers entered the market, they initiated contracts with individual estate agents, conveyancers and brokers to offer specialised Digital ID services. These new technological solutions, while groundbreaking, did not adequately consider the unified nature of property transactions. In an increasingly digital landscape, it became feasible for ID checks to be performed once, to a verifiable standard, and then shared among the various parties involved. Despite this, the legacy practice of repetitive VOI continued.
From a commercial standpoint, there may be compelling reasons to conduct repeated ID checks on consumers. However, for the consumer, this repetition translates into a frustrating experience. Moreover, for businesses, the absence of a digital identity-sharing mechanism leads them back to a digital version of the siloed manual VOI processes they were trying to escape.
Another issue is that conveyancers or brokers might not trust the Digital ID provider that the estate agent or upstream actor uses as they have their own provider.
The future of digital identity in the home-moving process
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (“DCMS”) is to be congratulated for taking the lead in what is a very complex area. As readers will be aware, a Policy Paper entitled UK digital identity and attributes trust framework beta version (0.3) was published July this year following on from a Digital Identity Call for Evidence. See: UK digital identity and attributes trust framework alpha v1 (0.1) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and alpha testing.
In the Ministerial foreword to the Policy Paper, Matt Warman MP, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, stated that it has become increasingly important in this digital age to be able to establish trust, particularly online: this being the foundation on which thriving markets are built on. He correctly noted that having an agreed digital identity that can be used easily and universally will be the cornerstone of future economies.
The outcome of the Call for Evidence was that the government committed to developing principles to frame digital identity policy in the UK. These principles will inform how government:
- Develops a legal framework to remove regulatory barriers preventing the use of secure digital identities and establish safeguards for citizens;
- Develops the next generation of digital identity use in government;
- Explores with citizens how they want to use their government-held identity attributes and how government-held identity attributes can reduce digital exclusion; and
- Promotes a pragmatic approach to international digital identity standards and share best practice to ensure global approach to digital identity aligns with UK digital identity principles.
The Policy Paper contained the first “working” version of the UK digital identity and attributes trust framework (“the Trust Framework”) and was an important step to meeting these commitments and it is entirely proper that government take the lead in this area. The Trust Framework will hopefully result in repetitive, slow, and cumbersome ID checks in the Home Buying and Selling process becoming a thing of the past. It will enable:
- Digital ID providers to be accredited – so everyone can trust and rely on their checks;
- Orchestration Services – so that data can be securely shared and relied on;
- Compliance – a framework for customer control and consent; and
- Commercial development – act as a catalyst for identity providers upgrading their business and commercial models to accommodate digital ecosystems and data sharing.
Digital identity providers
43 businesses completed a self-assessment against Trust Framework alpha rules. This included companies such as Credas, Onfido, Thirdfort, and Yoti who have enthusiastically embraced change and have developed excellent digital identity service systems for use in the home moving sector. They have done that by building trust in the sector and are rightly developing apace.
I recall meeting the founders of one of the leading companies when they had just set up and have been hugely impressed by the progress they have made. These companies have fulfilled their part of the “bargain” and I have every confidence that they will continue to develop their offering. For us to have a true digital ID culture in the UK, however, more is required.
The Trust Framework sets out requirements so that organisations know what “good” ID verification looks like. There are also rules for:
- Making sure products and services are inclusive;
- Privacy and data protection;
- Fraud management; and
By following these rules and standards, all organisations in the Trust Framework can be sure they work in a similar, trusted way and that the digital ID once created is both portable by the citizen and is trusted. In essence, it will be a “one-stop shop”.
Whether an organisation uses the Trust Framework on their own or as part of a scheme, they will need to perform at least one of the following roles:
- An identity service provider;
- An attribute service provider;
- An orchestration service provider; or
- Be a relying party.
Scheme owners also play a role in the Trust Framework as they create and run a scheme for the use of digital identities and attributes relating to a specific industry or use case.
The “glue” which holds all of this together is the orchestration service the providers of which (“OSPs”) were defined in the DCMS Paper in the following manner:
“Orchestration service providers make sure data can be securely shared between participants in the trust framework through the provision of their technology infrastructure.”
A number of OSPs have already been certified by one of the government’s accredited certification bodies. There is not a limit on the number of OSPs that can obtain certification.
Despite a considerable amount of “noise” and a lot of talk about such a service being created for home buying and selling, the talk has not yet produced any real results or the emergence of a live or even a test orchestration service that will act as a catalyst for essential change in the home moving space. That is not good enough.
Out of the 43 companies that successfully completed the Alpha assessment, Coadjute was the only specialist in orchestration services that utilises distributed ledger technology to securely transfer digital identity data between Digital ID providers and relying parties.
This innovation allows estate agents to initiate a digital identity check at the beginning of a transaction, which can then be shared—with the consumer’s consent—amongst other participants involved, thereby streamlining the process for consumers.
The official rollout of the Trust Framework is planned for Spring 2024. Nevertheless, it is exciting to witness Coadjute, along with many of the leading Digital ID providers who have successfully navigated the Alpha assessment, collaboratively shaping the future of digital identity within the home moving sector.
While there are undoubtedly commercial and procedural hurdles in transitioning from the legacy model of isolated manual or digital ID checks, these challenges are nearing resolution. Come October 2024, the first wave of estate agents, conveyancers, and brokers will be operational within a trusted digital ecosystem, offering consumers a transformative digital ID experience.
So what next?
It is suggested that instead of waiting to see what may or may not be delivered by the companies working in the orchestration space, there is more to be gained by examining the Coadjute service in more detail and, if it is as robust as it appears to be, using that as the essential foundation on which the full Digital ID revolution can be built in the home buying and selling process. Success breeds success.
We have talked about the importance of Digital ID for years now. Identity service providers, attribute providers and relying parties now need trusted orchestration service providers which can pull all of this together. We have waited long enough. Carpe diem!
Article written Professor Stewart Brymer of the University of Dundee and the Scottish Conveyancers Forum. He is a participants in the Home Buying & Selling Group.
The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author.