CEO Interview: Nexmo’s Tony Jamous

NexmoHomepage

Cloud communication services company, Nexmo offers a host of APIs and SDKs for voice and messaging apps, as well as phone number verification and chat capability.

At FinDEVr San Francisco 2015, Nexmo showed how its APIs and SDKs help companies such as Expedia, Zipcar, and Viber increase security, decrease fraud and protect user identity without compromising the user experience.

To dig a bit deeper, we recently chatted with the San Francisco-based company’s CEO, Tony Jamous. Prior to founding Nexmo in 2010, Jamous worked at Paymo, which was acquired by BOKU in 2009.

In his interview, Jamous spoke with us about the inspiration for Nexmo, the company’s competitive advantages, as well as its challenges.


Finovate: What was the impetus behind creating Nexmo?TonyJamous

Jamous: Nexmo was created to reduce the barriers to entry for developers to innovate with communication technologies and enable scalable and global high-quality communication infrastructure. Imagine how hard it would have been for Airbnb, one of our global customers, to individually connect to over 200 carrier networks using arcane telecommunications protocols.

Early on, we were obsessed with building networks and investing in cloud technologies to sustain the quality of network as our customers scaled their businesses. Nexmo uniquely connects our customers’ traffic as closely as physically possible to carriers to reduce message and call latency. We also measure quality feedback for every transaction and adapt how each message or voice call is being routed in real time to continually improve overall quality.


Finovate: Your solutions are used in a number of industries. What is unique about the communications and fraud problems in the financial services sector?

Jamous: The phone number has emerged in recent years as a user-friendly way to identify and authenticate real people. Our APIs, especially Verify (pictured below) and Number Insight, are designed to enable financial services players to easily embed two (or more) factor authentication, and gather data on the phone number during the transaction. These tools enable financial service providers to reduce fraud without the need to gain expertise in teleco rules and regulations.

NexmoVerify
Nexmo Verify API

Finovate: What is the most creative solution you’ve seen a financial services company build using a Nexmo API?

Jamous: Bitcoin platforms have been driving innovation in fraud prevention at a faster rate than any other segment within the fintech space, and Nexmo works with many of the leading Bitcoin companies.

To secure your Bitcoins from theft, enabling phone number two-factor authentication with the Nexmo Verify SDK or API is strongly recommended. This involves sending a one-time password (OTP) to a user over a separate communication channel (SMS or voice) than the IP channel (Internet) used by the Bitcoin exchange or wallet. Aside from sending payments, phone number verification can also be required for registration, login, resetting passwords and authenticating changes made to your Bitcoin exchange or wallet account. Bitcoin theft might be irreversible, but you can prevent it with an extra layer of protection using Nexmo’s Verify API or Verify SDK.


Finovate: What are the biggest challenges for Nexmo?

Jamous: Nexmo has reached a phase in which we need to both scale the business and improve operational efficiency, all while keeping a priority on customer-facing teams and tools. We have a long journey ahead, which will be both challenging and exciting for the team.


Nexmo will demo what’s new with its Verify SDK at FinovateEurope on February 9 & 10 in London. Tickets are selling fast; register today to secure your seat.

Interview With Nostrum Group CEO, Richard Carter

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Between the risk involved with lending and the number of resources needed, it can be costly for banks. Nostrum Group is helping banks on both fronts with a set of tools that reduce friction in the lending process.

At FinovateEurope 2014, Nostrum Group showed off Virtual Collector, a system that automates loan delinquency management. This year it applied for FinovateEurope and was selected to debut a new iteration of its core system that aims to make lending cheaper, faster, and safer.

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Richard Carter, CEO, has an extensive background in the credit and lending space. We interviewed him recently about Nostrum’s loan platform:

Finovate: In addition to its Virtual Collector, Nostrum offers loan application technology. What role does big data have here? What role do you see big data taking on in the lending industry in the future?

Carter:
That’s right, in fact at FinovateEurope 2015 we launched our new Virtual Finance platform, which is our fully digital loan management platform. This platform enables lenders to completely automate the loan application and servicing process, including delinquency management, which is where Virtual Collector fits in. 

The focus of our efforts when developing the Virtual Finance platform was on automating a truly personal and bespoke customer experience. Big data plays a vital role in the way lenders can optimize their lending decisions, as it offers such a rich source of insight to inform their scorecards.
The driver of all of this of course is that smartphone adoption is nearing saturation. A person’s Facebook activity can probably tell you much more about their loan affordability than bank statements from six months ago for example and therefore lenders can expect to make better lending decisions and improve the performance of their loan book.
On a more simplistic level, the interaction of the applicant with the site can be used to supplement the lending decision. If a customer applies for the largest loan amount available with the shortest term in milliseconds and skims through the T&C’s are they entering into a loan agreement with strong intent to pay?
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Finovate: What can you tell us in the way of metrics?
Carter:
Perhaps the most telling metric is the fact that Nostrum’s lending platform processes a loan application every 10 seconds on behalf of our clients. When you consider that we only employ around 80 staff, the efficiencies of automation are clear.
Historically (and even now), some paper based lenders would take several weeks to confirm their decision on a loan application. Using our systems this can be done within seconds, but not only that, we can have the funds in the applicant’s bank account within minutes. We’ve not quantified the financial or operational benefits to lenders because, quite frankly, the case in favour of automation is an overwhelmingly compelling one. However, you’d call out the ability to process applications and service queries without the requirement for agents as a major overhead reduction. The flip side is that we know customers want to engage in this manner, so that will drive acquisition. 
The strong demand for our product shows how the lending industry is transforming. Over the last two financial years our turnover has increased by 137% and based on our current line of sight of our order book, this digital trend is set to continue for some time to come. You only have to see how many banks have created senior digital leaders to understand that this isn’t a short-term play.

