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Smarter Verification with Charlie Minutella

Steve interviews Chief Executive Officer & Board Member of Data Zoo, Charlie Minutella

In this week’s episode, I interview identity industry veteran and Chief Executive Officer & Board Member of Data Zoo, Charlie Minutella.

Charlie has two decades of experience leading risk, identity, and compliance teams. He was appointed CEO of Data Zoo in February 2024 after Data Zoo’s founder Tony Fitzgibbon transitioned to Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer.

Charlie discusses his tenured career in Know Your Customer (KYC) and regulation technology at companies such as Thomson Reuters and London Stock Exchange Group. He shares how his career has evolved from sales executive to Chief Executive at Data Zoo and how his organization is solving tough problems in digital identity, identity verification, and onboarding transformation.


Connecting with Charlie Minutella

Charlie Minutella’s LinkedIn:

Data Zoo’s website:

Companies & Resources Discussed

Data Zoo provides identity verification solutions that enable financial institutions, payment platforms and fintechs to confidently verify consumers and business identities in over 170 countries using a diverse set of authoritative data sources. It’s key products discussed in the episode are:

IDUX Ecosystem




Thomson Reuters informs the way forward by bringing together the trusted content and technology that people and organizations need to make the right decisions.

London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) is a United Kingdom-based stock exchange and financial information company headquartered in the City of London, England. It owns the London Stock Exchange, Refinitiv, LSEG Technology, FTSE Russell, and majority stakes in LCH and Tradeweb.

Refinitiv was acquired by LSEG from Thomson Reuters in 2021.

World-Check which operates as LSEG World-Check became part of LSEG through the acquisition of Refinitiv in 2021.

Bill Spruill is the former president of GDC, which was acquired by LSEG in 2022.

Practising Law Institute is a non-profit continuing legal education organization chartered by the Regents of the University of the State of New York.

GIACT was a digital identity, payments verification and fraud prevention company acquired by Refinitiv in 202 and operates under LSEG Risk Intelligence

LexisNexis Risk Solutions provides its customers with innovative technologies, information-based analytics, decisioning tools and data management services that help them solve problems, make better decisions, stay compliant, reduce risk and improve operations.

GBG Group is a global digital identity company. It delivers award-winning location intelligence, identity verification and fraud prevention solutions.

eCBSV allows permitted entities to verify if an individual’s SSN, name, and date of birth combination matches Social Security records. Social Security needs the number holder’s written consent with a wet or electronic signature in order to disclose the SSN verification.

Corporate Transparency Act went into effect in January 2024. The Act requires businesses that meet certain criteria must submit a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Report to the US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), providing details identifying individuals who are associated with the reporting company.


Steve Craig: Welcome to the PEAK IDV EXECUTIVE SERIES video podcast, where I speak with executives, leaders, founders, and change makers in the digital identity space. I'm your host, Steve Craig, Founder and Chief Enablement Officer of PEAK IDV. For our audience, this is a video first series, so if you're enjoying the audio version, please check out the full recording on, where you can watch the full video, you can read the transcript, or you can access any of the resources or links that we discuss in today's conversation. 

I'm super excited about this week's episode. I'm speaking with Charlie Minutella, the CEO of Data Zoo. Data Zoo helps companies process and verify sensitive customer information securely, seamlessly, and at scale, enabling a friction free customer onboarding experience. Headquartered in Sydney, Australia, Data Zoo has offices in the US, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, and the Philippines. Charlie has over two decades of experience leading risk, identity, and compliance teams. He was appointed to the CEO role of Data Zoo in February of 2024 after Data Zoo's founder Tony Fitzgibbon transitioned to Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer.

Prior to Data Zoo, Charlie served in numerous executive positions in companies like Thomson Reuters and most recently London Stock Exchange Group, where he led the Refinitiv risk division. Welcome Charlie, thank you for making the time to be on the podcast. 

Charlie Minutella: Thanks, Steve. Good to be here. 

Steve: Let's get started. How do you describe Data Zoo to come to people who have not have heard of your company? Like what's your typical elevator pitch? 

Charlie: Yeah. As the name would suggest, Data Zoo is a company that brings together different disparate sources of information to help companies throughout the identity-- so verification process. You know, we're an organization of about 75 people that serves a global customer and partner base. So we're often times the party behind the scenes, making sure that the data that's being presented in the onboarding process is verifiable by trusted sources so that our customers can make informed onboarding decisions. 

Steve: Excellent. You really do have a global team. The locations I listed, it's like the sun never sets for Data Zoo. What's your personnel footprint across the various locations? 

Charlie: The company was born in Australia and we have a significant portion of our employees that sit across three locations there. But we also have teams that sit around the world in the US in Europe and the Middle East as well, providing both go to market capabilities as well as tech resources. So, we are very much a global company that does have that follow the sun type footprint which I believe is an advantage for us. 

