5 min read

IFGS: Husayn Kassai at Onfido Fintech Scotland and More

Dhanum Nursigadoo

We went to the IFGS to meet some of the biggest and newest names in Fintech. We’re bringing you some fantastic insights from our first five interviewees on the fintech landscape for 2018.

Ross Gallagher and Simon Taylor spoke to:

Marieke Flament, Managing Director for Europe, Circle
Sophie Winwood, Head of Partnerships, Innovate Finance
Stephen Ingledew, CEO, Fintech Scotland
Husayn Kassai, CEO and Co-founder, Onfido

Listen to all the interviews in full on Fintech Insider here or stream them below.

Marieke Flament, Managing Director for Europe, Circle

Can you tell us a bit about Circle's background? Circle was founded in 2013 on the premise that with blockchain you can fundamentally change the way money moves around. To date we have four different products Circle Pay is our mainstream product, it's an app mainly for Millenial consumers, with just an email address or phone number you can send them money in pounds euros or us dollar. Circle Invest recently launched in the US which enables Milenials to invest in crypto without the cryptic. Our third product is Poloniex which is a platform that enables crypto to crypto exchange. And finally Circle Trade which is for B2B consumers. Can you explain a bit further what you mean by crypto without the cryptic? There's a lot happening in crypto right now, if you're a consumer you might be interested in it but you don't really know if you should invest or not and what that means. There's a lot of work that can be done to reassure people and help them understand what it is and what it isn't. Education is a key part of that and making sure that people have the knowledge and confidence necessary to make the right investment. What's the Circle vision and how does this all come together to create an ecosystem? Imagine a world where you can create and share value completely differently, everything becomes tokenised and therefore blockchain is at the core of everything we do. Imagine a world where all platforms can be interconnected and interoperable. What we believe at Circle is that there is a new way to create and share value and a lot of that can be leveraged by blockchain technology. Creating a new type of consumer finance because it's easier for them and makes their lives better. Open banking is interesting and opening APIs is an interesting first step but blockchain can leapfrog all that so I don't know how long it'll be around. Have you got plans to bring Circle Invest to the UK and what else can we expect moving forward into 2018? We'd love to bring the Circle Invest product as soon as we can to Europe. There's a lot of demand here. In our suite from paying to investing to savings you could do many more things with your finance so having the right products for consumers first is what we're trying to do.

Sophie Winwood, Head of Partnerships, Innovate Finance

You're one of the organisers of this event, what's the driving factor? Our summit is built for our members by our members. We like to use this event to put our members on stage, showcase their innovations, knowledge and experience of the space. We are proud to represent them so this is almost like our gift to them. What's some of your favourite things that you've seen so far? The exhibition hall, where a startup that's been around for three days is next to a company like Deloitte, putting everyone on the same space so you can go around and talk to completely different people but in the same networking area. Tell us a bit about what it takes to put an event like this on? IFGS is put on by a team of about 14 people. We've been planning it for 6 to 8 months. It's been a lot of long nights. We've got a lot of unsung heroes I want to say thank you to, we've got an awesome marketing comms team, Jess has been incredible and our design girl Susan has done all the branding, all the slides, including the opening VT. The events team has been great, organising 2000 people is just incredible.

Stephen Ingledew, CEO, Fintech Scotland

Can you give us a bit of background on Fintech Scotland? Scotland wants to be as famous for fintech as it is for salmon and whisky. We;ve got a great heritage in scotkland already around finance innovation technology and skills. Fintech Scotland has been created to bring those team players together to score more goals. So you're the bridge between resources, acting in a way that benefits fintech and drives it forwards? Yeah, my role is to bring them together to play together, developing each area whether it's the skills, established financial services business, tech players, innovators and entrepreneurs. When you get all of them working together that's where you really make a difference. You're working across multiple sectors, can you tell us a bit more about that? Fintech Scotland's been created by a three-way partnership between the Scottish government, the universities, and the private sector. From that there's a diversity of skills, ideas and thoughts bringing out our creativity. It's not just about the big players changing, it's not just about entrepreneurs, it's not just about academics having all the knowledge and insight. It's about bringing all those elements together. How does all that play out in terms of application? I work to see which players can combine well together to create something bigger. For example if you combine a big bank with a couple of fintechs and some academic inclusion. How will that bring out different types of innovation that allows us to embrace open banking in a way that it isn't being embraced at the moment. Is partnering with the universities meant to start supplying stand-out talent to organisations in Scotland, reducing the risk of that talent migrating south to London which has been the hub of fintech up to now? Scotland has tremendous universities finding that core talent around those deep skills in data, data science, analytics, AI and infomatics which are key for the new economy. It's not just about those deep skills, it's about everybody across all levels who needs retraining for the digital economy. It's not just about young people coming through, it's about retraining people already in our sectors. What have been some of the challenges you've come up against or expect to come up against moving forward? Establishing trust on both sides so they can work together, trust from the innovators that they won't lose their IP, trust from the large institutions that they won't be in some form of data breach. Bringing them together in both virtual and physical spaces, you can thrash through those ideas. Adding academics into the mix gives an additional level of insight. So, whilst the technology is important it's the people element that makes the difference. It speeds up the innovation because you're straight into seeing the problem together with different perspectives rather than seeing them in isolation. We have established businesses and tremendous tech businesses, we can pair them with great innovative fintechs that can work with them to drive forward the future innovations globally. We're looking to develop a collaborative model around the world. We want to be part of an international team. Can you tell us about some of your initiatives moving forward? Moving into Q2 we're looking to create virtual factories to bring together big and small. Hubs where we bring people together and develop those minimum viable education programmes to help people develop the skills. It's not always about getting a university degree. And thinking about how we implement those ideas globally.

