Interview with Jane Snipes, Managing Partner, Northstar Recruiting

Northstar Recruiting is the longest serving recruitment firm in the identity management industry, having provided its services for physical and logical access control markets for 17 years. Interview with Jane Snipes, Managing Partner, Northstar RecruitingRecently, FindBiometrics President Peter O’Neill spoke with Jane Snipes, Managing Partner at Northstar Recruiting. The conversation takes a birds-eye view of the biometrics markets, identifying major industry developments, examining prominent trends like multimodality and mobility, and highlighting the challenges still facing the identity management space.

Read the full interview with Jane Snipes, Managing Partner, Northstar Recruiting:


Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: You and I have been working in this industry for over a decade, and it’s been really incredible to see it grow from big ideas into real life deployments, especially in the past four years. Do you agree that we’re seeing a special time for the biometrics markets? Looking back, do you think there was a tipping point where biometrics gained critical mass?

Jane Snipes, Managing Partner, Northstar Recruiting: It definitely is a special time and looking back I think the pivotal moment when biometrics came into its own was when Apple acquired Authentec. For years, biometrics had been a staple technology for the military and law enforcement but the general public only ever saw it in movies.  But when Apple put finger recognition onto the phone it totally legitimized the technology and, in one fell swoop, biometrics became a staple for the rest of us.

FB: I couldn’t agree more. It almost happened overnight with Apple, it was remarkable the change in our industry. All of a sudden biometrics were cool.

Northstar: Yes, absolutely!  Social media has been a major boon for companies wanting to broadcast new technology and never before have so many people  been within reach at the click of just a few buttons, so it’s been perfect timing for biometrics to come to the forefront and just take off.

FB: Two of the big biometric markets we are seeing a ton of activity in are finance and mobility. But it could be argued (and often is) that even though these spaces have really embraced biometrics, there’s still a lot of room for advancement. Do you agree? What sort of developments would you like to see in these spaces over the next few years?

Northstar: The success of fingerprint recognition on the phone is such that I don’t think there’s much resistance at all to using biometrics now, which surely paves the way for expansion into other applications.  Going forward, I think consumers will expect the same level of security elsewhere in their lives, particularly for payments and transactions.   

FB: You know Jane, I now see that a lot of biometrics at the Fintech shows like Money 20/20 or the Mobile World Congress, specifically addressing the payments marketplace. These are end user customers so quite a significant change.

But there is also a growing interest in biometrics for enterprise security. Do you think the enterprise market is ready to really embrace biometrics? How far off do you think we are from biometrics being the business standard?

Northstar: It’s here already! I think it comes down to our conscious awareness of technology and how it can help us and secure us.  Consumers can manage their lives from a smartphone and that will drive big demand for the same type of functionality in the workplace.  Companies providing an enterprise product or solution that aren’t working to integrate biometrics into their internal and external environments, wherever feasible, will get left behind at some point, and the void will be filled by a company that does have the vision and drive to meet demand.

FB: I was speaking with the people over at ISC West, the big physical access security show, and they are seeing the trend towards biometrics and enterprise security so it really is starting to happen…fast.

While mobility is still a very hot topic in biometrics right now, I have to say one of the biggest trends we saw in 2016 was a real shift in focus toward multimodal solutions. The topic came up at every panel and webinar I hosted last year. What is driving this shift? Do you think the reason varies depending on the market?

Northstar: Customers require choice so solutions will have to be multimodal in order to meet that need.  We’ve become a global society that, “wants what we want, when we want it” and we have an insatiable appetite for new, cool, convenient, easy-to-use technology so, although the biometrics space has had somewhat of a Pacman-type existence over the last 10 years as smaller companies have been acquired, there’s certainly still room for newcomers in the space.  

FB: We just finished our 14th annual Year in Review analysis, and the CEO of the SIA, Don Erickson wrote the introduction for us. He said his association believes physical and logical access are converging. Do you agree that the lines between physical and information security are blurring? Could they one day be indistinguishable?

Northstar: I totally agree. We saw a very deliberate industry shift towards convergence about ten years ago, but as early as 2004 we saw companies hiring electronic access control and logical access control teams and blending them together.   The boundary between the two will be ultimately become seamless.

FB: It feels like every couple of months the industry as a whole is making one landmark achievement or another—a new modality will ship on a phone, a major corporation will deploy biometrics in a new way, that kind of thing—but there is still ground to cover. What are some of the big, tough challenges that you think still need to be addressed in biometrics on a grand scale?

Northstar: I think the biggest challenge is going to be integration and scaling up for mass use. Building a system for millions of users across the globe that still achieves top speed and accuracy will be a long-term effort.  

FB: Well Jane it is always a pleasure speaking to someone who has the depth of knowledge that you have of our industry and as the leading recruiter in the identity industry it is always great to hear your thoughts on what is happening. Thank you again for taking the time to speak with us today.

Northstar: Thank you so much for your time, Peter, and thank you for all your have done for biometrics. You have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to move companies and technology forward and you are an unsung hero of this industry’s success.