Steve: What are some of the industries that Data Zoo serves and what specific pain points are you helping them address? 

Charlie: So we're trying to help the world engage in a safer more secure digital ecosystem. And so, you know, we are helping a range of different companies who are trying to work with their customers in that environment. So that's fintechs to payments processors to social media companies, marketplaces, retail, et cetera. And we do that both directly with those types of customers and then through our partners.

So typically any company that is looking to establish an identity of an individual or entity not only for financial services, but for a wider range of purposes including age assurance for restricted goods as an example, you know, we are there to support them in that process.

Steve: That's great, and if I understand correctly, you're based in the New York City area. 

Charlie: I am. I am here at Data Zoo US headquarters in Jersey City, New Jersey. And yeah, I am the CEO of the company globally which means that with such a team of-- across the world, especially in Australia, it's a lot of late nights, but getting used to that.

Steve: And how did you get connected with Data Zoo as an Australian based company? Can you share, perhaps the story of how you got connected with the board of directors and the leadership team? 

Charlie: Yeah, when I was ready to leave London Stock Exchange Group, I wanted to stay in the space and my background is very much in data. You know the last seven years I was running data businesses within Thomson Reuters, which became Refinitiv and then London Stock Exchange Group, and I know that data is this thing-- the thing that customers really need in order to get really comfortable around who they're doing business with.

And so I wanted to stay in this sort of-- kind of-- sliver of the space. And I got to know Data Zoo through a relationship I had with Bill Spruill, who was a founder of GDC. And Bill and I were just talking about, you know, interesting companies in the space, and he mentioned Data Zoo and I got connected to them that way.

And when I found out what they did and how global they were and what their aspirations were, both in terms of business, as well as the type of company that they wanted to be and what to be known for, it was a really attractive proposition for me. So that's how-- that's how it all started.

Steve: Very cool. And your background is really impressive, Charlie. Like I see the history of the time that you've been in data. And if I read it right, did you get your start in a sales role at Thomson Reuters back in the day? 

Charlie: I did. Yeah, that's how I started at Thomson Reuters. And before that I was at a company called Practising Law Institute which is a legal training and data company, and was there for four years in different types of sales roles. And then went to Thomson Reuters as well in a similar capacity. And and throughout that time, I knew that I wanted to get into leadership and you know, tried everything I could throughout that time to get more and more exposure to general management and ended up my last role at what became LSEG was running the risk business and leading a number of different portfolio companies within that then-- within that division that-- that did a variety of things in the risk and compliance space.

So, yeah, I did start in sales, but you know, wanted to kind of get into this sort of more general management strategy leadership role. 

Steve: And prior to joining Thomson Reuters, did you already have an understanding of compliance and regtech and financial risk? Was that part of the legal role or did you learn those things at TR?

Charlie: Yeah, it was actually. So when I was at a Practicing Law Institute toward the tail end of my time there was essentially the start of the financial crisis. So there was a lot of change in legal and compliance at that time. And, you know, we were one of the companies that was helping the sort of legal industry understand the changing landscape.

You had banks that were failing, you had new regulations that were coming in really quickly and the world had to adjust. So that's where I kind of got a taste for this space. And obviously the sort of KYC space and the onboarding space, I sort of learned more about and became more intimately involved in as I was running the KYC-as-a-service business at Thomson Reuters. So yeah, it's been something I've been around for a long time now and I've seen it evolve quite significantly over the last five or six years. 

Steve: It was a really great rise in your responsibilities through TR from the sales executive role to being director of financial markets and head of America's and to KYC-as-a-service.

How was the market evolving during that time when your career was evolving as you were growing as a leader? 

Charlie: Yeah, you know, it's interesting. The KYC-as-a-service business was called KYC-as-a-service, but really what it was KYB. You know, we were helping global financial institutions on board complex counterparties and that was before KYB was a buzzword and essentially what we were trying to do was to help mutualize that process because we were-- we thought that, you know, most of the major banks were working with, you know, most of the same players as they were banking across multiple jurisdictions. And so we felt that we could help kind of make that process more efficient and then use data that was in the public domain to get a jumpstart on that and to be able to validate the information that was coming from those businesses. So, still trying to do that today, but now it's completely in a digital setting, right?

You know, what hasn't worked is taking paper processes and trying to digitize them. That hasn't worked with KYC, and it really hasn't worked with KYB either, and I think we feel more of that pain in KYB than we do in KYC today. But the industry is still kind of struggling with these issues globally. So as far as we've come, and as far as we've had to come because of obviously mass digitization through COVID. There's still a long way to go, companies like us continue to have a lot of motivation to go out and solve them. 