Husayn Kassai, CEO and Co-founder, Onfido

Can you tell us a bit about what Onfido does? We set up 6 years ago and our focus is identity verification. We help businesses verify the government IDs of the customers that they're on-boarding. If you're a digital bank for instance as your users are registering to signup they take a photo of their government ID front and back and a recording of their face and we use machine learning to verify that it's a genuine ID and the photo matches the face. We can also run credit bureau and watchlist searches for compliance. But our core business is identity verification. When we started the company it seemed like the current processes were out of date. Either you could go inside a bank branch, and there's a 40% drop off of new customers not going through to the end of the process because it can be difficult cumbersome and slow. The alternative is credit bureaus but half the world's population aren't on those either. There are also issues around data security with credit bureaus. What's the machine learning that's layered within this and the accuracy levels there in terms of making a positive ID? My co-founder's thesis was on spotting wildlife using machine learning in a series of 25K photos of the jungle. When we looked at how we could do a good job verifying government IDs he saw that his research was directly applicable to it. Over the last five and a half years, just because we've been doing millions and millions of document checks on fraud accuracy, speed improves with every single check. The fintech community in particular, when we partnered with the Revolut's and Square's of the world in the early days it gets better and better with every check and becomes applicable to everyone else when it comes to potential customers. If you're a fraudster and get rejected from one bank you'll go to the next and the next until you get through. When we see fraudulent documents our machine learning models learn and prevent that from being on-boarded it helps protect all our customers from that. Sophisticated fraudsters will continue to look at other companies that don't have as robust an on-boarding process. Companies set their trust threshold to prevent fraud, but they're excluding people from the market like 16-18 year olds and expats who end up as collateral damage in that space. How are solutions like Onfido helping to address this? It goes to the core of why we set up the company in many ways. When I turned 10 my parents moved from Iran and weren't able to open a bank account easily or rent after a few months. If you're new to the country or you don't have a large credit footprint there's no reason why you're a less credit worthy customer. As far as it counts for digital banks, they just need to know that you are who you say you are in a legal sense. If we don't have enough samples of a document type or for example a passport is stained then we have a human fallback that double checks them and ensures we have higher pass rates and that we don't compromise on fraud accuracy or speed. Our intention is to on-board as many customers as possible and provide them an easy experience while avoiding the bad actors who spoil it for everyone. What big moves are coming up for Onfido in 2018? The US is our largest market, followed by UK, followed by India and now we're looking to move into the Far East. We're increasingly being asked and being pulled into digital shared identity schemes. It requires you to push to the next level so it keeps us on our toes and keeps things exciting. Blockchain is great for continuing the authentication piece but at the point of verification and registration, in a physical world how do you tie yourself to that digital identity. That gap, in order to make it convenient, is where document verification and facial recognition makes it frictionless enough and secure enough for you to pull on that history and gain access to those services. Listen back to the episode in full here. To ensure you never miss an episode, subscribe to Fintech Insider now! Come talk to us @11FSTeam or @FintechInsiders on Twitter or hello@11fs.com if you want to send us an email.

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 Dhanum Nursigadoo
About the author

Dhanum Nursigadoo

Dhanum Nursigadoo is the Content Writer at 11:FS. He joined the company with a background in B2B journalism. He edits and writes the 11:FS blog (and the occasional podcast) and is always on the lookout for ways to make fintech more compelling than ever.

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