Finovate: Do you view alternative lending sites, such as Lending Club, as competition or complementary to traditional bank lending?
Carter:
We see alternative lenders as complimentary because in most instances they are fulfilling demand for loans in areas of the market where banks don’t want to lend. The alternative lending sector has grown quickly though and combines the latest technology with highly efficient operating models, so the threat to the banks is an increasingly real one. On a slightly controversial note, we would highlight payday lenders as having driven technology adoption. They pushed high levels of automation through their lending operations – they had limited appetite to staff up contact centers, so the whole application process was automated including electronic signatures on agreements and immediate disbursements. That legacy is now continuing through mainstream lending as customers demand immediacy of service with mainstream banks and other product providers.
The challenge the alternative lenders face is whether they can scale up their operations to compete not just on rate, but in terms of the volumes of business they can write. The question that needs to be asked is whether these alternative lenders are trying to supply a product that customers want, or do they just represent a great idea looking for a home? Looking back at previous examples, prepaid cards were in a similar stage of maturity, and a great product, but lack of demand stifled growth.
Digital banks now face a similar journey, and our view is that the most successful alternative lenders and digital banks will find themselves being acquired by the major banks, who will inevitably retain the vast majority of the customers. At the end of the day, the banks or lenders who have the customers are the ones who will be the winners. That’s generally the case in most industries. 
In the UK, for example, we are already seeing collaboration between major banks and peer-to-peer lenders, to pool resources and drive progress to critical mass.
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Finovate: Tell us an original fact about Nostrum Group that you’ve never before shared.
Carter:
The fact I would really like to tell you is the list of high street retailers and well-known global consumer brands who use our systems to provide finance facilities to their customers. We’ve never shared this before because we’re not allowed to name most of our clients. 
So, although I’d like to tell you, I’m not allowed! However, what I can say is that if you search for a list of the top 20 UK retail brands you’ll find at least six of our current
clients, and nearly the same number again who we are actively in talks with. 
Finovate: As CEO, what past experiences do you have that help you provide lenders with a better way to serve borrowers?
Carter:

My entire career has been spent working in technology in financial services, specifically in the lending industry. So I’m a subject matter expert and I’ve got experience and relationships that span three decades. I’ve been at the heart of the industry through boom and bust periods, and some of the most pivotal innovations the market has experienced including telephone banking, internet banking, and most recently the dawn of the cloud, social media, smartphones and tablets. 

I think what really helps me to add value to our clients though is the simple fact that I’m a consumer myself, and one who is fascinated by technology and gadgets, and obsessive about customer service. I follow innovations and success stories across consumer industries with great interest and these have been the source of many sparks of inspiration for our own technology. 

I can sit down with our clients and talk to them from combined perspectives of a technology provider, a lending industry expert, and an active and passionate consumer. I think it’s a combination they value.


Nostrum Group is self-funded and is based in the UK. Check out the debut of Virtual Collector at FinovateEurope 2014. Its FinovateEurope 2015 video will be available on the demo video archive pages later this week.

CEO Interview: Mike Iacobucci of Interactions

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For many in attendance at FinovateSpring 2014 in San Jose watching the Interactions demo, the “Aha!” moment came when the virtual agent began speaking flawless Spanish. 

The demo was already impressive, with murmurs of appreciation from the audience as the seamless call and response back and forth between the presenter and the Interactions virtual agent made believers of everyone in the room. 

Mike Iacobucci 2

But the Spanish might have been the breaking point, that moment when technology seemed to do that thing that the great Arthur Clarke insisted it could always do: become indistinguishable from magic.

Magical as the technology may seem, Interactions virtual agent technology is far from magic. Rather, it is the result of a patent-pending technology that succeeds where other virtual technologies, including Apple’s Siri, have struggled. 
Interactions technology has been deployed in industries ranging from retail to hospitality to healthcare, and include Fortune 500 financial services corporations. The company, founded ten years ago, is headquartered in Franklin, Massachusetts, and includes Softbank Capital, North Hill Ventures, Cross Atlantic Capital Partners, Sigma Partners, Prime Ventures, and Updata Partners among its investors. 
We talked with Interactions President and CEO Mike Iacobucci about his company’s technology, how it came to be, and the ways it can be put to use to save money, improve efficiencies, and help improve the customer/client experience.