Steve: Great. Well, I'd love to dive back into Data Zoo, but before we transition back to that, I want to touch on the five years you spent with London Stock Exchange Group. Can you share more about how your role evolved there and the work that you were doing? 

Charlie: When we became Refinitiv-- so when Blackstone acquired the financial and risk business of Thomson Reuters and we became Refinitiv it was a really interesting time because organizationally we kind of became this kind of new company and we were-- our heritage was-- you know, went way back to Reuters and the carrier pigeon, which is something that anybody from the former Reuters organization will tell you about.

And then we became sort of-- the kind of-- this large kind of independent fintech. And so it was a really exciting time for me. And for all of us at Refinitiv. But also the risk business evolved significantly at that time as well. We made two acquisitions; we acquired GIACT and GDC over that time. And those were both really exciting acquisitions to make that really got us more firmly involved in the digital identity and fraud prevention spaces. But we also owned WorldCheck which is a business that I ran as well. And WorldCheck is the industry's largest data set of high risk individuals and entities. It's used by pretty much every major fintech and financial institution around the world and plays a really significant role in helping to identify individuals that might be sanctioned or may, or may not, be involved in financial crime. So yeah, that was a really interesting journey for me as well.

So I ended up, you know, essentially running one of the biggest franchises in this space, which gave me a lot of exposure to, obviously, the global landscape, changing regulations. But got to understand the onboarding and risk assessment processes for a number of major players globally just gave me a really unique perspective that I bring to Data Zoo today.

Steve: That's fascinating. And when I think about that time period, LexisNexis had been making acquisitions, GBG group had been making acquisitions in the identity arena, and the London Stock Exchange is making these moves. What did the M&A process or the experience teach you about the market? Did it set any new signals for you as you were on the path to get to Data Zoo? 

Charlie: Yeah, you know, it's really interesting being involved in a number of different M&A processes gives you a lot of different perspectives around not only going out and finding the potential targets, but also sort of calibrating what's important to you as a business in terms of where you want to go, what you want to do, and how these companies that you're looking to acquire will actually fit in. And the combination of those companies be a greater value proposition than the two independent of each other.

So there's a lot of work that you have to do, not only in terms of making sure the financial models work, but also making sure that you're acquiring a company that can fit into your puzzle. And that's not always easy when you're doing due diligence, especially if you're in a competitive process and some of the processes that we were involved in were highly competitive, there were auctions, they were highly sought after assets. There was a number of companies that wanted to bring them into their organizations. Trying to figure out sort of what the company would be like in your world is oftentimes very challenging and you're making a lot of assumptions. You try to make as many informed decisions as you can. You rely on your networks to give you perspective. You rely on joint customers. There's a number of things you can do to try to get a good feel for it. And ultimately what I've learned and what I bring to Data Zoo is we want to build an organization that's world class that has many of the attributes of many of these larger organizations. But also with the ability to maintain the agility and nimbleness that we want to maintain so that we can continue to be the type of partner that our customers expect us to be.

So, finding that right balance is really important. But ultimately, one day, you know, if Data Zoo decides to become part of a wider organization, you know, we have a good understanding of what we need to do in order to fit into those organizations and you know-- become you know-- a-- an acquisition that really brings value to the industry as a whole, not just whoever acquires us, if that's the case.

Steve: Thank you so much for that background. I think this is a great segue into your latest chapter, which is as chief executive for Data Zoo. Now it's just been a few months. I'd love to hear how you think about going into the role from a-- maybe it's a 30, 60, 90 day perspective. Like how do you set the right pace for yourself coming into this business with so much industry knowledge and background?

Charlie: Yeah, you know, it's interesting. Every company is different, right? So I learned a lot about Data Zoo before I got into the role, I had the opportunity to talk to not only the team internally, but a number of customers and got a good feel for what the value proposition of Data Zoo is. And that's been really helpful to be able to establish what Data Zoo does well, not only from an internal perspective, but what the industry feels about the business has been a huge enabler for me to be able to come in and make sure that I understand where our time is focused, where our time should be focused. And for me, the first sort of 30 to 60 days has been just a lot of knowledge gathering. So talking to the team, understanding the people, understanding the culture, understanding what's working well, what needs improvement.

But that's-- but that's a big part of being, you know, in this type of role, you need to be able to relate to all of your stakeholders-- so your team, your customers, your investors, your board, regulators, industry advocates, whomever it might be. And so I've done a lot of listening and you know, the-- over the next, you know, few months we'll be doing a lot to make sure that we are building that world-class organization.

