Meet the AI company tackling online fraudsters
Business Leader recently sat down with Vishal Marria, the founder and CEO of Quantexa to discuss how he is using tech to take on online criminals.
Quantexa uses data analytics combined with AI and machine learning to ensure their high profile clients get a more in-depth understanding of their customer links.
From understanding these links, Quantexa’s clients can solve financial crime issues e.g. money laundering, terrorist financing, human trafficking and revenue problems.
Current clients include HSBC and Shell. Vishal’s experience lies in the financial sector, having led global teams in FS, Fraud and compliance at BAE Systems and was the youngest ever director at EY.
Can you tell our readers about your job history?
I’ve been working in technology and data analytics since 2005. After completing my master’s degree in Computer Science, I started working at BAE Systems where I became the youngest director at the age of 28 and led teams globally. I went on to join EY as an executive director and it was there I realised I needed to find a solution to the problems my clients were facing and help them use their data to drive better decisions.
Can you give me an overview of the company?
Quantexa uses network analytics to help our clients completely rethink the way they understand their customers using context. We work with global companies, including HSBC and Shell, to leverage internal data and integrate third party sources to build a 360° customer view. This allows our customers to make better decisions from their data whilst tackling worldwide problems such as money laundering, fraud, trafficking and profit losses.
Why did you start the company? What was the inspiration?
Quantexa started from a position of frustration. Whilst at BAE Systems and EY, my clients kept asking the same question: how can I truly understand my customer? We were being “successful” because we were driving revenue, but to me, we were on the back foot. We weren’t driving real business benefit for our customers. They had no way of instantly forming a clear view of their customers at the click of a button. I could see that firms were investing in technology but still weren’t able to turn data into actionable insight.
You wouldn’t buy a house by simply looking through the letterbox; you want to walk around, see each room and assess whether it’s right for you. In the same way, our technology allows clients to build an accurate image of their customers using context. This helps them to better understand who their customers are, what’s good or bad about them, and who they are connected to, so they can make better decisions.
How are you using AI in the business?
AI is at the core of our business. We built a technology to connect the dots and create a single view of the customer. In banking, for example, you can have multiple account holders that may be stored with different names but are in fact the same person. Currently, many banks view each name as a different entity, which can lead to misunderstanding – one top-tier bank thought they had 120 million customers when, in fact, they only had 70 million. This creates the opportunity for fraudsters to go undetected as banks can’t link the activity. AI helps us knit together these data sets to build an accurate picture.
Is financial crime becoming easier or harder to tackle with the rise in tech expertise?
It’s not a case of financial crime becoming easier or harder, it’s about technology becoming smarter and criminals having access to these smarter tools. Our technology must always be one step ahead. There have been too many instances where fraudsters are going digital, but the regulators are failing to do so. Technology is the only way we can detect digitally savvy fraudsters. Everyone leaves a footprint within the vast amounts of data we create – organisations need to make better use of this data. Our technology builds a complete contextual view of each customer to spot any activity that could signify illicit behaviour. We believe every organisation has an ethical obligation to fight financial crime and the digital footprint can absolutely be used as a positive to do so.
What has been the key to Quantexa’s growth?
By connecting data and creating context, we are empowering organisations to understand their customers, behaviours and relationships. But this is nothing new, and lots of companies do this. So, what we did was made this process simpler, more agile, and more effective to give control back to the customer.
Since starting in 2016, we have grown from six to over 100 people. We now have offices in London, New York, Brussels, Sydney and most recently, Boston – our data centre of excellence. In 2017, we turned over £5 million, recorded 400% year-on-year growth, and raised $3.3m in Series A investment led by HSBC and Albion Capital to drive product development, marketing and international expansion. This year, we partnered with HSBC and Shell, and closed a $20m investment led by Dawn Capital to continue growing our international presence.
What are the company’s plans for the future?
Our long-term growth ambitions are aggressive – with a projected turnover of £13.5m in 2019 – and we’re on track to achieve them. We don’t necessarily think in timescales, we think in the number of customers. As a customer-driven business, we hope to have a loyal customer portfolio in five years’ time.
Over the next 12 months, our plan consists of ongoing innovation and expanding our international growth even further. We have an impressive team of data scientists working hard together to make sure that our solution is always helping to solve our client’s problems – no matter what they are. My dad taught me that the first rule of business is to remain relevant. So, at Quantexa, we are constantly evolving our technology and products in tune with demand and listening to the challenges that our clients face every day.