Finovate: Interactions is a two-time Best of Show award winner. What is it about Interactions that draws such a positive response?
Mike Iacobucci: There are two reasons our demo was impactful: first, because it was a live demo and second, because our technology works flawlessly. 
We’ve all used an automated system in the past, be it an IVR when calling for customer care or Siri on an iPhone. And we know from these experiences that they’re far from perfect technologies. Many of us have seen the replays of Microsoft’s live speech-recognition failures during keynotes in 2006 and 2012.
interactions_homepage_new1
The other reason is because our technology appeals so much to the audience as consumers. Not only do we have a cool technology. It also addresses a serious problem that people know all too well – that a five-minute customer-service call can raise our blood pressure more than our teenage children. 
Our technology makes contacting customer service a value-added experience, and that innovation makes our presentation even more exciting.
Finovate: What has Interactions been working on since FinovateSpring in April?
Iacobucci: Interactions is working to expand our product portfolio by bringing enhanced human-like text and speech-based conversations to every channel and device. Our services are rooted in customer care, but we’re moving into more revenue-generating areas like marketing and sales. 
We’re rapidly expanding into Asia and delivering customer implementations in newer channels like mobile chat and proactive messaging.
Finovate: What makes Interactions’ “Adaptive-Understanding (TM) technology” different from other voice-automation technologies?
Iacobucci: Speech recognition averages 75% accuracy with simple, open-ended prompts in the best conditions, which means that it’s going to fail for consumers in at least one out of every four attempts. Comparatively, our patented Adaptve-Understanding technology performs with 95+% accuracy on simple to complex open-ended prompts, which really changes the game.
Our technology focuses on how computer and human intelligence can work together to achieve a desired outcome. We always use automated speech recognition to apply business rules. When needed in small doses, we supplement with our Human Assisted Understanding capability to leverage a trained analyst’s natural proficiency at noise discrimination and interpretation.
In short, it’s automation with a human touch. And we’ve accomplished this and made it scale for very large multinational enterprises.
interactions_homepage_new2
Finovate: Are there things that a virtual assistant does better than a live human customer service representative? Do you see this changing as VA technology becomes more sophisticated?
Iacobucci: Absolutely. Customer service representatives are great at handling unique situations, troubleshooting complex issues, sales inquiries, and retention calls. However, there’s nothing value-added by having customer service representatives handle data-collection processes. For example, we can fully automate a loan application. It’s a lengthy process, but for us, it’s just capturing a few dozen fields of data. Nothing we can’t handle. And by automating these transactions, the savings are incredible.
When your virtual assistant is handling all of these data-collection transactions successfully, your agents can then spend more time with the call-types best handled by people. And that improves agents’ job satisfaction and retention rates. And, it keeps them more engaged.
Additionally, a virtual assistant is much more secure than a live agent, and collecting private information is an area where we excel. Moreover, we’re consistent, and this is extremely relevant to the financial services sector. The virtual assistant engages in a consistent manner from conversation to conversation, and if anything needs to be read back word for word, our solutions are a much safer bet than a live agent.
interactions_homepage_new3
Finovate: Two years ago in an interview with the Boston Business Journal, you hinted at an initial public offering. Is that still under consideration?
Iacobucci: We have no specific plans for a public offering. The company has the characteristics of a company that can be an innovative institution to a large market.
Finovate: What is the clim
ate like in Boston for fintech innovation? How does it compare to that of Silicon Valley?
Iacobucci: In many ways, Boston and Silicon Valley are extremely similar. With an incredible amount of talent pouring in from the top institutions in the country and an entrepreneurial spirit rivaled by few other cities, Boston is an extremely inviting climate for fintech innovation. 
This is only magnified by a strong presence in venture capital as well as progressive banking and financial institutions like Fidelity, State Street, and Putnam Investments. Additionally, there is a highly concentrated and rapidly growing focus on speech recognition, as seen by recent investments in Boston from Amazon. Google, Nuance, and Interactions.
Finovate: What can we expect from Interactions in the coming months?
Iacobucci: We’re looking to be a broad provider of services to the market beyond the customer care market. We want to leverage our platform to reach other market segments and other regions in the world where speech technology is otherwise inefficient or incapable.
We’ve created interactive systems in both speech and text that can foster the types of conversations that were never thought possible with automation, and with our technology, our potential applications are limitless.
Learn more about Interactions. Watch their Best of Show winning live demo from FinovateSpring 2014 here.

CEO Interview: Mike Iacobucci of Interactions

Thumbnail image for InteractionsLogo.jpg

For many in attendance at FinovateSpring 2014 in San Jose watching the Interactions demo, the “Aha!” moment came when the virtual agent began speaking flawless Spanish. 

The demo was already impressive, with murmurs of appreciation from the audience as the seamless call and response back and forth between the presenter and the Interactions virtual agent made believers of everyone in the room. 

Mike Iacobucci 2

But the Spanish might have been the breaking point, that moment when technology seemed to do that thing that the great Arthur Clarke insisted it could always do: become indistinguishable from magic.

Magical as the technology may seem, Interactions virtual agent technology is far from magic. Rather, it is the result of a patent-pending technology that succeeds where other virtual technologies, including Apple’s Siri, have struggled. 
Interactions technology has been deployed in industries ranging from retail to hospitality to healthcare, and include Fortune 500 financial services corporations. The company, founded ten years ago, is headquartered in Franklin, Massachusetts, and includes Softbank Capital, North Hill Ventures, Cross Atlantic Capital Partners, Sigma Partners, Prime Ventures, and Updata Partners among its investors. 
We talked with Interactions President and CEO Mike Iacobucci about his company’s technology, how it came to be, and the ways it can be put to use to save money, improve efficiencies, and help improve the customer/client experience.