I want Data Zoo to be a joy to work with. I want Data Zoo to be a joy to work for, and we-- we're working really hard to make sure that we're able to, you know, do both of those really well. But it all starts with culture. You know, we--  we have a great culture at Data Zoo. We're an organization that's-- that feels like we're serving a bigger purpose. 

You know, we want to be able to have a company that is great to work for, that's innovative, but solves a problem. And, you know, I think you hear a lot of CEOs talk about sort of, what they do to help drive the onboarding process, you know, make it more efficient, more effective, more friction free. And we do all those things, but we'll-- we'll do all those things well, if we think about what we're really trying to solve for. And for us, it's financial inclusion. We want to make it easy for everybody around the world to get the same level of access to financial services. I'm a huge believer in that to be able to participate in the wider digital ecosystem and know that it's safe and secure. And that's not only financial services, but it could also mean social media or marketplaces or other types of endeavors that you're participating in digitally. And then, the second thing, is to fight financial crime, is to prevent fraud to make the system fair to make it more trustworthy.

And if we have that in mind, you know, we're going to build the best products possible to solve those issues. And you know, that the team has really rallied around that concept. And you know, we're really excited to help the market understand more about us because we're still not an organization that's widely known in the space. We've got tons of customers and we've got, you know, millions of people where our data helps them get access to financial services; and they don't even know about it. And some of that's by design; a lot of that's by design. But we do think there's a great opportunity for our name to get out there and for more to know about what we can do to help solve those kind of overarching issues.

Steve: Those are really worthy causes and missions, Charlie. And that's one of the reasons why I started PEAK IDV, to help with both of those. You know, the financial inclusion-- just having access to the digital economy is critical. But then on the other side, we see a lot of fraudsters, bad actors, those that are trying to exploit all the work we're doing to create that inclusion. So very much aligned with you in that regard in the digital identity space.

In preparation for this episode, I did a bit of research on Data Zoo. I'll admit that I had seen press and I had learned a little bit about the company prior, but for this episode, I did a lot of investigation and the web-- your website is phenomenal.

I think you did a great job laying things out in terms of the different products and services. So I've got a question for you about your IDUX Ecosystem. I'd love for you to share more about what that is. 

Charlie: Yeah, sure. So. Think about the IDUX Ecosystem as a set of capabilities. You know, we offer a range of different solutions that help throughout the ID verification journey from our Core asset, which is an API that allows you to take data that you collect in the onboarding process, whether that's manually inputted or taken off of documents and verify that against a range of trusted sources.

That's sort of what we're known for in our Core capability. We do that across 60 countries. And we verify tens of millions of people annually doing that, which you know, we think there's obviously a lot more to do there. We also do that for businesses. So being able to verify entities in the onboarding process. 

But we've also developed a range of capabilities that are more traditional platform plays. So doc-- document verification, biometrics, and things along those lines, as well as different sources of fraud indicators like mobile phone intelligence and email intelligence. And then we're able to deploy those through API-- through a platform application or via a decentralized wallet. So essentially we can play different roles where we either integrate into one of our customers or partner's platform or journey, or we provide the ability for them to set up their own journey through our capabilities. And then for the-- for those that are close to the decentralized identity play or digital wallet play, we have a capability where an individual can essentially own their own identity verification process. So you know, we're really excited about all of those. And we think that you know, the ecosystem obviously has additional opportunities to grow, but you know, essentially we could fit into however our customer wants to use us.

Steve: For those pillars that you mentioned, those are named on your site Core, Safe, and Flow. And what I liked about how you separated the Core and the Flow was in either a no code or a low code model. Do you see different organizations pursuing one over the other? Like, how should we think about what type of organization would choose a no code path versus your low code API?

Charlie: Yeah, you know, it's all based on a number of different factors which could include their own maturity. So it could be a startup that, you know, where they want to rely on an organization that specializes in building onboarding journeys to help them, you know, put something in place quickly because, you know, they're doing something that they want to focus on things that are more core to their business.

So we have the capabilities to help them plug in. Or, you could be a very highly sophisticated organization where you've built your own journey and you use best-in-class or you've developed things on your own, but you want to essentially plug our APIs in, to enable different parts of that process. We can work with either. 

And so it really depends on where an organization is in their life cycle. You know, do they want to prioritize speed? Do they want-- and focus on their core competencies, or do they want to really own the journey and bring in the best-in-class assets in each part of the journey to support that? And then there's a number that will fall in between. So yeah, I mean, it's a very interesting time right now. I think you see organizations sort of go back and forth on this topic. You know, they-- they'll go from, “yeah, we want to own everything” to “we're not experts in this and we should really be partnering and trying to find the, you know, a singular provider that can help us do it all.”

I don't think there is a singular provider that can help you do it all at this point. We'll see as you know, as you've talked about on your podcast, yeah, the market's changing dynamically. There's likely to be consolidation, it's still highly fragmented, very regionalized. So if you are a global company, it's really hard to kind of get behind one provider.

