INTERVIEW: Rich Agostinelli, CEO, Crossmatch

INTERVIEW: Rich Agostinelli, CEO, CrossmatchFindBiometrics president Peter O’Neill recently spoke with Rich Agostinelli, CEO, Crossmatch. The conversation begins with recognition of the company’s 20th anniversary and an overview of Crossmatch’s efforts to reorganize into two distinct business segments. The interview then goes on to deal with Crossmatch’s involvement in two extremely important vertical markets right now—FinTech and refugee ID programs—before concluding with a glimpse of what’s next for the company.

Read the full interview below:


Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics (FB): I’d like to start off our conversation today by recognizing your twentieth year anniversary, please tell us about this.

Rich Agostinelli, CEO, Crossmatch (CM): Thanks Peter. Twenty years is pretty amazing. Crossmatch was founded here in Palm Beach County in 1996 by three guys in a garage with a vision for digital fingerprint capture. They were key contributors to the digitization of biometrics that revolutionized fingerprint capture. We have had a long history of biometric industry firsts and have led a lot of changes in the industry over the years. We are proud to be celebrating our anniversary and of our continuing leadership contributions to the industry.

FB: Did you every think you would see what we are seeing now with biometrics, with the acceptance and the global nature of the business?

CM: I really didn’t, Peter. I have been in the industry myself now for about 16 years, back when it was really just a science project. To see it come into the mainstream is very gratifying. The speed of the change, especially over the past couple of years, has been pretty amazing. The rapid acceptance, both in the commercial and consumer worlds versus our legacy acceptance in criminal law enforcement and defense, has been quite gratifying as well.

FB: Agreed. You have done well as a company to keep up with the marketplace movement. As a matter of fact, you recently added some new features to the DigitalPersona Altus solution. How do these help minimize the growing concern of end user friction and obstacles in the marketplace?

CM: Sure, let me actually start by saying in addition to adding features to our DigitalPersona Altus solution, we have made some other market alignment changes here at Crossmatch. We are now in the final stages of reorganizing Crossmatch into two distinct business segments. One is what we call our Biometric Identity Solutions, or BIS segment, that serves the traditional markets in law enforcement and military, civil ID, border control, etc. And then there is our Multi-factor Authentication segment, or MFA, which encompasses DigitalPersona Altus, which you just mentioned.

We found that the problems faced by customers and the actual decision makers themselves are really dramatically different in these two spaces. Therefore, we have reorganized the company to better meet the needs of these two distinct user groups.

In response to your specific question, the DigitalPersona Altus solution falls within this Multi-factor Authentication space and is in fact the centerpiece of our offering there. Ease of use and being able to facilitate transactions are key. We provide a secure authentication environment in order to enable a transaction, whether network login, application access, workflow authentication or financial transaction for example.

We have incorporated contextual authentication, or risk-based authentication—sometimes called step-up authentication—that takes a look at where the request is coming from and what is being requested. It is based on the security profile, including elements such as the point of origin, is it inside the firewall or outside. We’ll then make a determination on how many factors of authentication are needed to facilitate the transaction. So, if it is a fairly low risk transaction from a low-risk endpoint, then the rules engine will say one factor is fine. If it is a high-risk transaction from a high-risk endpoint, for example trying to move a large sum of money from one account to another from a probe that is coming from an Internet café in some remote part of the world, that would be a high-risk transaction. These are the kinds of things that are being demanded by the users. They are saying, “Yes we want security, but we also want convenience.” It used to be there was a trade off between security and convenience, but today the market demands both.

FB: Absolutely. We focused all month long in June on border control and national ID. Can I get your thoughts on the current migrant refugee challenge and how biometrics can help?

CM: Yes. I just mentioned the principle driver on our business on the authentication side. The principle drivers of our business on the BIS, or Biometric Identity Solution, side include refugee management and border control. The most pressing problem facing the world today as we look to continue to combat terrorism is that the physical security in many of these refugee camps is lacking. There is a white paper posted on our website that addresses this and other identity related challenges within the camps. We’ve started to develop solutions specifically designed for refugee management, in coordination with various government agencies around the world. For example, we are looking at solutions to ensure agencies can manage camp access, provide proper healthcare services and distributed benefits to those that are deemed eligible.  The end result is efficiently dispensed desperately needed aid while improving security and reducing fraud.  

So, biometrics is truly a critical part of the solution here because the traditional breeder documents simply don’t exist. Migrants/refugees may not have birth certificates or driver licences or any of the traditional paper documents that are usually presented to prove identity. Biometrics become critical in this scenario.

FB: Well I couldn’t agree more that the migrant refugee challenge is one of the most pressing areas out there, and one of the other opportunities has to do with banking and the financial area. You were just recognized by Temenos for your biometric solution for this area, can you tell us about this?

CM: Yes, we are very proud of that actually and thank you for mentioning it. Temenos is the largest core banking software provider in the world with I think close to 1,800 or maybe 2,000 installations globally. Our DigitalPersona Altus multi-factor authentication solution is actually integrated as one module of their core banking solution for both customer and employee verification for Know Your Customer (KYC) initiatives and also for employees and tellers accessing the database.

Temenos recognized us as their Complementary Solution Provider of the Year. Principally because of the ease of use of our product, the way we are tightly integrated with their solution and the fact that we have worked very hard on helping to drive business for both them and us –  especially in emerging markets where Temenos is very interested in banking the unbanked. The Temenos solution with the DigitalPersona Altus module has been deployed in places such as Cambodia, Africa and the Philippines, as well as a variety of other places around the world. We are particularly proud of that.  In fact we have been so successful with Temenos in having Altus as part of their core ERP system, that we are working with them and their customers to use Altus outside the core ERP system to control access to other critical business systems within the banks. That is a major focus of ours.

FB: Well congratulations on that. We do a lot of work in the FinTech area and the financial banking area with Money 20/20 and their FinTech conferences and it’s nice to see you moving into that area. There is so much opportunity and there is so much need it seems.

CM: Absolutely. FinTech is one of our key markets that we are looking to expand our footprint. We already have several hundred banks and small financial institutions as customers today.

FB: What is next for Crossmatch as you move forward into this continually growing marketplace?

CM: I’ll talk about it again in terms of our business segments. In terms of the MFA segment, this year is going to bring additional capabilities for both cloud and mobile, expanding the use cases that we can handle both in the cloud and through mobile devices. Our product, like many, grew up in an “on-premise” environment and we are now moving rapidly into the cloud and mobile devices. We’ll continue our drive into banking as I just mentioned, as well as further expansion with OEM’s. Our software is preloaded on HP and Dell commercial computers and we’d like to grow our penetration of the OEM market.

On the BIS side, you are going to see additional software for both enrollment, pre-enrollment and work flow management, as well as a new generation of hardware. And then in general, we have a major upgrade of our Palm Beach Gardens facility. We just signed a seven year lease there and initiating a major overhaul of the facility to encourage collaboration and innovation, creating an environment that facilitates the way software and hardware engineers like to work today. So it is a pretty exciting time for us.

FB: It is so nice to see the marketplace moving so well, but it is also so nice to see companies that have been involved in all the work that has got us to where we are now, take advantage of this opportunity. Thank you very much for carving out some time for us today and I look forward to hearing how the two new units, the MFA and BIS move forward in the coming year.

CM: Peter, it is always a pleasure speaking with you, thanks very much.