Finovate: Interactions is a two-time Best of Show award winner. What is it about Interactions that draws such a positive response?
Mike Iacobucci: There are two reasons our demo was impactful: first, because it was a live demo and second, because our technology works flawlessly. 
We’ve all used an automated system in the past, be it an IVR when calling for customer care or Siri on an iPhone. And we know from these experiences that they’re far from perfect technologies. Many of us have seen the replays of Microsoft’s live speech-recognition failures during keynotes in 2006 and 2012.
interactions_homepage_new1
The other reason is because our technology appeals so much to the audience as consumers. Not only do we have a cool technology. It also addresses a serious problem that people know all too well – that a five-minute customer-service call can raise our blood pressure more than our teenage children. 
Our technology makes contacting customer service a value-added experience, and that innovation makes our presentation even more exciting.
Finovate: What has Interactions been working on since FinovateSpring in April?
Iacobucci: Interactions is working to expand our product portfolio by bringing enhanced human-like text and speech-based conversations to every channel and device. Our services are rooted in customer care, but we’re moving into more revenue-generating areas like marketing and sales. 
We’re rapidly expanding into Asia and delivering customer implementations in newer channels like mobile chat and proactive messaging.
Finovate: What makes Interactions’ “Adaptive-Understanding (TM) technology” different from other voice-automation technologies?
Iacobucci: Speech recognition averages 75% accuracy with simple, open-ended prompts in the best conditions, which means that it’s going to fail for consumers in at least one out of every four attempts. Comparatively, our patented Adaptve-Understanding technology performs with 95+% accuracy on simple to complex open-ended prompts, which really changes the game.
Our technology focuses on how computer and human intelligence can work together to achieve a desired outcome. We always use automated speech recognition to apply business rules. When needed in small doses, we supplement with our Human Assisted Understanding capability to leverage a trained analyst’s natural proficiency at noise discrimination and interpretation.
In short, it’s automation with a human touch. And we’ve accomplished this and made it scale for very large multinational enterprises.
interactions_homepage_new2
Finovate: Are there things that a virtual assistant does better than a live human customer service representative? Do you see this changing as VA technology becomes more sophisticated?
Iacobucci: Absolutely. Customer service representatives are great at handling unique situations, troubleshooting complex issues, sales inquiries, and retention calls. However, there’s nothing value-added by having customer service representatives handle data-collection processes. For example, we can fully automate a loan application. It’s a lengthy process, but for us, it’s just capturing a few dozen fields of data. Nothing we can’t handle. And by automating these transactions, the savings are incredible.
When your virtual assistant is handling all of these data-collection transactions successfully, your agents can then spend more time with the call-types best handled by people. And that improves agents’ job satisfaction and retention rates. And, it keeps them more engaged.
Additionally, a virtual assistant is much more secure than a live agent, and collecting private information is an area where we excel. Moreover, we’re consistent, and this is extremely relevant to the financial services sector. The virtual assistant engages in a consistent manner from conversation to conversation, and if anything needs to be read back word for word, our solutions are a much safer bet than a live agent.
interactions_homepage_new3
Finovate: Two years ago in an interview with the Boston Business Journal, you hinted at an initial public offering. Is that still under consideration?
Iacobucci: We have no specific plans for a public offering. The company has the characteristics of a company that can be an innovative institution to a large market.
Finovate: What is the clim
ate like in Boston for fintech innovation? How does it compare to that of Silicon Valley?
Iacobucci: In many ways, Boston and Silicon Valley are extremely similar. With an incredible amount of talent pouring in from the top institutions in the country and an entrepreneurial spirit rivaled by few other cities, Boston is an extremely inviting climate for fintech innovation. 
This is only magnified by a strong presence in venture capital as well as progressive banking and financial institutions like Fidelity, State Street, and Putnam Investments. Additionally, there is a highly concentrated and rapidly growing focus on speech recognition, as seen by recent investments in Boston from Amazon. Google, Nuance, and Interactions.
Finovate: What can we expect from Interactions in the coming months?
Iacobucci: We’re looking to be a broad provider of services to the market beyond the customer care market. We want to leverage our platform to reach other market segments and other regions in the world where speech technology is otherwise inefficient or incapable.
We’ve created interactive systems in both speech and text that can foster the types of conversations that were never thought possible with automation, and with our technology, our potential applications are limitless.
Learn more about Interactions. Watch their Best of Show winning live demo from FinovateSpring 2014 here.

CEO Interview: Matchi’s David Milligan

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Banks have problems. Innovators have answers. This is the way that Johannesburg-based Matchi, the online platform that pairs banks with relevant innovations, sees things.

Here at Finovate, fintech innovation is always on our minds, so we wanted to interview David Milligan, CEO of Matchi. Milligan has a passion for

DavidMilligan

innovation and has headed a number of innovation and new business units throughout his career. He has served as Matchi’s CEO since January of 2014. You can check out his LinkedIn profile here.


Finovate: Where did the idea for Matchi, a platform that matches banks with innovations, come from?
Milligan: The idea for Matchi came as a direct result of challenges encountered by our co-founder Warren Bond and me, in our respective histories. I ran innovation and new venture business units in a large bank for over 10 years, and Warren successfully launched and licensed technologies to banks. Both of us experienced first-hand how banks can benefit from working with smaller, more innovative fintech firms, but also how hard it is and how long it can take to do a deal with a bank.  
On the other side of the table, banks need consistent and clear approaches for sourcing and evaluating possible innovations, and anything that can extend their reach and help them find the next right thing is of great benefit. We realized that a global innovation platform that would assist innovators to reach the right people in banks globally, without having to pay high marketing costs, would fulfill a clear market need.
 