But, you know, there's definitely going to be some change in the market where you'll see different providers coming together to offer, you know, stronger regional or semi-global offerings. So I think we'll see that evolve over the next five years for sure. 

Steve: Just a few moments ago, you mentioned your IDUX Safe product, which is in the decentralized or reusable identity wallet space, which is great, growing in popularity. I'm seeing more and more companies introduce wallet-like capabilities, yet I haven't quite seen the demand reach the same that we've seen for existing traditional call it KYC-as-a-service type plays. How does the IDUX Safe product interoperate within your stack of the other two modules?

Charlie: Well, you think about it as actually just flipping the customer. So when we talk about Core and Flow. That's for a company to help them onboard a customer. But if you think about Safe, Safe is the opposite. We're giving the capabilities to the end customer to be able to essentially build their identity, to be able to, in a way, distribute that to have control over who has it and what they have access to on a dynamic basis.

You're right, there are a number of these initiatives out there. I think everyone is sort of working towards the cold start challenge. How do we get the right type of demand? How do we get a critical mass? How do we play with big tech in the space? Because as much as you see Apple and Google having that sort of head start advantage by being in everyone's pocket, one or the other, or both in some instances, they've not necessarily truly embraced this as like wanting to own all of that, you know, they are happy to be the enabler. But, we really haven't seen them say like, “yeah, we're going to-- we're going to pull all this different data together and offer an Apple-based version of an identity token”-- just hasn't happened yet. And, and that might change over time, but what I do know is that the consumer preference is definitely changing.

We're all more aware of where our data is going. Every week you're getting-- it feels like every week you're getting a notification that your data has been compromised somewhere. And, you know, I think we're at a point now where it's becoming really clear. If you're not a company that specializes in data distribution and data handling, you probably shouldn't be holding that data for very long; if at all. Consumers are more acutely aware of that. But I think you sort of have to balance that against, you know, how that potentially could be taken advantage of in terms of fraud, and then also how regulators think about this as well. Because the sort of reusable wallet space is essentially sort of potentially giving the message that actually KYC is not something you're obligated to do anymore.

An individual sort of responsible for pulling it together. And then, you know, there's trust frameworks that you have to abide by, you know, when you've been fined, you know, a billion dollars, you know, in some cases, it's sort of hard to get behind that. So we'll see how that all plays out. I think, you know, you-- we are kind of at a crossroads, though, where things have changed so significantly that again, it's really hard to imagine that, you know, all of these sort of companies are going to hold all our data for an infinite amount of time. 

Steve: Many of the pundits in the industry and the experts who have been seeing this coming for decades are saying it's-- we're getting close, you know, reusable identity, decentralized identity, some call itself self-sovereign. I think with what we've seen with the blockchain and the ledger technology in the last few years, we have all of the ingredients. Like it's no longer a technology hurdle, it's more a usage hurdle. And you mentioned the cold start problem. I've seen that from many practitioners-- buyers of the solution. They'd love to integrate a wallet, but how many customers are on that wallet for them to make sense to integrate it? And then on the flip side, it's like you want to enroll yourself as a consumer, but where is the value to you if it's not ubiquitous? If you can't go to 20 different sites like you could with a sign in with Google, how do you create that urgency within yourself?

I think another area of this, which is a challenge, is just the business model people get when they're going through a KYC check. If you're a bank for an exam-- as an example, you would pay whatever solution provider a quick charge. And then you've got an account, like the math is very simple. But when you've got different layers of providers and relying parties and you've got the IDPs, the actual identity verifiers, like, how do you think we overcome this, this business model gap? What do you think the path is there? 

Charlie: Yeah, it's a good question. It's going to require a significant shift. I mean, most, like you said, most IDV providers are charging per-click, per-search, per-transaction. But, really this becomes more of a perpetual model, you know, to be able to think, you know, thinking about kind of pulling all this data together and being able to in real-time sort of permit and accept it. That means that, you know, the user is actually driving potentially a lot of costs and then how do-- how do you actually-- you know, sort of manage that in an appropriate way?

You know, one potential, like, bad outcome of this is actually it becomes too expensive to onboard customers and you have to go through a massive prequalification process before you're even considered and like, that doesn't do anything for financial inclusion. So, yeah, I think about this actually a lot because you know, I'd love to-- I'd love to figure out how we could be an advocate for that change. Being able to make identity verification more real-time, perpetual, because that's going to help if it's done the right way. There's a lot of work to be done there. 

