Coffee Morning Podcast with Innovate Finance
Our CEO, Adam Holden, was recently interviewed by Rolf Merchant, Head of Member Policy & Public Affairs at Innovate Finance. As part of their weekly podcast series, leaders across FinTech and RegTech industries are interviewed to discuss financial innovation and digital transformation. Listen and read the interview below to learn more about Adam, NorthRow and what the future holds for NorthRow.
Listen to the podcast below:
Read the full interview below
Rolf: Please tell us more about your background and how you came to be in the FinTech industry?
Absolutely. My educational background is engineering, however, I switched to accountancy by trade. I spent my time in both consumer organisations and then trained with Ernst and Young in London. Subsequently, I spent 10 years with the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (now NatWest), in various parts of the business. I quickly focused on the SME (Small Medium Enterprises) corporate lending division working alongside Alison Rose, who’s now CEO of the group.
It was here that I became really interested in business startups. At the time it was post the 2008 financial crash. It was inspiring to see how SMEs could really fire the economic regrowth of the country. On leaving RBS Group I joined Tandem Bank, one of the many organisations going through the new banking licence process, such as Starling and Monzo.
In the years I spent at Tandem, I learnt much from a professional perspective. Being exposed to the FinTech industry it became immediately clear the emphasis was on building digital first financial products that provided a seamless customer experience for the end-user.
I wanted to be a part of the FinTech revolution, so when the opportunity arose to be part of NorthRow, a UK leading RegTech (Regulatory Technology) firm, I had no hesitation. As their Chief Financial Officer (CFO) I supported their investment funding round to fuel a fast-growing scale-up.
At the beginning of 2021, Adrian Black – NorthRow’s founder – left the business to pursue other projects. I had the opportunity to take on the role of CEO at NorthRow and continue Adrian’s mission of Making Compliance Work for risk professionals with intelligent, complete Client Due Diligence solutions.
In the last 6 months we have seen tremendous growth and are now hiring rapidly so we can build our fantastic team to turbo-charge our exciting product launches over the coming months.
Rolf: Thanks Adam, that was a great background to your career so far. I know that NorthRow is involved in Know Your Business (KYB) and Anti-Money laundering verification. Do you mind elaborating on NorthRow’s value proposition, how you position the company, and what problems you are solving in the market?
When NorthRow started, it had a lofty vision of eradicating financial crime for good, which is a highly virtuous objective. However, within our 10 years of building products for compliance professionals, we have since refined our mission.
Compliance departments are under pressure to digitally transform and automate their processes when it comes to client onboarding, ongoing monitoring, KYC refresh and remediation projects, as it can directly impact the customer experience. If a company’s compliance processes are slow, cumbersome or static this can be detrimental to customer experience, increases time to revenue and more importantly increases risk exposure to the business. Striking the right balance of delivering robust compliance processes and ensuring an amazing customer experience isn’t always easy.
NorthRow’s motto is simple: Making compliance work.
We have built our products from the ground up for risk professionals to use as their daily compliance tool of choice. Our curated set of solutions has been designed specifically to help compliance teams complete their ‘Jobs To Be Done’, and solve their problems in the most automated, efficient, and accurate way possible. We pride ourselves on giving excellent user experiences combined with case and process management, overlaid onto the intelligence of the NorthRow risk engine.
Our single API solution means that our clients only have to deal with one vendor for their Know Your Business verification and monitoring needs. This removes the hassle of a compliance team having to deal with multiple data companies across disparate systems.
We help our clients unlock insights into their compliance journeys. This enables them to deliver highly effective due diligence that improves customer experience, creates operational efficiencies, and ultimately achieves growth.
Rolf: What do you see as the barriers perhaps, to RegTech reaching scale? What can be done to help reg tech adoption more broadly?
Great question. Compliance has always been a headache for regulated firms. However, since the pandemic and the increase of remote working and financial crime, the pressure is on for compliance teams to adopt a digital-first and automated approach to their processes. We know that risk is dynamic and compliance processes must deliver against these fast-moving changes.
Regulated industries have learnt that digital transformation can be delivered ahead of the agenda. At NorthRow we are seeing increased demand from companies that are looking to reduce their operational compliance costs, streamline client due diligence and ultimately Make Compliance Work.
Rolf: Do you see that a broader FinTech industry will grow over the next few years?
There are a few trends that I anticipate might start to emerge. One thing that has happened is that the pandemic has accelerated the transition towards a cashless society as UK retailers have dramatically reduced the acceptance of cash. This is partly driven by the pandemic and peoples activities being curtailed, but also the adoption of technology in financial services.
We also have to look at the solutions that don’t quite fit in the new world, or dare I say it the “New Normal”. For example, the online payments industry is going to be more successful than a high street retail point of sale solution.
Another trend that is certainly evident in the RegTech space, is the availability of capital investment that has been held back over the pandemic. There is also opportunity for consolidation across FinTech, RegTech and its sub industries as capital is used more wisely, combined with the increase in product innovation over the last 18 months and the opportunity to increase market share.
The conclusions from the Khalifa review reinforces the opportunity currently available for the FinTech industry. This isn’t just confined to London and the South East, but across the UK as the space opens up for emerging businesses and support for employment growth to all.
There seems to be a FinTech or RegTech deal being announced every week. It would be really interesting to see if that momentum carries on and where it all leads. As the Khalifa review was absolutely critical in turning those recommendations into reality, what have you learned as a business in the last 18 months trying to scale in the middle of a pandemic?
Well it certainly has been a roller coaster without a doubt. Everyone and every business had to make a very quick decision on how they (myself included) were going to operate during these tumultuous times. Interestingly, two weeks prior to the first lockdown we carried out a business continuity exercise to gauge how we would handle an emergency (like a pandemic) and how we would start to work remotely. It went smoothly and gave us the confidence that our team worked well. We have certainly used the opportunity to strengthen the culture within the organisation and have increased engagement on regular company stand-up meetings.
From a commercial perspective we’ve continued to grow throughout the pandemic due to the increase in demand for remote Know Your business verification solutions across our client base from Financial Services to property and payment companies.
Some of our clients were hit badly during the first lockdown for example, hospitality and the property sector. We worked very closely with all our clients to support them during these challenging times. We offered a range of solutions from, escalating their digital transformation projects to adding Remote Verify to their service, or simply placing their Right to Work solution on hold if they were within the hospitality and not able to recruit staff.
Remote Verify has been particularly beneficial for our clients to use during the lockdown as face to face meetings were no longer an option. Our solutions enable the clients, end-user customer, to verify their own identity through a simple web app that uses a combination of facial recognition, Identity Document Verification, liveness check and address verification – completely remotely, anytime and anywhere in the world!
Rolf: Thinking about the future, where next for you?
NorthRow will continue to pursue the mission of becoming a risk professional daily compliance tool of choice to automate compliance processes in the most efficient and accurate way possible. As a reference, we have some exciting product releases over the coming months that will be game-changers within the RegTech space.
As a company, we can see growth within our key target local markets and would like to expand internationally over the next 2 years and build on our most recent presence within North America.
Personally, I’m really excited to continue my journey as CEO. We have a fantastic team at NorthRow and I’m excited to build on the great foundations instigated by Adrian Black. There is a real opportunity to support regulated businesses to achieve their digital transformation projects as quickly and easily as possible. Not just to help solve the financial crime, but to make a real difference in the delivery of easier compliance.