Finovate: What are the top three ways in which Matchi benefits banks?
Milligan: The top three ways Matchi benefits banks are:
    1. Connecting banks to the best innovations from around the world and giving them a way to curate
    2. Pro-active matching of innovations in the market in accordance to banks’ priorities   
    3. Banks can negotiate fees directly with innovators                    
MatchiScreenshot

 

Finovate: What trends are you seeing in fintech innovations?
Milligan: We have noticed an increasing demand for innovations that are designed for banks’ core purposes such as:
    • Managing and granting credit
    • Opening new accounts
    • Security solutions
Finovate: What types of metrics can you share? 
Milligan: We’ve doubled the number of banks on the platform since January of this year. To date, 30 banks from around the world have signed up as Matchi members, including banks from Europe, U.S.A., Asia, Australia, and Africa. This includes 3 Sponsor Banks across Spain, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Israel. 
Additionally, we are currently signing three to four fintech firms a week which ensures our banks regularly receive interesting value propositions.
Finovate: What’s the next development for Matchi?
Milligan: Increased functionality for Sponsor Banks as well as exciting new opportunities for innovators to respond to specific challenges as set by our Member Banks. We are also looking at developing Innovation Simulations for the workplace and will be hosting our first Innovation Sponsor Summit in December this year.
 
Finovate: What is your personal favorite innovation on the Matchi platform?
Milligan: There are many great innovations on our platform that span so many different areas, but one of my favorites is a solution that helps to prevent card fraud in a very unusual way.

To learn more about Matchi, check out its demo video from FinovateEurope 2014 or come see its new technology at FinovateFall 2014 in New York.

CEO Interview: Paul Doyle of VerifyValid

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A person could readily go broke betting against the demise of the check. While there are at any given moment plenty of startups and fintech veterans looking for new ways to avoid writing checks, the data suggests that people (and businesses) aren’t going to stop writing checks any time soon.

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This is one of the reasons why we thought it would be a great idea to get in touch with Paul Doyle, CEO of VerifyValid. VerifyValid is a leader in the movement to bring checks into the 21st century.

With solutions like Mobile Checkbook, which allows consumers to issue, receive and deposit eChecks from their iPhone or iPad, VerifyValid has made key additions to its basic web-based check service – all geared toward providing the benefits of paper checks with the cost savings of using VerifyValid’s eChecks.

We were fortunate enough to catch a very busy Paul Doyle earlier this summer, and to ask him a few questions via email about his company, its partnership with Deluxe, and what we can expect from VerifyValid in the months to come.

Finovate: Your relationship with Deluxe is a big deal. Can you tell us more about how that partnership came about?
Paul Doyle: Deluxe’s name is synonymous with the check. Having the biggest name in checks decide to resell your solution to their more than 4.5 million small business customers and selling through their more than 5,400 financial institutions is a big deal.
We at VerifyValid wanted a partner that could give us reach and whose brand completely aligned with the type of payment we enable … the check! Deluxe was an obvious answer.
How and where did it all happen? We have been long-time participants in industry initiatives, such as standards development through X9 and ISO, as well as newer initiatives such as the Remittance Coalition. When one works among industry peers at this level, the industry becomes a fairly small and well-connected universe.
Finovate: What are some of the other companies and institutions that have deployed VerifyValid’s technology?
Doyle: VerifyValid has over 10,000 users currently and more are joining every single day. Our customers run the gambit from several large companies such as $10B multi-national corporations down to sole proprietors and not-for-profits. Many of our customers are private sector, but we are getting an increasing number of public sector entities, such as school districts and municipalities, beginning to use the service.
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Finovate: How big is the B2B check business right now? Amid the overall declining use of checks, are we still seeing strong numbers on check issuance in the B2B space?
Doyle: There are approximately 5 billion B2B checks written and another 3 billion B2C checks written. This means businesses will write roughly 8 billion checks in 2014. Given the average value of a check is $1,420, this translates to more than $11 trillion dollars disbursed via checks by businesses. Given all forms of cards combined still only add up to about $4.5 trillion, we think this is still a very big and important part of our payments marketplace.
Finovate: What kind of cost savings are your customers realizing by using VerifyValid?
Doyle: Customers can pay for using VerifyValid’s service using money they already have in their existing budgets. For the same price as a 1st Class postage stamp, a user can complete the full process of creating, authorizing, and sending an eCheck.
As a result, all the other costs associated with the payments (i.e., purchasing of check stock, special printer cartridges, labor, etc.) go away. Our customers tell us they save $1 per transaction for each use of the service that would have formerly been a hard-copy check sent via the US Mail.
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Finovate: Let’s talk about the technology, the Trusted Time Stamp that keeps the check delivery system secure. What kind of authentication is happening here that ensures that a check a bank receives is legitimate?
Doyle: This can get VERY geeky very fast, so I will try to keep it simple, and high-level.
We have built and brought to market the industry’s first Universal Positive Pay system, which gives a bank-of-first-deposit (BOFD) that ability to verify that a check which was issued through our service or registered with our service is a true, authentic item.
The beautiful thing about the check is that the real value of the check is in the data of the check, not the paper. There are 5 critical pieces of information: 1) the bank routing and transit number, 2) the account number, 3) the check number, 4) the amount of the check, 5) the “Pay to the order of” or payee. We give the ability to prove the truth of authentic transactions. This is a big deal. It is a game changer when it comes to the problem of check fraud because now, through VerifyValid, banks can trap inauthentic checks before they even enter the banking ecosystem.
VerifyValid takes the 5 critical values and creates a cryptographic times tap or Trusted Time Stamp (per ASC X9.95). The cryptographic timestamp allows for us to prove the authenticity of the transaction while still preserving the privacy of the underlying financial transaction.
Finovate: What percentage of VerifyValid customers are printing out the electronic checks? Do you expect this percentage to change significantly going forward? If so, what would be the catalyst for that change?
Doyle: The vast majority of our customers are printing out the checks they receive and depositing them traditionally. While we do see this changing in the future, the nice thing is that it does not have to change before more people can take advantage of the service. We hear from customers their delight at receiving their payments faster. This, in and of itself, is a big benefit. When we talk to users and the opportunity to deposit the check electronically, this takes things to a whole new level. It surprises and delights. Most people say things like, “Wow … now that is great … you’ve got it all. That is cool!”
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Finovate: Where do VerifyValid’s revenues come from?
Doyle: VerifyValid’s revenues primarily come from the business check writer. A business pays to issue checks and the cost of using the service is essentially equal to the cost of the 1st class postage that they no longer need to use.
Finovate: So VerifyValid’s approach to electronic checks keeps banks in the picture?
Doyle: VerifyValid’s approach is built around banks and credit unions. The check is a payment instrument drawn against a DDA and is the essential domain of the banking industry. We believe this is the right way to build a modern, next-generation payments capability: by working with and through the banks and credit unions, and constructed on a rock-solid foundation of an existing, trusted and effective payment system. We allow banks and credit unions to use what they already have, what they already own. No new IT spend or investment required.
Finovate: The option to deposit checks directly into your checking account is a key feature. How many participating banks/FIs do you have? How quickly can you grow that number?
Doyle: My team is working out a plan to open up deposit-ability and Deposit Services for all banks by the end of the year. Stand by for more details on this in the 4th quarter.
Finovate: Let’s talk about the new app, Mobile Checkbook. How is it being talked about and received so far?
Doyle: Customers and pundits seem to love our mobile checkbook. As the market’s first real general purpose checkbook for the smartphone, it has a wide variety of uses. We are also being asked for a number of additional features. This shows us how much customers already like and use the app, and what more they want to be able to do. This also shows how relevant and useful checks still are.
Finovate: Brett King of Moven famously predicted that the last personal check will be written in the US in 2018. Interestingly, an initiative in the UK that set out to sunset paper checks around the same time as King’s prediction was met with a popular backlash. 
 