Steve: Yeah. That's very much that innovator's dilemma. Like I think about Blockbuster when you'd go in and you'd pay each time you'd rent a DVD or a VHS and they had to adapt to the model and you had companies like Netflix emerge where it was perpetual was ongoing. You pay a service fee and it's hard to take that revenue hit. Where do you think some of the use cases where we could see that perpetual model come into play? Is it maybe proof of age, like in an age restricted commerce or could it be account opening? 

Charlie: Yeah, I think age assurance is just a huge market. There is-- there's a ton of regulation that's coming out across the world. In the US, you know, I-- you know, you've seen various state's announcements very recently. There was an announcement in Australia last week about it as well. It's going to, you know, with everything that's gone on around social media you know, restricted goods like here in the US, like vape and, and you know, those types of things. It's a really important sort of social problem that we have, where we can't, in a digital world, really verify whether it's an age appropriate person or not trying to get access to something whether that's content or it's a product or anything in between or a service, right?

So you can see wallets you know, sort of digital wallets, ID-based wallets being a really huge enabler for that where you can get some confidence that you know, you're dealing with the right age appropriate individual in all cases. And you know, it's-- it is something that you know, I think that this space-- our space as a whole really needs to get behind and spend some time on because it is something that has a ton of benefit. You know as a parent, you know, I wanna make sure that my kids are not exposed to things I don't want them exposed to. And you know it's earlier and earlier where they're getting access to things they shouldn't get access to. So yeah, I think that that's a space where a wallet has a really, really strong application that could be good for a wider society.

Steve: Yeah, it's certainly like a third pillar of mission is emerging. You've got financial inclusion, providing financial crime, but then there's this digital exclusion. It's like there's certain members of our society, specifically children, that shouldn't be accessing certain types of content or even just using some of the services-- social media services that aren't great for their health or that you should be involved in as a parent. Yeah, I think that certainly is an evolving use case. 

But I think about our industry, there's typically-- when we're in a B2B world, and we're not so much focused on the consumer, but creating business relationships is typically-- the two value propositions. You're going to help reduce friction to help book more accounts, or you're going to help reduce operational cost or fraud-- lost cost. You'd mentioned one of the pillars in your IDUX Ecosystem is fraud. Can you share a little bit more about your fraud prevention tools and what you do to prevent financial crime?

Charlie: Yeah, we want to be able to share data that's not associated with the identity of the individual to be able to help organizations identify potentially fraudulent transactions. Because you can-- you can certainly identify an individual at onboarding, but obviously, they're at risk of takeover or, you know, potentially a you know, a synthetic identity over time gets developed and, you know, that type of risk.

So we-- we’re getting more and more into alternative data sets. So looking at mobile phone intelligence, you know, owner of the phone, where it was-- where it's been registered in terms of operators. We're looking at email intelligence. When was the email created? What's its history? We're looking at sort of dark web intelligence. So was the identity stolen? When did it appear on the dark web? We're also looking at sort of death notification as well. So like, you know, death checks. So like, is this to this person-- you know, this information appear on a-- on a sort of death roll at some point. So we're trying to figure out ways in which we can use different types of data sets to identify, you know, potential ID fraud instances.

It's really hard to get all those right-- if you're a criminal-- to be able to get all the right data, to get it on the document the right way, to do it in the right place, to do it with the right phone, to do it with the right email. It's just that, you know, the more and more data you can bring in, in real time, you know, the greater opportunity you have to be able to identify potential areas of fraud or risk.

So you know, we see that as being a huge part of the future where, you know, our customers are realizing that, “Hey, it's going to take a lot more than just like a really slick onboarding process. We have to be able to, you know, validate that the data is-- is what we're seeing in the market. And we need to be able to, on a more real time basis, pull different data, you know, data sources and to be able to determine whether or not anything's changed from a risk perspective.” So yeah, I think-- I think, you know, for us-- you know, we want to be-- as I said, as our name would indicate, we want to bring different sources of data together to be able to allow customers to to feel as safe as possible and throughout the life cycle. 

Steve: Well, let's talk about another area that is really exploding, which is generative media--  deep fakes. We're seeing a lot of impersonation attacks emerge. We're seeing that certainly within the vendor ecosystem and the media. Does Data Zoo have a role to play here when it comes to artificial intelligence and Gen AI and how that's affecting our customers' channels? 

Charlie: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think the more that you can do to be able to take the information that you're collecting and being able to test that against what's in the market. I think, you know, that's really important. Like I said, it's very difficult for a criminal to get it all right. You know, to be in the right spot, to have the right phone, to have the right email, you know, to have all the right information, to be in the right location. I mean, these are all things that, you know, if you're able to have that within your ecosystem, now you're kind of in a position where you can, you know, be better at identifying red flags. and being okay to stop and introduce some friction. I think that's always still, you know, a challenge, you know, if there is something that's identified to be able to, you know, take the right steps to dig in more on that.

