FintekNews is pleased to offer the 8th installation of our weekly feature column “3 Questions”. Each week, we feature a thought leader within a unique sector of fintech and ask them to answer just 3 questions for our audience in their vernacular. This week we are pleased to introduce you to Ramesh Kesanupalli, Founder of Palo Alto-based Nok Nok Labs, an innovator in modern authentication and a founding member of the FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) Alliance.
Founder and FIDO Visionary
Nok Nok Labs
What does your firm do/offer within the fintech sector?
Nok Nok Labs enables simple, strong authentication at consumer scale. Our company is the founder of the FIDO Alliance and inventor of the FIDO UAF protocol. We helped to coalesce the industry to solve the password authentication problem, something that is particularly painful in Fintech. The FIDO Alliance started with six companies including Nok Nok, PayPal and Lenovo, and has since grown to 250+ companies including all of the major players in financial services and the mobile authentication ecosystem. You’re now seeing deployments as the consensus around FIDO has emerged, and we’ve been able to convince large players like PayPal, Alipay and NTT DOCOMO who have huge consumer footprints, to deploy our offering on their networks. For Fintech, there has historically been a tradeoff between ease-of-use and security. This is one of those rare situations where you can deliver stronger security with ease of use. We allow you to have your cake and eat it too.
What do you believe the next major innovation in financial technology will be and why?
I see mobile-to-mobile or peer-to-peer payments as the next big innovation in Fintech. This is a global phenomenon, from first to third world. Particularly in third world countries, a consumer may not have a bank account, but they will have a cellphone. Combining mobile proliferation, security and ease-of-use enables peer-to-peer payments to be the next tidal wave. This will help to evolve the economy from physical money to an e-commerce-driven economy.
How do you feel consumers (or if more relevant for your firm – businesses) are adapting to the facet of fintech that your company operates within?
Apple’s Touch ID drove fingerprint authentication as a mainstream technology for mobile device locking and security. It has a smooth user experience and has trained users really well. That laid down a path for mobile industry innovation to help more consumers feel comfortable with biometrics. Biometric deployments are now expanding at massive scale, given that they are more reliable and at a better price point. Go into your local store and look at all of the devices with fingerprint sensors, and you also have emerging biometric modalities like iris recognition on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
A big pain point for financial services firms has been fraud coming from scalable attacks that harvest password databases. As consumers recycle passwords, your website is only as secure as the worst website on the Internet because of password reuse. The FIDO standard helps to sidestep those scalable attacks by enabling biometrics. What’s more, mobile authentication with FIDO does biometric matching on the client, so the server does not maintain a database that could be a target for attack. All of this helps to reduce fraud that comes with the password infrastructure. Biometrics and the FIDO specification leverage fingerprint sensors and other biometrics to eliminate server-side attacks by eliminating the password.
As the Founder of Nok Nok Labs, Ramesh Kesanupalli brings to the company more than two decades of public and private sector IT security experience. Mr. Kesanupalli is responsible for the company’s vision and broad industry relationships. As a board member of the FIDO Alliance (http://www.fidoalliance.org/), he provides leadership to an industry consortium where Nok Nok Labs is a founding member. Mr. Kesanupalli previously served as the Chief Technology Officer of Validity Sensors where he was responsible for software direction, strategy, alliances and strategic business development. He has also held senior management roles at Phoenix Technologies, Object Connect, Telsima, Inc. (formerly Kinera) and Network 24, which was acquired by Akamai. Mr. Kesanupalli holds patents in wireless middle tier software systems and is the author of several authentication patents. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology, India, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics from Nagarjuna University,