Startup spotlight: Acin is the regtech to watch
Hi Paul. Can you t...
As we continue our series of flash interviews on startups to watch in 2020, we catch up with CEO Paul Ford of regtech company, Acin.
Hi Paul. Can you tell us a little bit about what Acin does?
Acin is a global regtech data company that is digitising non-financial risk (NFR) for financial institutions. Our ground-breaking solution combines technology, data standards and content to consistently measure, manage and mitigate NFR. Acin connects users within and across banks, allowing them to clearly visualise their data and see how they compare to their peers.
Since 2008, banks have increasingly struggled to manage their NFR effectively amidst the influx of regulation and new controls, incurring spending inefficiencies and billions in non-compliance fines.
Acin uses defined metadata to digitise and map risks and controls, so that gaps and overlaps can be identified for each individual firm, and benchmarked against their peer firms. The Acin network connects these firms together to share data and knowledge, thus keeping all participants up-to-date and able to demonstrate to regulators that they are in control.
What makes Acin's digitisation process unique?
Acin’s solution is completely unique, offering unprecedented clarity and collaboration around NFR – on the intrafirm and interfirm level.
A key component in our digitisation process is our unique, barcode-like Advanced Control Identification Numbers – “ACINs”. These are assigned to individual risks and controls so that they can be mapped; facilitating evaluation both from within companies and across the network. Controls are also assigned standardised KPIs so that performance can be measured.
In parallel, Acin’s unique Networked Defence Model provides continually curated Risk & Control data from across the network, leveraging collective insights to ensure members’ inventories are complete and up-to-date, and learnings and best practice are shared.
This means that Acin not only provides a level of protection and certainty that no firm could achieve in isolation, but it also creates a foundation for excellent business – by connecting the owners of risk (its managers) with the indicators of risk (clear data).
What was Acin's most recent award?
Last month Acin was named to the RegTech100 list, an exclusive directory of the world’s leading RegTech companies, for the second year running. The panel of analysts and industry experts who compiled the list recognised the value of the ground-breaking work we have been doing, and its implications for NFR management, compliance and the financial sector as a whole.
Our inclusion for a second consecutive year is testament to our continued growth and to the value of our innovative solution that is enabling financial institutions to take control of their NFR – ultimately driving positive change through industry collaboration.
As 2019 draws to a close, how is Acin positioned in the industry?
After a pivotal year, the Acin platform has recently expanded to include 15 tier-one banks, in the US, Europe and Asia. This continues our record of rapid growth and adoption amongst largescale multinational banks, which includes the likes of Société General, Standard Chartered Bank and Credit Suisse. From the start, our focus has been on working with the biggest and best banks, as we are confident that our solution is needed.
We are also soon to expand our offering further across the financial sector – we are now extending our network to include Asset Management.
The continued growth of the Acin network is good news for both existing and prospective clients, as each additional member means more shared knowledge and another boost to the network’s inherent defensibility.
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What's on the cards for Acin in 2020?
As regulatory and industry scrutiny of NFR continue to increase, the need for Acin’s solution has never been more pronounced. Against the backdrop of this month’s joint consultation paper from the PRA and BoE proposing a redoubled emphasis on operational resilience, 2020 is set to be a key year for Acin. Our focus will be on growing our technological capabilities, enriching our data outputs and developing our products, as well as enhancing client functionality through a portal giving network members access to exclusive insights.
Large and valuable organisations have already been built to support financial risk management (take the rise of Bloomberg as market risk came to the fore, and ratings agencies as credit risk increased in salience), and the same phenomenon is set to touch NFR as the need to quantify it grows.
Ultimately, Acin will continue to transform the NFR discipline into a similarly data-led science to its financial risk counterparts. We are already in ongoing conversations with several ratings agencies and these are set to continue.
About Paul Ford
Paul Ford is the Founder and CEO of Acin and has over 25 years’ operational and financial services experience. Ford founded Anchura Partners, an operational risk consultancy, in 2010 and grew it to be a highly successful business, before exiting in 2018 to found Acin. Previously, he held COO roles at Barclays Wealth’s Ultra High Net Worth business and in the EMEA division at Credit Suisse – he used this experience to gain an on-the-ground insight into the non-financial risk practices of financial services firms. Prior to this, Ford was a management consultant at Accenture and a Captain in the British Army’s Royal Engineers.
