The Detective and the Commando: Hiring in Digital Trust & Safety
26 Feb 2019
Looking to hire Digital Trust & Safety (DT&S) team members? You’ll be joining the ranks of Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Uber, Twitter, and Patreon: disruptive, digital-first companies that have recognized trust is woven into their business’s DNA.
DT&S is an innovative approach to balancing revenue and risk. Instead of separating user experience from user safety, DT&S seamlessly integrates the two. Running a business or a team with a DT&S mindset requires more than additional fraud prevention or a larger risk team. It’s an evolution of approach, organizational structure, and tools.
To understand how to hire in DT&S, it helps to first understand why. The legacy approach to hiring a risk professional prioritizes investigative skills: detective work. Detectives review individual transactions and parse suspicious users from honest ones. The detective puts primacy on customer actions like clicking on a page, putting an item in a card, and entering a credit card number, rather than on customer journeys, which encompass a holistic view of the customers’ behavior on the site over time.
The detective’s number one goal is risk mitigation. That means they spend a lot of time cancelling orders, deactivating users, and combating fraud rings. Detectives focus on mitigating financial loss for the company. They impact the bottom line by reducing losses, not by enabling new business growth.
Under the legacy approach, risk teams work almost exclusively on their own. Detectives make insular decisions about fraud prevention, zeroing in on discrete, anomalous actions along the customer timeline. And of course, a detective can only do their job after the crime has already happened, so risk teams can only ever react to fraud after it happens.
It is crucial to note that this approach does not just affect your company; it also affects your users. When fraud occurs on a customer’s account and the risk team mishandles it, the customer often ends up talking to customer support. Customer support may not know how to rehabilitate the user’s account, and the user may not know what to ask for — so at the very moment when your customer is the most vulnerable and concerned, you are (unintentionally!) giving them the runaround.
Clearly, the legacy approach is ineffective, unscalable, and prone to false positives. Think about how detectives operate: they badger suspects and witnesses with questions, their operations are time-consuming and cumbersome, their job is to look for confirmation of guilt rather than proof of innocence, and they introduce a lot of friction to people who never committed a crime. True, investigative approaches to fraud can be valuable — but when fraudsters are operating quickly and skillfully, and when customers are demanding seamless user experiences, there comes a point when the detective just isn’t good enough.
To stay ahead, you need a commando: DT&S professionals. Risk teams operating with a DT&S mindset are swiss army knives, adept at working cross-functionally. They understand the product lifecycle and customer journey, and they know how those two entities are inextricably linked. They understand how DT&S decisions affect Product and vice versa. Unlike the detective, who can only solve the crime after it happened, the commando is adept at looking at the data to anticipate a criminal’s next moves. DT&S teams fuel growth because they’re proactive, allowing businesses to be more aggressive with expansion.
Here are three key skills to look for when hiring in DT&S.
1) Negotiating skills – Risk and fraud teams need to work cross-functionally. Their goals and tactics should encompass both risk mitigation and revenue growth. A Sift survey revealed that 73% of businesses can’t fully achieve their goal of launching products without increasing risk, and 57% say revenue and fraud goals are not completely aligned. DT&S commandos need to be stakeholders in growth and product decisions. For example, they should be able to work with the finance team to figure out how fraud is impacting the company’s bottom line, or to work with customer service to discover the relationship between fraud and user complaints.
2) Data literacy – To succeed, fraud and risk teams must be analytical and data fluent. They can manipulate data and come equipped with skills like SQL and basic Python. DT&S commandos are skilled data interpreters who are able to talk through KPIs with Product, Finance, and other teams. To ensure a product launch is as risk-free and effective as possible, risk teams and product teams must pull from the same repository of data: about how users interact on the platform, page views, transactions they’ve made, and so on. Risk teams must be able to read that data like a book — and to come away with the same understanding of it.
3) Technical expertise – It’s important to hire people who are familiar with cutting-edge technology on the front lines of fraud prevention and customer experience. Legacy fraud prevention tools like rules-based systems inhibit growth. Sift’s survey data show that 60% of companies using rules for fraud prevention say rules block legitimate customers. That’s why DT&S professionals must have a basic understanding of machine learning systems that adapt to risk in real time.