Tech business in focus: Quantexa
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Offering banks and organisations an AI-powered data analytics solution, Quantexa is at the forefront of enterprise intelligence. We spoke to Arvi Chana, CFO at Quantexa about his journey before Quantexa, as well as the businesses’ impressive three-year growth.
Tell us about your journey to Quantexa.
In 1997, I made my first move into the tech sector, for an American organisation which sold object-oriented development tools. Customers would come in and use our company software, along with seeing our consultants, to help develop a solution that would really solve problems. In those days, these were considered quite cool software businesses because they were pure software play, with other services being delivered by partners like EDS and the like, to help the solution be implemented for the customer.
It was really eye-opening in terms of how much value the software solution was providing to organisations, and that started to get me thinking. ‘This is the sector that I would like to stay in,’ I thought, and over the years, I made sure I worked for those type of businesses, providing software solutions using partners. I then moved into more solution-based businesses that were providing very specific application solutions. I worked for businesses that did voice over IP call testing, web testing applications, and then moved into the data-driven sector. That ended up being a nice segue into me working at my position as CFO at Quantexa.
And what was it specifically about data-driven businesses like Quantexa that made them successful?
Those businesses went from testing a solution to actually becoming more of a data-driven solution provider. It was a key part of my development, seeing how those businesses were helping organisations get better value from their data.
If businesses hold data in various departments across an organisation, rather than around a central core, they usually encounter problems in being able to handle massive amounts of data. The emergence of Big Data, in terms of volume of data and transactions, led businesses to be in that position. Quantexa uses advanced network analytics to empower organisations to derive real value from their data and make more informed decisions.
How does Quantexa differentiate its offering from others on the market?
Unlike many legacy systems, Quantexa’s offering helps organisations in multiple lines of business from a single platform. Quantexa technology helps businesses meet their compliance needs, detect fraud, uncover potential money laundering and find new business opportunities.
"Our software enables those companies to connect the dots between different data sources and make intelligence-led decisions to address major problems."
How exactly does Quantexa’s offering tackle financial crime?
Criminals often use the banking system to launder money. Banks must investigate transactions which might be considered fraudulent or money laundering by nature and they have a process to follow, including raising Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) when identifying potentially criminal behaviour. Every time the bank doesn't follow up properly with illicit transactions, they are penalised by regulators due to not meeting their compliance obligations.
With Quantexa’s software, we offer the bank a ‘single customer view’. This brings together all the available data on one customer in to a collated single view. For example, a customer might have a mortgage with the bank, along with a bank account and a credit card, but this data is potentially logged into three different systems within the bank. With our software, we can merge that data, so that the banks will see that customer as a single entity within the banking system.
We can also provide advanced network analytics, which enables the bank to see the relationship between an entity and the broader network it is connected to. These connections could be to other people, businesses or accounts within the bank, or it could encompass data extracted from other external sources. This process gives the bank a broader view of customer transactions, providing context to understand the flow of money, which allows the bank to make better decisions using their data.
Quantexa technology enables banks to reduce false-positive alerts (where a legitimate transaction is flagged as suspicious). An example of this is when a customer has property for sale, and puts all the cash from the sale into a bank account. This flags an anti-money laundering alert but by using connected Land Registry data to understand the context, the bank can see that the transaction is for a legitimate sale.
What other capabilities does this technology have?
Quantexa also enables business growth and development using connected data. By empowering an organisation to understand their customers better, it can gain actionable insight into how to support customers better. It also aids up- and cross-selling in a way that’s smart.
By offering companies this AI-enabled insight, they can understand and leverage intelligence about customers to pursue appropriate prospects at the right time. It offers a deeper level of understanding that can expand revenue opportunity.
Industry: Information Technology and Services
Ownership: Privately held
Tell us about Quantexa’s growth trajectory and funding.
Quantexa started in March 2016, and about a year afterwards, we raised Series A funding with HSBC Ventures, and Albion, a venture capitalist. Last summer, we went to a Series B funding round to raise money through venture capitalist Dawn Capital and existing investors. For us, a really key part of our growth and development is having the right relationship with our investors. Dawn Capital have a lot of experience around B2B selling and are very experienced in SaaS, so that’s a really good fit in terms of our growth and development.
A key part of our reason for raising was to allow us to continue our expansion plans. We have entities in Australia and in the US, and are focusing on expanding our footprint in those regions. We've recently opened an office in Toronto, Canada, as well as expanding into Singapore and across Europe. It really is an investment-led initiative - we want to continue our expansion to deliver value across the globe.
How has Quantexa met the challenges of scaling growth?
I think that's a constant challenge for businesses such as ours. As you make that leap from start-up to scale-up, the business has to mature in a way which allows it to continue to scale and grow. There has to be a maturing of processes, and a maturing of the way in those processes are implemented. These sorts of things are almost constantly on my radar.
Being a business like ours, which is fast-growing and fast-changing, it's really important that we put processes in place in a considered way. We don't need to be very heavy-handed when implementing processes and controls, but you do need to ensure that the right internal rigor and compliance is placed. The processes shouldn’t constrain the business.
How have you nurtured a company culture?
We've been very fortunate in that we've got the right people. We hire and nurture good talent that really helps with creating a strong culture. It's a high-performing, high-growth environment, but it's also an environment where people continuously learn and develop. They get exposure to some amazing cutting-edge technology.
How do you ensure that the company culture is maintained whilst expanding?
That's something which we take really seriously; our people are focal to us. We have a fantastic relationship with strategic partners to help us deliver our solutions – keeping that kind of culture is critical. It has to be built into the DNA of the business.
We have an excellent management team who know what they want out of the organisation and the direction we're going in. They're very clear about where our focus is, and we know what we need to do. Good communication, direction and a sense of confidence reinforces the company culture. It's a very flat organisation and the management team are very close to people at all levels. As we grow, it's something we're very conscious of. We’ve been focused on ensuring that our international offices have the positive culture that we have in London.
What role does compassion play in being part of a tech business?
"If I think about why I became a CFO of a business like Quantexa, I've always joined organisations with the intention to make a difference. Making a difference, not just in terms of helping the business grow and develop or just performing in my role as a CFO, but also helping people develop."
I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of nurturing and developing talent in teams that I work with. I've been really fortunate that I've worked with some very talented people, so it's been an easy thing for me to do. But equally, I've been able to influence people in other disciplines within the business. For me, that aligns nicely with the culture and the approach within the context of the business. For me, you can't value people highly enough. You have to invest in them and make sure that you're helping them develop and grow.
What helped you during your career journey?
It’s a bit out there, but something that I personally found hugely beneficial was Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP). It's prolific in America, and becoming more so here. I read books on NLP for years and I found it intriguing, as it helped me to better understand ways of communicating, and tailoring the way that you communicate when you work with people. I took an NLP Practitioner course around 10 years ago, which was revolutionary in the way in which I was able to apply the NLP into my day to day. That for me was very insightful and it gave me a range of tools I can use in work situations.
The beauty of NLP is that you pick what suits you, and over time you find that you introduce them naturally into your day-to-day. It really helped me in a lot of work situations, particularly when you're trying to coach somebody, as NLP covers coaching and mentoring skills.
The danger for financial people is that it's easy to fall into the analytical perspective, and just look at things in a fairly black-and-white way when you make decisions. Having the ability to step out from behind the quantitative measures, and looking at the qualitative measures, that's one of the most important skills a finance person can develop.