The trust barrier: background checking and the sharing economy

The sharing economy is booming: this fact will come as no surprise to anyone who’s booked a taxi, been on holiday, hired a cleaner, a tutor, or even a dog to borrow in the last year.

In a report, PwC estimate that “the five main sharing sectors […] have the potential to increase global revenues from around $15 billion now to $335 billion by 2025.” PwC identifies these sectors as peer-to-peer finance and accommodation, car sharing and music video streaming.
This rapid expansion is down to innovative start-ups and enterprising individuals but, most importantly, the innate benefits of the sharing economy.

A champion of efficiency, the sharing economy allows individuals to make the most of underutilised assets. As well as the obvious environmental benefits, this also has financial rewards for both parties, as consumers tend to pay less than they would through traditional means.

With regulated platforms like Hassle.com, one of Onfido’s earliest clients, the sharing economy also limits the scope for underground markets to develop. Rather than face the risk of being exploited in an informal economy, cleaners working through Hassle can agree and ensure payment prior to service delivery, as well as enjoy the benefits of self-employment.

One of the sharing economy’s biggest obstacles, however, is the issue of establishing confidence between individuals who have never met, and yet have to be trusted with the other’s possessions or personal safety.

Online reviews and ratings hold both owners and consumers to account, lending the sharing economy a primary level of trust between its users. But reviews and ratings can only go so far, and further measures are necessary for sharing platforms to deliver secure services while ensuring neither party is at risk.

Background checking plays a vital role in creating trust in the sharing economy. By ensuring that users have been vetted appropriately, companies are able to provide a secure service to individuals who can feel comfortable engaging with strangers. They also encourage trust in older generations of users, who are typically more sceptical about establishing relationships online.
As well as creating trustworthy communities and safeguarding a company’s reputation, good background checking can have significant financial benefits. For example, a comprehensive background check may deter risky candidates from applying for jobs and therefore save on rehiring costs. It may also have wider implications for society, like encouraging ‘good citizenship’ and a fairer labour market, as discussed in this post.

The automated background checking offered by Onfido has additional benefits for the sharing economy: speed. For on-demand businesses in the sharing economy, turnaround times are key. They can’t wait for days or weeks to receive the results of a background check as it slows down the on-boarding process for their users, whether consultants, childcarers or tutors.

As well as streamlining the process, Onfido’s background checks are also more thorough. By aggregating information from a comprehensive range of global databases, Onfido is able to capture information on individuals with thin credit files, such as those who may have only recently moved to the UK.
This is particularly vital for companies like Hassle.com, which hires from a range of international backgrounds. In addition, their cleaners will be in contact with customers and their property, so guaranteeing personal safety is key. “Onfido has become a core part of our product. It’s quick, reliable and the team provides great customer service,” says their CEO, Alexandra Depledge.

Following its Series A investment round in February 2015, Onfido is now working on expanding its global service offering and developing cutting-edge technology to continue leading the new wave of background checking.

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As Onfido’s cofounder and COO, Eamon runs a tight ship. He set up the company while studying at Oxford University, and has been managing the company’s international growth and expansion ever since
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