As an innovator in the space, what do you see as the future of the check?
Doyle: I believe Brett’s prediction is simply wrong and may have been meant to hype his company’s marketing message. The data in the US tells a different story, as do the direct experiences of the UK.
In the US, the actual number of checks written in 2012 as compared to nine years earlier in 2003 was 56% of the earlier volume. There were 21 billion checks written in 2012 as compared to 37.6 billion written in 2003. At this rate, if we look at 2018 (which would be a 6-year difference as compared to a 9-year difference in the prior number) one could predict that in 2018 there will still be approximately 12 billion traditional, paper checks written. Ironically, the number of consumer-to-consumer checks written has grown approximately 2% over the prior 6 years (2006-2012).
The experience of the UK is also worth noting. The UK Payments Council tried to mandate the end of checks by October 2018. Then, in July of 2012, this mandate was abandoned. The UK Payments Council was criticized for having attempted to implement a mandate without coming up with an acceptable alternative to the check.
According to mobilepaymentstoday:
“Checks still play an important part in the British payments landscape. Nearly 840 billion pounds ($1.4 trillion) worth of checks were processed in 2013 accounting for 10% of all payments made by individuals. In 2013, 23 million checks were sent as gifts because they are still the most trusted method of sending money through the post.”
We believe the check is as good a form of payment or better than anything else out there today. If one removes the paper or shifts where an dhow the item gets printed, we think the check will see a very long future. My prediction is that the VerifyValid eCheck will help checks continue to be used for at least the next decade or two. I believe we will see eCheck volumes reverse the trend in paper checks and will ultimately result in an increase in check usage.
Finovate: What can we expect to see from VerifyValid in the second half of 2014?
Doyle: The second half of 2014 is going to be exciting
  • Significant expansion of our mobile offering
  • Expansion of our offerings on the security and fraud prevention side of the business
  • Enhanced experience, functionality, and services for banks
And a few things we cannot talk about just yet!
Learn more about VerifyValid. Watch the company’s FinovateFall 2013 demo with Deluxe Corporation.

CEO Interview: Paul Doyle of VerifyValid

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A person could readily go broke betting against the demise of the check. While there are at any given moment plenty of startups and fintech veterans looking for new ways to avoid writing checks, the data suggests that people (and businesses) aren’t going to stop writing checks any time soon.

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This is one of the reasons why we thought it would be a great idea to get in touch with Paul Doyle, CEO of VerifyValid. VerifyValid is a leader in the movement to bring checks into the 21st century. 

With solutions like Mobile Checkbook, which allows consumers to issue, receive and deposit eChecks from their iPhone or iPad, VerifyValid has made key additions to its basic web-based check service – all geared toward providing the benefits of paper checks with the cost savings of using VerifyValid’s eChecks.

We were fortunate enough to catch a very busy Paul Doyle earlier this summer, and to ask him a few questions via email about his company, its partnership with Deluxe, and what we can expect from VerifyValid in the months to come.