I do think governments also have a-- an important role to play in this as well, to the extent they can make, you know, different types of data that they've collected or issued more available to the ecosystem. There's always that sort of push and pull on that. You know, we sort of see things in sort of the broader regulatory space, you know, you kind of get sort of different vibes out of the government in those areas.

You know, in some instances, you know, they want to make data more available and other instances they're trying to restrict it. So even the US-- the new US regulation on beneficial ownership, that data is not going to be widely available, so, you know, they're putting the onus on business owners to provide that data, which you saw when you filed your taxes this year. But also for then, you know, giving it to the wider ecosystem so that they can, you know, use it to validate-- or verify businesses and that's, you know, it's not as transparent as you'd like it to be. 

Steve: Yeah, there's always that push and pull. I think it was just a few years ago that we finally saw the eCBSV Social Security number verification system come online, but it was very expensive at the end of the day, and it was only limited to very specific use cases.

So the vast majority of the market that wanted to tap that signal couldn't, really. And then for this Corporate Transparency Act as a business owner, myself, who has to now fill out those forms and you read the fine print, it's like, it really is more about the tax system and verifying for IRS purposes than making that data available to do business verification.

So it's like, on one hand, we do want to constrain what those acts and those laws do, but on the other hand, it's like, what a missed opportunity to leverage some of that data in different ways. Which kind of leads to this other area that is growing in popularity and demand, which you talked about earlier in your career around business entity verification and KYB. What is it that Data Zoo is doing with respect to KYB. And what is your value proposition around helping businesses onboard businesses? 

Charlie: Yep. Well, we want to make data associated with business onboarding more easily accessible. And one of the challenges-- and in one of your previous podcasts, you talked a little bit about the sort of the-- the challenge of this being a bit of a workflow issue, which is true. But it's also a cross border issue. So if you're-- if you look at-- you know, complex ownership structures and there's a number of companies. I mean, most companies have, you know, ownership structures that are multi-step and, you know, a company like ours has multiple entities around the world.

So to onboard even Data Zoo, you know, can be a challenge. And you know, as a business that has an expanded global footprint, we actually feel this quite significantly as we-- as we're-- you know starting to build-- opening bank accounts around the world. But being able to help an organization actually follow that lineage in the beneficial ownership structure to get to the individuals and then be able to do a KYC check on the individuals. That's where we're really focused on. 

So being able to make the data more accessible to be able to allow companies to follow the ownership structure, get to the ultimate beneficial owners, be able to KYC them and get comfort around that. That's a critical element, right? I mean-- I think-- you know, if you look at, you know, ownership structures and you know, where entities are domiciled in non-transparent jurisdictions, you know, obviously those are very high risk. And so, you know, you can understand why organizations that are onboarding businesses digitally are very sort of cautious about how much they do from a kind of pure digital perspective to how much they want to introduce some friction in there and get some manual review in there because it is super high risk for them.

So, yeah, I mean-- I think from, you know, from our perspective, you know, we think that this is still very much a data play. And obviously as we continue to work with our data partners around the world and-- as well as-- you know, governments who are included in our data partners we're trying to make it very clear so that they understand, you know, the challenge of this. You know, it's a great opportunity to drive economic growth, to allow businesses greater access to financial services. But at the same time we have to, you know, we have to prevent fraud from coming into our system. And we have to, you know, make sure that financial crime is something that we are considering. It’s very hard to do that unless data becomes more widely available on businesses and beneficial owners. So, kudos to the US for the initiative. Execution, you know, is not exactly where we want it to be because it’s not giving the wider ecosystem that transparency. But I think it’s a step in the right direction and, you know, we are having, you know, conversations globally with various regulators and government agencies to try to get as much data available as we can.

Steve: For the companies that Data Zoo serves as customers, are there particular jurisdictions where maybe they're trying to onboard businesses that are US-based in other countries or vice versa? Is there a particular type of customer that would use your business verification? 

Charlie: Yeah, I mean, we work with customers that are trying to onboard businesses that are in this setting that are like-- they're not high profile businesses, right? So, you know, it's not like they're looking to onboard Microsoft, they're looking to onboard small companies that are in their supply chain. Or they're looking to onboard companies that are, you know, potentially taking advantage of their services, you know, think about it in a marketplace, like, you know, like an Etsy.

But these are sort of sole proprietorships, mostly or you're looking at companies that are you know, around the world that you know, are looking to either enter the US market or enter a new market and want to get themselves established. So it's sort of, you know, kind of runs the gambit of what it could be. But yeah, I mean, ultimately it's very similar to our KYC customer base. It's just, you know, trying to help enable global commerce and do it in a kind of digital way that's safe and transparent. 

