From pioneering financial solutions to streamlining information management, Sarah Moorhouse and Bianca Saccaro are transforming how our supersensitive employment income details are exchanged and verified, meaning Aussie’s can secure those big ticket life aims more quickly and safely. So are they game changers?
I’m Gemma Acton, Sarah and Bianca, welcome to Game Changers.
It is wonderful to have you both with us today. Really role models in technology, particularly as women in a sector where women are traditionally underrepresented. Sarah, tell us, how did you get your start in technology?
Sarah: It’s all been through Equifax, if I’m honest. Before that, different things, but I’ve always really been focused on compliance. I started my journey with Equifax just over three years ago on one project background screening and compliance, but got the opportunity to move to something really innovative, and exciting – the verification exchange. I feel really privileged to be in this position, to really drive something forward in the market that’s going to make a difference and help financial inclusion and literacy in Australia.
Gemma: Bianca, Sarah mentioned innovative. This product has been described as innovative. It’s been awarded prizes for its innovation. Why is that important to Australian consumers? Why does that matter? Why will that help them?
Bianca: Well, it’s important to a number of people, so certainly the consumers, but also to lenders and brokers and for streamlining the whole process. It’s all about automating what is today a very manual process for brokers and lenders when it comes to verifying one’s employment income. How it does that, is it digitizes and standardizes employment income data. What we find traditionally is that lenders today would ask for pay slips or bank statements to verify one’s employment income. We certainly liken this more so to identifying, because they’re essentially just citing a pay slip or they’re citing a bank statement. With verification exchange, it’s about reducing risk and taking it one step further by not just identifying, but in fact verifying one’s employment income data. So it’s really that distinction between identification, versus verification and which one is the lender going to go for and how does it benefit the end user?
Gemma: Sarah, how do you incentivise employers to join the exchange?
Sarah: Through a number of different channels. First and foremost, I should highlight that this is a product that Equifax has brought to the Australian market and to Australian employees. It’s actually a free, free solution. So it’s really, at its core, focused on data protection for everyday people like you and I that are wanting to seek access to finance. So effectively we’re reaching out to employers and saying you can have this additional layer of data protection for something that is a gap in a process that hasn’t really been thought of until recently.
With more people becoming aware and savvy about cyber risks and protection of data and the need to protect data more and more because it is being accessed by cyber criminals, this is a way that we can empower individuals and employers in a way that’s not really looked at today. For most employers, they’ll see the application for finance is something that their employees manage, which is correct. It’s their choice, it’s their decisions to do that. However, there’s no process to get the employees sensitive information, so their PI, from their internal systems through to the end user. There’s no safe mechanism of data transfer or getting it to safe harbour is the phrase that’s commonly used.
We’re giving this solution to employers to do that. So no longer is it necessary to download pay slips, or print them, or scan, or fax, if anyone still does that anymore, and share that sensitive information in a potentially risky and compromising way. So we’re looking really around data protection, employee benefit and feeding into financial wellbeing. That’s really the big incentives for employers.
Gemma: Bianca, we heard at the start how Sarah ended up at Equifax and choosing a technology career. How did you get there? What was your path?
Bianca: So I’ve been in the world of digital tech, if you like, for several years now. Prior to my role at Equifax, I was involved in more of the prop tech space and certainly looked at various ways that we could digitize solutions, all the way through to digital verification of identity, which was really exciting.
Gemma: Prop tech being realestate technology?
Bianca: Yeah, property technology and supporting property lawyers and whatnot. That then led me to my role here at Equifax, which today is really predominantly around introducing to our industry partners our latest, most innovative product to the Australian market, which is verification exchange.
Sarah: It’s really exciting that we get to do it together. We sit on different sides of the exchange, but we get to work together and support each other and foster us growing and bringing this solution to the market as two women in this space.
Gemma: So you would count the innovation, the brainstorming, the development as a real perk of your jobs?
Bianca: Yeah, absolutely.
Sarah: And we get to it together, which is really nice.
So, with refinancing, that might happen once every couple of years. What’s another example for renters? Would they use them, for instance?
Sarah: So it’s focused specifically at this point in time around securing finance. So your credit cards, your auto loans, home loans, refinancing, but you’re absolutely on the money. The rental market is absolutely another use case for this. If we think about the speed and, again, the sensitive information that we’re sharing when securing it. Again, we’re in a bit of a housing rental crisis at the moment, so this is an excellent use case. At the moment we’re really honing in on that financial sector because that’s proven to be the biggest use case at the moment. The average Australian will go for different types of finance, on average one in three times per annum.
Bianca: And just to add to that, whilst there’s the most compelling event currently for us to support the finance industry, because of things such as needing a faster time to yes, and documents to data and whatnot. To your point, the real estate industry is one that we are currently exploring. So, if we take a step back to think about how perhaps property managers today are vetting tenants for landlords, if they had a solution such as this that they could leverage, we could certainly look to mitigate tenant fraud, for example.
There is also another vertical that we’re starting to explore, which is insurance. The insurance industry has somewhat been under some scrutiny of late, particularly around perhaps underpaying claimants. Our understanding is that a lot of the argument for that was that they weren’t necessarily privy to an individual or a claimant’s most recent employment income data. So again, to be able to leverage a solution such as verification exchange, they would have access to that and again be able to pay out claimants what’s rightfully owed.
Gemma: Sarah, how secure is verification exchange?
Sarah: It’s a great question, something that we’ve dedicated a lot of time to. People can use the verification exchange, whether it be the financial community or Australian employers with confidence. It’s got your SoC certifications, type One and type Two, your ISO 27,001, which are products from Equifax. You’d expect to have these standards in place, but really importantly, it stands up to the Australian privacy principles, both as they exist today, but also they’re aligning too many of the reforms that are coming in place with the papers coming out now and the additional guidance and changes that are expected that are leaning more towards GDPR models.
There’s more onus on the employer and the employer and how they’re facilitating employees the protection of this data. But as I mentioned earlier, also the transfer of this data. So it’s extremely robust in its current form and will continue to be, as well as the additional layers of technology, security, firewalls that completely encase the solution.
Gemma: So both forward looking and international looking as well?
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. On the international piece, so yes, we focused on the solution in Australia and making sure that again, that word robust, it was really robust in our landscape, but we have the solution in the UK, in Canada, our flagship, the work number in the US and also India. So it really is a global solution that is going to leverage off the additional changes and really maximise how we can impact on a global level, but really keeping it local and protecting Australians.
Gemma: Bianca, tell us you work with the lenders, how is uptake going?
Bianca: Yes. So we started off very much testing the waters and we did that initially with the broker market just to understand, because as we know over 70% of mortgages originate from brokers today in Australia, which is huge. So we tested the waters with the brokers and certainly saw that there was an appetite there. Very quickly we started to turn to the lenders because often the brokers would say, yes, we’re interested but has it got a lender acceptance? So we shifted our focus to the lenders. We have a number of tier one and tier two lenders currently using the solution and or in the process of adopting the solution, which is great. That’s really given us that freedom to shift back to the broker aggregator market and we’re currently working on a model that is from aggregator/broker straight through to the lender and then benefiting the consumer. So one end to end process, which has not been seen before in this part of an application process which is verifying employment.
Gemma: That sounds like you’re really making inroads already.
Bianca: We are. It’s very exciting.
Read more about Sarah and Bianca here.
Find out more about Equifax here: https://www.equifax.com.au/
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