Finovate: Your relationship with Deluxe is a big deal. Can you tell us more about how that partnership came about?
Paul Doyle: Deluxe’s name is synonymous with the check. Having the biggest name in checks decide to resell your solution to their more than 4.5 million small business customers and selling through their more than 5,400 financial institutions is a big deal.
We at VerifyValid wanted a partner that could give us reach and whose brand completely aligned with the type of payment we enable … the check! Deluxe was an obvious answer.
How and where did it all happen? We have been long-time participants in industry initiatives, such as standards development through X9 and ISO, as well as newer initiatives such as the Remittance Coalition. When one works among industry peers at this level, the industry becomes a fairly small and well-connected universe.
Finovate: What are some of the other companies and institutions that have deployed VerifyValid’s technology?
Doyle: VerifyValid has over 10,000 users currently and more are joining every single day. Our customers run the gambit from several large companies such as $10B multi-national corporations down to sole proprietors and not-for-profits. Many of our customers are private sector, but we are getting an increasing number of public sector entities, such as school districts and municipalities, beginning to use the service.
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Finovate: How big is the B2B check business right now? Amid the overall declining use of checks, are we still seeing strong numbers on check issuance in the B2B space?
Doyle: There are approximately 5 billion B2B checks written and another 3 billion B2C checks written. This means businesses will write roughly 8 billion checks in 2014. Given the average value of a check is $1,420, this translates to more than $11 trillion dollars disbursed via checks by businesses. Given all forms of cards combined still only add up to about $4.5 trillion, we think this is still a very big and important part of our payments marketplace.
Finovate: What kind of cost savings are your customers realizing by using VerifyValid?
Doyle: Customers can pay for using VerifyValid’s service using money they already have in their existing budgets. For the same price as a 1st Class postage stamp, a user can complete the full process of creating, authorizing, and sending an eCheck.
As a result, all the other costs associated with the payments (i.e., purchasing of check stock, special printer cartridges, labor, etc.) go away. Our customers tell us they save $1 per transaction for each use of the service that would have formerly been a hard-copy check sent via the US Mail.
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Finovate: Let’s talk about the technology, the Trusted Time Stamp that keeps the check delivery system secure. What kind of authentication is happening here that ensures that a check a bank receives is legitimate?
Doyle: This can get VERY geeky very fast, so I will try to keep it simple, and high-level.
We have built and brought to market the industry’s first Universal Positive Pay system, which gives a bank-of-first-deposit (BOFD) that ability to verify that a check which was issued through our service or registered with our service is a true, authentic item. 
The beautiful thing about the check is that the real value of the check is in the data of the check, not the paper. There are 5 critical pieces of information: 1) the bank routing and transit number, 2) the account number, 3) the check number, 4) the amount of the check, 5) the “Pay to the order of” or payee. We give the ability to prove the truth of authentic transactions. This is a big deal. It is a game changer when it comes to the problem of check fraud because now, through VerifyValid, banks can trap inauthentic checks before they even enter the banking ecosystem.
VerifyValid takes the 5 critical values and creates a cryptographic times tap or Trusted Time Stamp (per ASC X9.95). The cryptographic timestamp allows for us to prove the authenticity of the transaction while still preserving the privacy of the underlying financial transaction.
Finovate: What percentage of VerifyValid customers are printing out the electronic checks? Do you expect this percentage to change significantly going forward? If so, what would be the catalyst for that change?
Doyle: The vast majority of our customers are printing out the checks they receive and depositing them traditionally. While we do see this changing in the future, the nice thing is that it does not have to change before more people can take advantage of the service. We hear from customers their delight at receiving their payments faster. This, in and of itself, is a big benefit. When we talk to users and the opportunity to deposit the check electronically, this takes things to a whole new level. It surprises and delights. Most people say things like, “Wow … now that is great … you’ve got it all. That is cool!”
Finovate: Where do VerifyValid’s revenues come from?
Doyle: VerifyValid’s revenues primarily come from the business check writer. A business pays to issue checks and the cost of using the service is essentially equal to the cost of the 1st class postage that they no longer need to use.
Finovate: So VerifyValid’s approach to electronic checks keeps banks in the picture?
Doyle: VerifyValid’s approach is built around banks and credit unions. The check is a payment instrument drawn against a DDA and is the essential domain of the banking industry. We believe this is the right way to build a modern, next-generation payments capability: by working with and through the banks and credit unions, and constructed on a rock-solid foundation of an existing, trusted and effective payment system. We allow banks and credit unions to use what they already have, what they already own. No new IT spend or investment required.
Finovate: The option to deposit checks directly into your checking account is a key feature. How many participating banks/FIs do you have? How quickly can you grow that number?
Doyle: My team is working out a plan to open up deposit-ability and Deposit Services for all banks by the end of the year. Stand by for more details on this in the 4th quarter.
Finovate: Let’s talk about the new app, Mobile Checkbook. How is it being talked about and received so far?
Doyle: Customers and pundits seem to love our mobile checkbook. As the market’s first real general purpose checkbook for the smartphone, it has a wide variety of uses. We are also being asked for a number of additional features. This shows us how much customers already like and use the app, and what more they want to be able to do. This also shows how relevant and useful checks still are.
Finovate: Brett King of Moven famously predicted that the last personal check will be written in the US in 2018. Interestingly, an initiative in the UK that set out to sunset paper checks around the same time as King’s prediction was met with a popular backlash. 

