Combating Financial Crime for FinTechs

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Adrian Black, NorthRow’s CEO, Founded NorthRow in 2010 to enable regulated organisations to combat financial crime and streamline complex compliance checks and ongoing client monitoring. Read Adrian Black’s founder story.


Why I Founded a RegTech Business, NorthRow?

I was clear about my motivation for the prevention of financial crime within the financial services and FinTech market. For me, it wasn’t just about the business opportunity, but the personal effects I witnessed when my father’s firm was defrauded provided the catalyst to start. That experience has driven my career path ever since, looking for effective and innovative solutions to combat these risks. It’s a road that has led me from software engineering to the foundation of a business performing multinational checks on individuals and companies across a broad range of industries.


My Family Roots

My family roots in the automotive business naturally meant that my first software development would pertain in this area. The first technology-led opportunity I developed was an internet-based car trading magazine in 1996, to rival the printed magazines available at that time. It gave me a taste of a ‘real world MBA’ as I learned quickly about overcoming the challenges of a startup venture. Several M&A transactions later, and with a Saïd Business School (Oxford) MBA added to my experience, I decided it was time to move on to expand my horizons.


The Idea for NorthRow

The germ of the idea for my next innovation came from the Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group (VSTAG), which I chaired. This group was formed in response to increasing police concerns about the prevention of online fraud and was actively engaged in the sharing of information to this end, resulting in the blocking of fraudulent advertisements with a face value of around £50m. Despite this success, the process was resource-intensive and not scalable across the industry. There was also a gap in other industries for similar processes to address similar issues. It became clear that technology could provide a better solution to this sharing of information, so in 2010 I made an exciting and scary decision to start a new venture to meet this need. I wrote the initial business plan, financial plan and prototype software, designed not just for the automotive industry but for use across a range of business types. Initial funding for this idea came from four business angels, including a commercial lawyer and a director of a major national newspaper group.


Investment & Opportunities

Encouraged to enter, I fiercely fought off competition for more substantial funding to take the venture to the next stage, I pitched for a further lucrative opportunity via CASS Business School. Success in this bid was the foundation of the development of the business now known as NorthRow. Today, this business now services brands across financial, fintech, property and hospitality industries and provides managed services in addition to technology accessed via a single API. The original concept has expanded to include Know Your Business (KYB) checks, covering corporate entities, ultimate beneficial owners and PEPs checks, among all of the elements of vetting and continuous monitoring now required by regulators. Customer requirements can often vary between countries or sometimes just one area of London to another. In either case, the vision to understand the customer needs and apply the appropriate solution have been a hallmark of NorthRow.


Running a RegTech Business

Running a RegTech business requires a commitment to more than the delivery of effective and reliable services. There’s a strong element of embracing the values with which those services are aligned. Integrity is one of those values, which means that the NorthRow team are trusted to do the right thing with an ethical approach; have the freedom to challenge and innovate, supporting the firm’s growth with a continuation of the entrepreneurial spirit; and encouraged to listen to clients, enabling them to find new ways to tackle the real pain points and complexities experienced by customers across different industries and geographies.

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NorthRow’s Future

NorthRow’s future lies in its pursuit of being the partner of choice for complete and continuous KYB checks. Taking on the complexity and addressing the range of challenges thrown up by a changing regulatory and business environment remain core to the business. My favourite quote is by Harvard Professor Howard Stevenson on the definition of entrepreneurship as ‘the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.’

The Article Originally Appeared in Innovate Finance Blog: Combating Financial Crime for FinTechs - Adrian Black’s Founder Story (25 July 2019)