June 10, 2014, 6:00 AM

Managing the risk of dealing with small businesses online

As Intuit sells more of its financial management software to small online businesses, it’s using technology to more quickly verify the identities of new customers and enter into contracts with them.

Lead Photo

Patrick Fernandez, manager/principal analyst for strategic risk business analytics in Intuit’s Payments and Commerce Solutions Division

Intuit Inc., the provider of the popular financial accounting and tax management software for small and midsized businesses and consumers, grew revenue by 14% year over year, to $2.4 billion, for its fiscal third quarter ended April 30. Helping to drive that growth was a 36% increase in the number of small-business online subscribers to QuickBooks, the company’s widely used accounting software.

The increase in sales from small online businesses, meanwhile, comes at a time when more of them are beginning to accept online payment transactions through services such as Square and Intuit’s own GoPayment service. That trend is increasing the need for companies like Intuit to ensure that the owners of these businesses are legitimate, experts say.

To better identify the owners behind its small-business customers and more quickly conduct business with legitimate businesses, Intuit is using risk management software and services from ID Analytics to check customer records from multiple sources, says Patrick Fernandez, manager/principal analyst for strategic risk business analytics in Intuit’s Payments and Commerce Solutions Division.

Fernandez notes that Intuit does business with some 5 million business clients, many of them businesses with 20 or fewer employees. For many of these small businesses, Intuit uses ID Analytics as well as other sources of business transaction data to check the records of the owners.

Verifying identities is a requirement when Intuit’s customers accept payments. While some clients may use QuickBooks only for accounting purposes, once they opt to use the feature in QuickBooks to accept online payments from customers, Intuit must comply with federal regulations to verify their identities and check for any known records of financial fraud. “We have to make sure the principal of the business signing up for our services is who they say they are,” Fernandez says.

Julie Conroy, a payment security analyst with research and advisory firm Aite Group, says tools such as ID Analytics fill a need in vetting the owners of small businesses. “I see identity analytics being very useful, since often the best way to assess the risk of the small business is to assess the risk of the principals behind the small business,” she says.

To identify individuals and payment accounts associated with fraudulent or suspicious online payments, ID Analytics provides information from its own ID Network, which contains information like shipping addresses and credit card account numbers that have been associated with online fraud.

The ID Network maintains databases with information from more than 250 client companies, and has compiled more than two billion consumer transactions, says director of e-commerce Aaron Kline. He adds that the ID Network gathers more than 50 million new identity data elements, such as shipping and billing addresses, every day.

For Intuit, the use of ID Analytics is helping the business software company better comply with federal regulations for vetting new payment services customers, and decide within minutes whether to approve their applications to offer payment services. Before Intuit started using this system two years ago, Intuit was more likely to send client applications to manual review by risk managers, which could take days to decide on each application, Fernandez says.

“It’s more efficient for us, our customers start doing business faster, and we provide value to our shareholders faster,” he adds.

ID Analytics is a wholly owned subsidiary of LifeLock Inc.

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