How to drive growth by modernizing Customer Identity

How does a 172-year-old company evolve to meet the needs of today’s customers and employees?

That was one of the hot topics at the Gartner Identity and Access Management (IAM) Summit, where Okta’s Senior Principal for Industries, Tom Malta, hosted a fireside chat with MassMutual Financial Group’s Chris Rich to discuss how companies like MassMutual are driving growth and loyalty by modernizing Customer Identity. 

We caught up with Malta to learn more about why so many companies in financial services and beyond are now focusing on Identity as the key to their digital transformation.

The time to modernize is now

Malta says that a perfect storm of factors has made now the right time for companies to modernize. 

First, customer preferences have evolved. Instead of heading down to their local bank branch to deposit a check or speak with a teller, many now prefer — and expect — the convenience and flexibility of digital banking via apps and virtual assistants. This trend isn’t unique to financial services, either; companies in all industries need to embrace new technologies and remove friction to satisfy these digital-first consumers. Clunky user interfaces and cumbersome login experiences will no longer suffice.

“Experiences that are seamless, easy to use, and tailored to your customers are now table stakes,” Malta says. “Without them, some of your existing customers will move away, and you’ll possibly lose new customers as well.”

Navigating regulations and risk 

Another factor that’s driving finserv modernization is today’s increasingly complex regulatory environment. 

“This is a highly regulated space,” Malta says. “We’re seeing emerging regulations across the financial services industry, and rising compliance costs to meet new controls like the NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulation and non-phishable requirements.” 

According to Malta, many finserv companies may have been slow to modernize due to the perceived costs of replacing their legacy on-prem solutions with new technology. That resistance can become even more pronounced in an economic downturn, when IT budgets face even greater scrutiny. But the risk of being out of compliance can be quite costly as well — and is only getting costlier. That’s why Malta is now seeing many of these companies upgrading their IAM approaches with more secure, modern solutions like Okta. 

And thanks to Okta’s developer-friendly tools and SDKs and low/no-code workflows, it’s an investment that can deliver results quickly. “By leveraging Okta, these companies can start seeing value in weeks, not months or years,” Malta says.  

Embracing the new normal

Malta also cites the COVID-19 pandemic as a major reason why companies are now adopting new Identity solutions — not just for their customers, but for their employees as well.

“It used to be that employees would have to badge into an office building, then maybe onto a specific floor, so by the time they sat down at their desks and turned on their computer, they would already have been authenticated to some extent. With the shift to remote work, business leaders wanted a way to replicate that extra layer of security no matter where their employees were working. So we saw a huge surge in interest in multi-factor authentication (MFA). And it’s really becoming the norm.” 

By implementing Identity solutions like Okta, companies can keep their systems secure by enabling modern standards like MFA, or whatever new approaches may emerge. 

“Okta is the largest independent and neutral Identity provider in the market, and we’ve made significant investment into R&D,” Malta says. So as passwordless authentication and other Identity innovations arise, Okta customers can rest assured that they’ll have access to the most modern, best-in-class solutions.   

One Identity, endless opportunities

Finally, diversification is influencing this modernization movement. A generation ago, a financial services company might have focused solely on consumer banking. But today’s leading finserv companies offer a diverse array of products and services like wealth management, life insurance, retirement plans, mortgages, and more. Each of these business lines might have its own app or website, which can lead to siloed experiences for customers. Instead, Malta suggests, finserv companies can better serve customers by taking a “one-Identity” approach. 

“I’m hearing this use case more and more lately,” Malta says. “As companies modernize, they want to reduce friction for customers, stay competitive, and begin to open up their products and services more broadly.” They can do that by implementing a single Identity solution across their businesses, giving customers a consistent and seamless experience whether they’re looking to check their bank account balance or apply for a home loan.

This convenience can even extend to a company’s partners. Thanks to new approaches like Open Banking, customers can connect accounts and transfer money between institutions via services like Venmo and Zelle, all from one centralized place. “According to Accenture, 76% of banks worldwide expect their customers to adopt Open Banking,” Malta says. “So it’s going to be a really important way to earn customer loyalty.”

The future is better together

Looking ahead, Malta sees a future where Identity solutions converge, unlocking new possibilities. 

“We’re seeing more companies realizing value by choosing a single platform like Okta for both their Customer and Workforce Identity needs,” Malta says. “It lets them keep pace with the market and remain competitive without having to source solutions from multiple vendors.” It might also lead to new efficiencies, like being able to review risk signals and manage access settings all in one place.

“That’s our vision for the future — giving our customers a single platform for Identity, to make it as easy as possible for them to balance security and usability while meeting all of their regulatory requirements. Identity is truly where everything comes together.”