Darrin Edelman, Co-Founder of Token of Trust, speaks with LinkedIn and Capgemini about the future of trust in finance, collaboration, and his company’s origin story.
Can you tell us about Token of Trust?
Token of Trust helps to build trust between people, in particular, in online contexts. We started company because somebody tried to rip me off while conducting business online. After reflecting on the the incident with my co-founders-to-be — we couldn’t believe that there was no effective way to do a digital handshake at that point in time. The founding team realized that not only did a method of a digital handshake between people need to be solved, it’s going to happen eventually. We felt that when a solution does exist, it’s going to need to be designed in a responsible way that that is more transparent than people and businesses usually tended to do.
What are the core tenets of customer centricity?
Speed is definitely important for young people using financial products. In particular, banks that are trying to engage with millennials and the younger generations require both speed and ease-of-use. But it goes beyond that — companies must present an interface that customers understand, be able to trust that the company is acting in their best interest, and deliver some kind of value. We’re in a day and age where financial institutions need to get back to basics and re-ask questions about what customers really need. They need to be able to store their money somewhere, have access to that money, and perhaps borrow money. But as far as the banks themselves… technically customers don’t need the bank if they can find other ways to satisfy those functions in some other way. If financial institutions and their partners are going to continue to do business with millennials going forward, they need to make sure they understand millennial values and deliver against them in the best possible way.
What are the core tenets of trust?
I would say that in order to generate trust, you need to make sure that you’re creating strong, positive, predictable outcomes. If you can do that on a regular basis, then you are going to build trust with those that you’re dealing with. There’s both an explicit contract that you have with your customer, and then there’s an implicit contract shaped over time as well. The explicit contract is the product/service promise made to them. The implicit contract is how you behave, especially with the things that they share with you. So, data is a perfect example, that’s been in the headlines lately. How are you treating that data? Are you monetizing that data? Is that something that’s well understood by the customer? How would they think about that? We need to think about these things as we’re dealing with the customer because we’re in a time where all of these questions are moving to the front of a customer’s mind. Consumer data is becoming more readily available and technologies like blockchain make it such that we can have accountability around what’s happened to this data every step of the way. With improved data auditing capabilities people will be able to quickly answer, “Who’s touched the data? Why have they touched the data? What about transactional fees have come out?” Companies might have been able to get away with scraping a little more off the top in the past but it’s not going to be okay in the future.
What makes a successful collaboration?
The larger institutions have established an institutional understanding of what they believe the customer desires. However, their understanding has been tainted by an what’s previously been done and what they selfishly want to get out of that relationship with the customer — there are some good things and bad things about that. On the flip side, innovators are looking at this differently. The innovators are the millennials who are now using these services and have a deeper understanding of changes they’d like to see and improvements to make. By starting fresh with less bias, we don’t start with the big wall that is between what our customer actually desires and what we’re providing them. We start from nothing. We look at the new technologies we can figure out, we build it in a way that can make that wall less of a hurdle. I think the institutions bring a wealth of understanding with regards to what they need out of the business while innovators bring an understanding of how to use technology to get closer to achieving what the customer needs.
What are the best lessons for collaborating with large institutions?
One of the things that needs to happen in any successful collaboration is under-promise and over-deliver. Beyond that, established institutions need to recognize that by pursuing a new technology, they’ll need to invest of their time, money, and energy. There should be an information exchange and sometimes there may be a need to bend established rules. It’s important to understand where rules can be modified while still servicing customers as well as where things are immutable such as policies enforced under law. It’s important to understand what can be adjusted and what’s off-limits to collaboration to address those as efficiently as possible.
What was the genesis of the idea for Token of Trust?
Token of Trust was an idea that originated after almost becoming the victim of a scam. I was looking to move to a new city and I didn’t know it very well. I was looking to rent a fully furnished apartment for three to six months to figure out the lay of the land — then eventually move to a permanent place. The coordination was a little bit more complicated because I was doing the apartment search remotely. During that process, it came to the point where I was being asked for a security deposit, and it became clear that I didn’t know anything about the person renting the place. So, I asked the question, “Hey, how do I know that you are who you say are and that this is a property you can rent?” The conversation quickly went downhill — it appeared to be a scam and was a waste of time. I had 10 other places on the list that I hadn’t yet researched. It was a hot rental market and didn’t want to waste my time looking for a good place. I was frustrated because I couldn’t believe that ten years after the emergence of online classifieds, we still didn’t have a good digital handshake to use that’s reliable, quick, easy, and that I can control. That’s when we set out to create Token of Trust. We felt that not only was it something that’s going to need to be present, it will eventually be present. I thought that even if we didn’t come up with the best solution for solving this problem, we’d become a player that could move the ball forward in the right direction.