Steve: Well, we're coming up on time, Charlie. And before we close out, I'm curious-- I know you're still ramping-- but have you started to think about what the vision for Data Zoo will be in the next few years?

Charlie: Yeah. I mean, we're on this relentless pursuit of data, transparency, and excellence. So we want to make it as easy as possible for our customers, whether they are direct or through partners, to be able to verify as many people and companies as they possibly can. And to do that by using trusted data to make them feel confident that they are onboarding the right people and entities. That's our focus. So we're thinking about data expansion within our existing jurisdictions. We're thinking about coverage expansion globally. But our goal is to be the identity and fraud data platform of choice. You know, we believe that we can empower the ecosystem, whether that's a company that's doing it on their own, or it's a company that's using one of our partners to do that, we have a role to play across both of those.

And we want to make sure that we're giving everyone, like I said, the confidence that they need to do business in a faster, more transparent, safer way. So that's our vision and you know, I think over the next five years, our goal is to really make a big dent in that. And I think we're on a path to get there.

Steve: In preparing for this conversation, I was reading the ‘about’ section on Data Zoo and I saw that one of the things your organization does is it invests heavily into digital literacy. You actually have a few programs. Can you close out on Data Zoo topics? We're just sharing about the work that the company's done to help with the digital divide, which of course leads, I think, to financial inclusion.

Charlie: Yeah, so Data Zoo has been supporting a number of schools in Australia that don't have the means to be able to educate their students on digital literacy. So in those instances, we bought computers for the students and then on a regular basis, Data Zoo employees actually teach those students using those computers on various topics of sort of technology and digital literacy. So that's something I really believe in. It's something that we're going to expand over the next year or so across all the markets that we do business in including here in the US. So really look forward to expanding that because, like I said, you know, our goal is to be able to make the digital ecosystem safer, more secure and that starts with education, like anything else.  

Steve: And just access to technology, we spend a lot of time building these great digital experiences, and we want them to be inclusive, but then not everyone has the latest and greatest Android or iPhone. Not everyone has persistent internet access at home. So we have to think through ways to support those individuals with that knowledge and learning. So that's a really good-- really good endeavor. 

Well, Charlie, we're about to close out. It sounds like you've seen some of these episodes of EXECUTIVE SERIES. I'd like to know a little bit more about the person behind the press release. So for yourself, when you're not leading Data Zoo and ramping and probably jet setting around the world to different offices, like where do you like to spend your personal time?

Charlie: Yeah. I'm a father of two very active kids, nine and six. So I spend a lot of time with them in their various sort of initiatives, but sports is a big part of their lives. So I coached my son's baseball team. And I spend a lot of time with my daughter's soccer team as well.

And I've learned a lot about leadership and sort of team and driving performance by watching girls soccer. So shout out to Ridgewood Maroons 10U girls soccer team. It's really interesting just to see how much they've grown over the last two years in kind of getting together and not knowing anything about how to play soccer to how they've evolved, as not only individuals, but as a team that taught me a lot about, you know, being able to work as a team is really being, not only the best at what you do, but be-- knowing, you know, how everyone else's job so that you can help them. And watching my daughter go from position to position and then her friends doing the same and seeing how they've all grown. They know where everyone's going. They know where they need to be. They know what they need to do to score. They know what they need to do to defend and I'm taking those lessons back into-- to this role. 

So yeah, I would say, you know, when I'm not at Data Zoo, I'm learning a lot more about what I could do to make Data Zoo better. And that's coming from all my experiences, including being a father and a spectator.

Steve: That's like take one hat off, put a different hat on, try not to cross pollinate too much, the ceremonies you do at work with maybe the ceremonies and the sporting events it's very, very cool. Very cool. 

Well, we're at time, Charlie, thank you so much for spending time with me to go through your background and your work at Data Zoo. For those that are watching this episode, what type of conversations would you be looking for from the audience or the market at large?

Charlie: Yeah. I mean, I love talking about the hardest challenges the industry has. So, you know, we are, like I said, working really hard to empower the ecosystem. And you know, we really would love to continue to build out our network of individuals who are like-minded that want to get involved in the hard issues and you know, sort of serve a higher purpose which I think we're doing.

So yeah, you know, connect with us. You know, wherever you see us at conferences or LinkedIn or through our website or to any one of us directly. You know, we're really excited to learn more about, you know, how we can help in the space, but also, you know, we're helping to evangelize what we're doing. So you know, excited to talk about both of those things. 

Steve: Great. Great. Well, thank you so much again, Charlie. I'm really excited to see what you do at Data Zoom and I'll continue to watch your company's success and progress in the months and years ahead. 

Charlie: Great chatting, Steve. Thanks a lot.