Witnessing the corrosive effect of fraud on a family business was a key inspiration and I’ve embraced the opportunity to use my background in software, data and business to found a venture that now digitally transforms clients’ onboarding and monitoring processes, helps prevent fraud and also ensures regulatory compliance.
The beginning of NorthRow
My family roots in the automotive industry combined with an early interest in technology naturally led to an early career in software development in this sector. I was later hired as Chief Technology Officer and first employee of a very early internet startup which launched the UK’s first used car trading site and way back in 1997 won a contract to power the automotive channel of Microsoft’s MSN UK site. I consider this to be a ‘real world MBA’ as I learned quickly about understanding and overcoming the many challenges of a startup in an early and rapidly changing market. After several rollercoaster M&A transactions involving that business, I took time out for a real MBA from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School after which I was hired by DMGT where we made three acquisitions to created their Motors.co.uk division, since acquired by eBay.
The idea for NorthRow came from my work at DMGT with the UK police to help found and then chair the Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group (VSTAG). This group of leading trade players and law enforcement officials was formed in response to increasing police concerns about the growth of online fraud. We developed an active and effective means of intelligence sharing which resulted in blocking fraudulent advertisements with a face value of around £250m in the first few years of operation.
This success in helping tackle automotive classified advertising fraud led to meetings with other industry sectors and helped me identify an opportunity to tackle the fraud challenge that they too faced. It was clear to me that technology could provide a better solution by automating intelligence sharing, so in 2010 I made the decision to start a new venture to using data to tackle this fraud problem. I wrote the initial business plan, financial model and prototype software, aimed at a range of classified advertising sectors.
Venture fund competition
I entered the annual Venture Fund competition at Saïd Business School and getting through to the final gave me the opportunity to pitch which lead to seed investment allowing me to take the venture to the next stage. After further engagement with law enforcement agencies and regulators, the business pivoted into an RegTech venture that now offers Know Your Business (KYB) checks, covering corporate entities, their directors and their Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBO). Our offering includes Politically Exposed Persons and Sanctions (PEPs) checks, Identity Verification and Identity Document checks, essentially all of the elements of vetting and continuous monitoring of entities now required by regulators.
Today, NorthRow services span across the financial services, FinTech, property and hospitality industries and provides managed services to supplement a single powerful API that can power our clients’ onboarding and monitoring workflows. requirements vary and in each case, our in depth analysis and understanding of underlying customer-specific needs and the ability to apply an appropriate solution have become a hallmark of NorthRow’s approach.
Running a RegTech business
Running any business, especially a RegTech business, requires a commitment to more than just the delivery of effective and reliable services but to a strong set of values. Integrity is first and foremost of those values for us, which means that the NorthRow team are all expected to do and trusted to do the right thing, with a fundamentally ethical approach to all that we do. The team have the freedom to challenge and innovate, supporting the firm’s growth with an entrepreneurial spirit. The team here listen hard to clients, getting to the heart of their problems and enabling them to find new ways to tackle their pain points, understanding the complexities they experience in guarding against financial crime whilst smoothly onboarding and monitoring their customers across different industries and geographies.
NorthRow’s future lies in being the partner of choice for complete and continuous KYB checks in digital transformation projects, either working directly with clients or with our growing network of software and consultancy partners. Helping to address the range of challenges thrown up by an ever-changing regulatory and business environment remain core to the business.
My favourite quote is by Harvard Business School’s Professor Howard Stevenson who defined entrepreneurship perfectly as the ‘relentless pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.’ You have to find a way to solve problems innovatively and come up with solutions that don’t yet exist and we extend that mentality to solving problems for our clients too.