strong identity verification system can help banks connect with customers more
efficiently, Donnie Gates, SVP, Business Development at First Orion chats about the
importance of identity verification in today’s finance and banking market with us:
Hi Donnie, tell us a bit about yourself and your journey in tech. How has your time at
First Orion been?
I’ve worked with companies in financial services for the past 25 years. In my early jobs, I
was responsible for identifying customers and doing customer recognition in consulting.
From there I moved into fraud and identity verification. At First Orion, I am able to apply
my experience from both those areas in my work with large enterprises, to increase
customer satisfaction and retention.
As Vice President of Business Development, I service the strategic and enterprise
accounts at First Orion. This includes those that subscribe to our call control, blocking,
transparency, and management solutions which tell mobile subscribers who is calling
and why before they ever answer the phone. It’s rewarding to see the difference
transparency can make for customers when they are able to identify themselves over the
phone and get their calls answered.
I’m particularly proud of the fact that my career at First Orion has allowed me to play a
role in ending fraudulent phone calls, which is a multibillion-dollar industry. It is the most
rewarding part of my job and not something I take lightly. I’ve spent my career trying to
put an end to fraud and the work we do at First Orion makes a significant impact.
We’d love to hear a little about your thoughts on the evolution of identity verification,
how do you see its increasing importance today?
First Orion initially set out to identify, tag, and stop spam calls. There’s an obvious need
for this among almost everybody with a cell phone — most of us receive spam calls
several times a week. However, the technology that allows us to take control of this
fraud, also allows us to do more than that – if we know how to apply it. The identity
verification industry can now stop mobile fraud but also assist companies in ensuring
legitimate phone calls get through, connecting them with their customers faster and
Only 4% of people have Caller ID. This is an astounding statistic. Many people assume
they have Caller ID, but that is because they have so many numbers saved in their
contacts. They fail to pick up the phone, however, when an unsaved number calls
because they don’t know who is on the other end. As a result, 84% of calls go
unanswered. Identity verification is making a real impact on this. Enabling businesses to
identify themselves and the purpose of their call drastically changes the way they are
able to communicate with their customers, putting an end to the dreaded game of phone
tag between enterprises and customers.
Can you talk about some of the biggest pain points of larger financial institutions
and banks in 2020, how do you see them respond to these challenges of the new
It’s no surprise that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been wary of going
into businesses. This, of course, includes visiting their banks, which means most
business has shifted online. However, while consumers value convenience and the
ability to use technology to contact their bank when it comes to being contacted, a
phone call is still preferred. 92% of customers said it was extremely or very important to
be able to speak with a live person at their primary financial institution. But, 66% still
report missing calls from their financial institution because they didn’t recognize the
While banks are looking for ways to more effectively communicate with customers, they
are overlooking the most obvious way. Banks need to prioritize communicating with
customers over the phone but need an effective way to identify themselves when calling.
The 2020 global pandemic has made banks and financial institutions to adapt to the
digital transformation – when it comes to bigger institutes choosing a FinTech
partner to support initiatives here, can you share some thoughts that come to your
The Covid-19 pandemic forced enterprises around the world to digitally transform
seemingly overnight. While banks have changed the way they communicate with
customers as a result, they aren’t being effective. Financial institutions are focused on
improving their websites, mobile apps, and chat functions to further digital
transformation. But, they need to focus on customer service via a phone call and be able
to properly identify themselves when doing so. In fact, an astounding 70% of
customers would leave their bank for one that was properly able to identify themselves
when calling. This not only shows that customers want to know who’s calling and why,
but it also emphasizes the point that customers want to speak with a person when
discussing personal financial matters.
Do you think banks and financial institutions should be focusing more on ramping up
their customer experience process for a better user experience in 2021?
The best customer service from financial institutions comes via a phone call. However,
there is no user experience if a customer doesn’t pick up the phone. Since so few
people have caller ID, it’s important for financial institutions to take the step to identify
who they are and why they’re calling before a customer even picks up the phone. This
will increase customer satisfaction and retention and eliminate the need for a back-and-
forth phone tag to get in touch when a problem arises.
Global FinTech trends are changing and the market is shifting due to evolving
business environments (and also due to Covid-19), what can you comment on the
state of FinTech in 2021?
An obvious majority of banking institutions have mobile banking platforms and, in recent
years, have found themselves in a rat-race to constantly improve their software and
have the best app on the market in an effort to increase customer satisfaction. While still
very effective, customers’ trust in these apps is decreasing and customers aren’t making
banking decisions based on which institution offers the best online experience. When a
customer has a banking issue, they want to speak to a human on the phone to ensure
their problem is resolved without any issues.
In the coming years, I think we’ll start to see a shift back to banks relying more on
human-to-human interactions via phone call. As I mentioned, 70% of banking
customers would leave their bank for one that can properly identify themselves when
calling. Further, more than one in three customers see a phone call as the most secure
way to resolve banking issues compared to mobile banking (18%), email (18%), and
text/SMS (12%). With the constant competition for customers in the banking industry,
financial institutions need to listen to their customers and start placing calls while
correctly identifying who they are.
Can you tell us a little about some of First Orion’s upcoming plans and innovations?
First Orion is aiming to eliminate two things: mobile fraud, and phone tag. We believe no
one should feel the pain of scam calls, and everyone should know who’s calling and
why. Most of us know somebody who has been tricked into losing money via a
fraudulent phone call. In fact, in 2019 the FTC received 1.7 million fraud complaints for a
reported total loss of $1.9 billion. The ability to identify play a part in identifying and
stopping these calls is something we do not take lightly — it is radically changing the
telecom industry and bringing back trust in a phone call.
With this same technology, First Orion has set another lofty goal: the elimination of
phone tag. First Orion’s platform is not only able to identify bad actors making phone
calls but we can identify the good ones as well. First Orion’s ability to tell users who is
calling and why has increased answer rates by over 200%, eliminating the need for a
constant string of call-backs for both parties. When customers are empowered with the
information of who is on the other end of the call and what they’re calling to discuss, they
provide the ability to make an informed decision on whether or not to answer the call. As
a result, important calls get resolved in a timely manner and customers get the help they
need the first time, ending the need for phone tag.
And lastly, tell us about some of the biggest learnings and tips you’d like to share
with FinTech innovators and leaders…
It’s important to remember the human aspect of why this technology matters. It’s crucial
to end fraudulent calls and connect businesses with their customers. In today’s digital
world we continue to evolve and innovate constantly, but human touch is essential and
customers need a voice — a phone call is that voice. Connecting over the phone
increases trust and satisfaction among customers in a way that cannot be replicated by
any other medium. It’s exciting to see the technological advancements happening, giving
us infinitely more ways to communicate, but it’s important to remember that nothing will
ever replace a good, old fashioned phone call.
Thank you for answering all our questions Donnie!