For more information on all topics for FinTech, please take a look at the latest edition of FinTech magazine.
FIVE things fintechs must do to keep investors onboard
New investors flocked to the stock market during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-eight percent of investors said they had never had a brokerage or similar account before opening one in 2020.
Low or no-fee trading options have helped accelerate the trend – nearly half of new investors said they accessed their account primarily through a mobile app. As FinTechs, how do we create the trust needed to keep new investors in the market and create a fruitful customer experience for them?
The financial industry does a disservice to individual investors if we merely offer tools that focus on making money quickly, an approach that usually backfires. Instead, the surge of interest presents an enormous opportunity for those who want to help more consumers use financial technology to educate them on responsible spending, saving, and investing in order to achieve financial wellness current fintech tools have welcomed individual investors in the door.
Now, it’s time to focus on education and improving their experience going forward. There are several ways those of us in fintech can step up to shape the future of retail investing so that it works better for everyone, starting with the following areas.
Equal access to financial wellness education
Financial health should be available to everyone — but today, not everyone has the educational resources to achieve it. One study shows that only 3.9% of students from low-income schools were required to take a personal finance class. What they aren’t learning in school or from family members, fintech companies can provide on their platforms.
The companies should move from solely offering financial services to a more responsible model of education, advice, and prescriptive choices to help consumers develop better habits and make wiser financial decisions. Not only can they empower consumers and bridge historical wealth divides, but they can also stimulate growth by opening up new consumer segments.
Just as we’ve come to expect that our fitness routines are tailored to our individual bodies, we’re also ready for finance tools that go beyond one-size-fits-all solutions. But only six percent of financial institutions say they’re using the kind of technology that allows them to deliver a deeply personalized experience. Fintech tools need to reflect that financial success looks different for each of us.
For one consumer, it may mean providing guidance on how to pay off student loans early; for another, it may mean prescriptive actions that enable them to stick to a budget for the first time; for a third, it could look like prioritizing environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments, so that her portfolio aligns with her political beliefs.
Now, we are seeing financial technology beginning to meet the demands of personalized finance in a substantial and meaningful way.
The rise of AI-Powered Advice
Big-picture advice and predictive guidance used to be a feature of high-end financial advisory firms — a perk only available to those who could afford it. But thanks to rapid advancements in data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), that kind of holistic advice is now more accessible than ever. AI-driven robo-advisors can parse many different streams of financial information, delivering customized answers to key questions: Is it time to buy a home, or is it smarter to keep renting? Can I afford to take out another student loan?
Intelligent connectivity powered by AI can anticipate consumers’ needs and next steps, making proactive suggestions that guide them along the path to financial wellbeing. Fintech companies can also help consumers identify when their financial picture becomes too complex for a robo-advisor, and help them find a human financial advisor to meet their needs.
Focus on financial mental health
New investors are quickly finding that the market can be overwhelming. That’s not surprising, financial anxiety is common and studies show that financial stress can have an impact on mental health for some.
It’s not enough for fintech companies to give retail investors access; they also must provide the guidance and support that help consumers manage their financial well-being. Educational tools can ensure that consumers are well informed about their options.
Predictive analytics can anticipate consumers’ questions, serving them key information and insights before they ask. Features that emphasize a comprehensive notion of financial well-being, rather than short-term wins and losses, can also help ensure that consumers are keeping their eyes on the bigger picture.
Gamification for good
The surge of gamification apps has done an impressive job making investing as engaging as playing a video game or joining a social media platform.
Much of the current use of gamification emphasizes short-term thinking, but there’s also an opportunity to help consumers think more broadly about their overall financial picture. One example is peer benchmarking, a feature that enables help consumers to see how their financial habits compare to those of friends and fellow consumers.
Gamification can also be used to incentivize making smaller, smarter choices — for example, rewarding saving over making an impulse buy.
The future of fintech is about more than just broadening access to the markets. It’s about making sure more individuals have access to the tools that can help improve their financial well-being—in the ways that suit their own circumstances and needs. The potential to act within their own set of individual priorities, with their long-term financial wellness in mind is much more empowering to a consumer than simply relying on short-term, high-risk investments.