As an innovator in the space, what do you see as the future of the check?
Doyle: I believe Brett’s prediction is simply wrong and may have been meant to hype his company’s marketing message. The data in the US tells a different story, as do the direct experiences of the UK.
In the US, the actual number of checks written in 2012 as compared to nine years earlier in 2003 was 56% of the earlier volume. There were 21 billion checks written in 2012 as compared to 37.6 billion written in 2003. At this rate, if we look at 2018 (which would be a 6-year difference as compared to a 9-year difference in the prior number) one could predict that in 2018 there will still be approximately 12 billion traditional, paper checks written. Ironically, the number of consumer-to-consumer checks written has grown approximately 2% over the prior 6 years (2006-2012).
The experience of the UK is also worth noting. The UK Payments Council tried to mandate the end of checks by October 2018. Then, in July of 2012, this mandate was abandoned. The UK Payments Council was criticized for having attempted to implement a mandate without coming up with an acceptable alternative to the check.
According to mobilepaymentstoday:
“Checks still play an important part in the British payments landscape. Nearly 840 billion pounds ($1.4 trillion) worth of checks were processed in 2013 accounting for 10% of all payments made by individuals. In 2013, 23 million checks were sent as gifts because they are still the most trusted method of sending money through the post.”
We believe the check is as good a form of payment or better than anything else out there today. If one removes the paper or shifts where an dhow the item gets printed, we think the check will see a very long future. My prediction is that the VerifyValid eCheck will help checks continue to be used for at least the next decade or two. I believe we will see eCheck volumes reverse the trend in paper checks and will ultimately result in an increase in check usage.
Finovate: What can we expect to see from VerifyValid in the second half of 2014?
Doyle: The second half of 2014 is going to be exciting
  • Significant expansion of our mobile offering
  • Expansion of our offerings on the security and fraud prevention side of the business
  • Enhanced experience, functionality, and services for banks
And a few things we cannot talk about just yet!
Learn more about VerifyValid. Watch the company’s FinovateFall 2013 demo with Deluxe Corporation.

CEO Interview: Jim Collas of OnBudget

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We recently caught up with Jim Collas, founder, president, and CEO of OnBudget. The San Diego-based company made its Finovate debut at our Spring show, demoing its Budgeting Solution.

OnBudget takes the tried-and-true Envelope Budgeting System used by our parents and grandparents and updates it for the 21st century. The technology consists of a prepaid card for daily purchases and a mobile app that automatically sets up a budget.

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Finovate: You demoed OnBudget at FinovateSpring in April. What was the question you heard most frequently from attendees?
Collas: The most frequently asked question from people who saw us at Finovate was, “How is this different from other PFM tools, like Mint.” 
It’s a good question, and rather than focus on a person’s total financial life, OnBudget is completely focused on daily living expenses. Since the OnBudget platform is connected directly to the prepaid card processing systems, we get real-time transaction information, which allows us to present real-time notices and trends, including a “Left to Spend” amount for each budget category that’s always up-to-the-second accurate.
Beyond that, it’s effortless to set up. Unlike most PFM tools, a user doesn’t have to input any account information or spending data. Perhaps most importantly, it uses the prepaid card as digital envelopes, which is a huge consumer trend for segmenting, tracking and controlling spending.
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Finovate: Any news to report since April’s FinovateSpring?
Collas: At OnBudget, we have shifted our focus exclusively to private labeling the solution for bank partners and distributing through the banking channel. We’re primarily focused on banks with assets of $10 billion and above, whose debit profits have been severely affected by the Durbin Amendment. We have significant traction with our Business Development activities and we are currently in discussions with 15 of the top 50 U.S. banks.
Finovate: What is the best way for people new to OnBudget to understand how your technology helps people better manage their finances?
Collas: People seem to get the concept and how it can hep them when we describe the service as the digital version of the Envelope Budgeting System: where a prepaid card replaces physical envelopes and the mobile app tracks various spending categories (i.e. envelopes) in real-time.
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Finovate: OnBudget is different from other prepaid cards because it’s free. What’s the catch – how does OnBudget make money.
Collas: Like all prepaid cards, OnBudget Card makes money on interchange fees. What sets us apart is that our mobile app motivates and compels users to use the card for all their daily living expenses, which generates significant revenues.
The average U.S. household spends $1,800 per month on the categories we track for them, which is 38% of total household spend. That generates monthly recurring interchange revenue of $22 per month per account.
Finovate: How does OnBudget remove the pain from the traditional budgeting process?
Collas: It’s effortless to set up and manage a budget. The cardholder just uses the card for 30 days and the app automatically categorizes transactions, tracks the user’s spending, and then suggests a budget for each of their budget categories. To adjust their budget, users can use our simple budget balancer, a slider tool that easily adjusts budgets. Meanwhile the card continues to auto-categorize spending and offer insights with no additional effort required.
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Finovate: You’ve mentioned that the number one reason consumers use prepaid cards is to help them budget. Why do you think this is the case?
Collas: Prepaid cards have a high propensity to help consumers budget because they are a physical metaphor for and follow the same dynamic that makes the Envelope Budgeting System so popular. Segmenting by spending buckets (envelopes) that are easily trackable makes it easy to understand and simple to use.
Finovate: Do you view OnBudget as a competitor of banks or as a more complementary solution?
Collas: Since we’ve shifted our focus to partnering with banks, it is totally complementary. In fact, we believe it’s really compelling way for banks to regain their competitive advantage in prepaid and debit, as well as recover lost Durbin revenue. 
It also increases debit spend per household from $843 to $1,596. Banks can quadruple debit revenue on an average of roughly 90% increase in spending.
Finovate: What can we look forward to seeing from OnBudget in the second half of 2014 and into 2015?
Collas: We will be launching a version of a student and teen card, and we will be launching our private-label service with our first bank partners later this year.
Learn more about OnBudget. Watch their live demo from FinovateSpring 2014 here.