Use case spotlight: CULedger uses Sovrin to make SSI a reality for credit unions

November 20, 2018

The Sovrin Foundation was thrilled in May 2018 when Denver-based CULedger applied to become a Founding Sovrin Steward. CULedger is a credit union service organization (CUSO) that focuses on delivering innovative applications to credit unions through its distributed ledger platform (DLT). Their flagship product, MyCUID, is a DLT built platform that enables credit unions to detect and prevent call center fraud, enables self-sovereign identity for members, and will run on the Sovrin Network.

We spoke with Julie Esser, chief engagement officer for CULedger, to tell us more about CULedger, its work with credit unions, and why the Sovrin Network was chosen as a technology solution.

Can you tell us a bit about CULedger?

CULedger was originally a proof-of-concept project led by the Credit Union National Association and the Mountain West Credit Union Association to explore the security blockchain offers to credit union banking. In June 2017, CULedger became an official entity with the goal of creating a permissioned, distributed, shared ledger platform for credit unions. Since then, we’ve created a working proof of concept and launched several pilots that will run through early next year.

Why is CULedger exploring the use of self-sovereign identity?

The last few years have taught consumers about the risks to their personal data, heightening concerns around identity theft, fraud and cybersecurity. And unfortunately, because many organizations take a reactive approach to consumer security, data breaches have become increasingly common. A data breach is very costly: “The global average cost of a data breach is up 6.4 percent over the previous year to $3.86 million. The average cost for each lost or stolen record containing sensitive and confidential information also increased by 4.8 percent year over year to $148,” according to a recent IBM report.

With CULedger’s distributed ledger technology, credit unions can take a proactive approach to secure data management, and offer their members a better source of self-sovereign identification (SSI) methods. Distributed ledger-based applications promise to improve both member and operational experiences in the years to come. Distributed ledger technology will give credit union members peace of mind, knowing that they fully own their digital identity and data; it’s the basis of a new era of trust in financial services.

How did you learn about Sovrin?

We learned about the Sovrin Foundation from Rick Cranston, our chief operating officer, who was part of an early Sovrin user group. CULedger’s mission and values are well aligned with Sovrin – to provide every person, organization and connected device with self-sovereign identity.

Earlier this year, we were selected to be a Sovrin Foundation Steward and join the Sovrin Network, which includes four credit unions other than CULedger. We are very honored to play a role in helping individuals take ownership of their digital identities.

What initial challenges were you having or problems were you hoping to solve? How did Sovrin pose a potential solution?

One of the biggest issues plaguing the credit union and financial services industry is identity fraud associated with authenticating individuals, particularly via call centers. Call center associates have to ask numerous personal questions, such as confirming a member’s address, birthday, or social security number, before proceeding with the call. It is a time-consuming process and, sometimes, can be abused by fraudsters.

Every interaction between a credit union and its members involves identification, leaving members exposed and at risk for privacy breaches. CULedger seeks to address this security concern through our flagship product, MyCUID.

MyCUID enables members to create an SSI through their credit union. In addition to giving members full control of their digital identity, MyCUID will also automate the identity verification process, reducing the time spent verifying a member.

The Sovrin Network’s decentralized, permissioned network offers a way for CULedger to provide a secure, portable identity to credit union members on a privacy-preserving and completely trustworthy framework.

What about Sovrin is most appealing or unique?

One thing that stood out to us about the Sovrin Network is that it is truly self-sovereign. Sovrin’s nonprofit status and commitment to ensuring that no government or corporation owns or controls the network affirms its commitment to provide everyone around the world, regardless of circumstance, access to the Sovrin Network and all of its benefits.

In addition to serving credit union members globally, CULedger is committed to helping populations without banking access gain complete ownership of their digital identities so that financial services are accessible.

Are you planning to (continue) work with the Sovrin Foundation in the future?

Definitely! The use of Sovrin’s self-sovereign network is foundational to the framework of MyCUID, which will serve as the foundation of all future CULedger projects. Everything we develop will require some level of authentication through MyCUID.

Where do you see digital identity in 5 years?

I think that we will see rapid adoption of SSI over the next five years. Right now, there is an educational push to help consumers and businesses really understand what distributed ledger technology is and how it can benefit them. We are already starting to see conversations around the technology shift from a heightened focus on cryptocurrency to how blockchain applications can streamline processes in business.

As CULedger moves out of the pilot phase of MyCUID and into commercialization, we are excited to see how credit union members worldwide react to the power that SSI gives consumers. We expect SSI to become the new normal for digital identity.   


CULedger is a Sovrin Steward. Stewards are trusted organizations that have volunteered time and resources to operate the validator nodes that maintain the Sovrin Network. To learn more about CULedger, visit

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