Today we are joined by Adrian Black from Contego.
Contego is the only comprehensive risk scoring platform that can handle complex multi-source fraud detection and compliance checks at high speed, and deliver a single view via an easily integrated API.
Our questions are in bold.
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Who are you and what’s your background?
I am Adrian Black, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Contego and I have built my career in software, data and entrepreneurship.
I joined my first internet startup back in 1996, enjoying the roller-coaster ride that was the dot com bubble, before becoming the MD and subsequently securing a trade sale. After time out for an MBA at Oxford University and various consultancy roles for clients including eBay and Experian, I joined DMGT plc.
Whilst at DMGT I worked with the police, AutoTrader, eBay and others to create VSTAG, an industry forum to combat fraud in automotive advertising. Chairing VSTAG allowed me to gain a greater understanding of sharing data and intelligence to verify entities and highlight fraud risks; this led to a pilot project and was the seed that developed into the first iteration of Contego.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
As Founder and CEO I am the driving force behind Contego, working hard to reduce fraud and compliance costs for our customers.
My core focus has been twofold. Over the past couple of years in particular, I’ve worked hard to build a strong leadership team of business development, operational and technology experts. I’ve also focused on growing our customer base; securing partnerships with a number of well known, household brands including: Regus, LendInvest and Westfield Shopping Centre.
These days I spend the bulk of my time exploring strategic initiatives with partners and clients including talking to some of the major banks to help streamline their business banking onboarding processes, AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and KYC (Know Your Customer) checks.
Can you give us an overview of your business?
Contego is a risk-scoring platform that can handle complex, multi-source fraud detection and compliance checks in real-time, all delivered via a single API for banks, FinTech firms and the property sector. Contego reduces the risk of fraud and makes compliance, AML and KYC checks and processes as frictionless as possible.
We provide easy access to a breadth of data, which is unparalleled. Put simply, we incorporate data feeds from as many sources as are possible. As well as partnering with a number of leading commercial data providers, Contego is one of the very few UK-based firms that has an intelligence sharing agreement with law enforcement agencies.
Contego delivers a comprehensive and holistic view of both people and companies, so that our customers can instantly make crucial, data-driven decisions about how and with whom they do business.
Tell us how you are funded.
We went through the typical process of raising early funding from angel networks and seed funds; we are now on the radar of venture capitalist funds who are increasingly interested in RegTech businesses such as Contego.
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
I founded Contego because I hate fraud. I hate the effect of fraud and other financial crime on businesses and society as a whole. Compliance is a growing cost burden on regulated businesses, and fraud attempts are growing at a frightening rate.
While working with the police to reduce online fraud I saw an an opportunity to automate and improve compliance and fraud checks. Our platform helps clients to reduce their costs and improve compliance whilst also protecting end consumers.
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
We focus on three key sectors: Banking, FinTech and Property.
We help banks to streamline their AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and KYC (Know Your Customer Checks), as well as dramatically improving the speed of the required due diligence checks for business banking clients. As regulations change for the banks, we also help with account remediation (filling holes in existing clients’ data) and account monitoring (making banks aware of significant changes within a business e.g. a change of directors).
Some of the largest UK property firms rely on us to help them comply with the recent introduction of the Right to Rent requirements for checking tenants, undertake AML checks on vendors and due diligence on landlords and buyers. We do this by providing automated, real-time checks on people, companies and ID Documents.
Growing FinTech companies need a fast, reliable and flexible customer onboarding process, and assurance that they are meeting all AML and KYC requirements. To ensure best practice, at the earliest possible stage, they need to adopt a due diligence solution that will grow and adapt with current and future regulatory changes.
We recently started working with global real estate crowdfunding platform, Bricksave. They selected Contego’s platform to carry out international checks on individuals to ensure compliance with AML and KYC requirements.
Here’s a quote from Tom de Lucy, the CEO of Bricksave: “After looking into various fraud detection providers, we have chosen Contego because the platform is the only one that provides access to all the data sources we need in order to meet our regulatory requirements. We have a global customer base and need a platform that can handle international checks quickly and securely, to enable us to make timely and informed decisions about our customers and onboard them quickly.”
In terms of our revenue model, we have a standard platform licence fee, and a second layer of transactional charges, which varies based on the client, the market they operate in and the volume and complexity of checks we are carrying out. The cost of entry is very low because there’s no setup cost, meaning the Return on Investment is almost immediate.
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest changes that we’re helping to facilitate is in the area of onboarding business banking customers; we’re keen to help banks to improve their processes and make them faster, more streamlined and efficient. We’ve seen existing processes cause customer drop-off rates as high as 90% due to some of the cumbersome processes potential customers are required to go through.
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
My message to banks is: Get better and faster at engaging with innovative startups. It’s very hard for a startup to meet the right people at a bank, and if you’re a bank, the reverse-problem is that you won’t see and engage with some of the more innovative companies out there. So programmes such as the Accenture FinTech Lab are brilliant for enabling those startups. Regulated corporates should embrace them.
What phone are you carrying and why?
Galaxy S7 because in my opinion it’s the best Android phone. I like Android, and I pay for function over brand.
Where do you get your industry news from?
· Tech City News
· Tech Market View
· Daily TMT email from
Christopher Lowe of Bloomberg
· Financial News
· FT Daily Tech Summary
Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
They aren’t all directly related to the Fintech scene but these are three entrepreneurs I ‘follow’:
· Ilya Kondrashov, COO and Co-founder of MarketInvoice. He’s not particularly active on Twitter but I’ve met Ilya a couple of times and I like what they’ve done – they’ve built something that’s different and is changing the industry.
· Luke Johnson, successful serial entrepreneur, investor and FT and Sunday Times columnist. His columns are often pithy and direct – and whilst I don’t agree with everything he says, he’s so often on the money.
· Reid Hoffman – Executive chairman and co-founder of LinkedIn, and Partner at Greylock. I love the LinkedIn story and business and spend lots of time on the platform. I was also a very early user of LinkedIn and think Reid has a great perspective on people and business; most people probably don’t know he studied philosophy at Oxford.
Can you suggest the name of an Angel Investor or VC that might be interested in being profiled?
I don’t think enough people are aware of the usefulness of the British Business Bank. The Angel CoFund, which is part of the British Business Bank, were an early investor in Contego and have been very supportive. There’s a large number of startups trying to get Angel Investment, but so few people know where to start. If you have a solid plan and find a good Lead Angel, the Angel CoFund can be a great multiplier of other Angels’ money and have been great to deal with.
I’d like to suggest Tim Mills therefore, who is the Investment Director at the British Business Bank and who also leads the investment activity of the Angel CoFund.
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
Paykey – I came across Paykey at the Accenture FinTech Lab. Paykey adds a payment key to your smartphone’s keyboard making it beautifully simple to make small payments in a social media conversations with friends or family. I love that they can explain and demonstrate what they do in about 10 seconds!
Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
More RegTech and Cyber security due to growing problems with fraud and more regulation. It’s like an arms race. The world will be looking for suppliers to produce more sophisticated ‘weapons’ to tackle the tools employed by fraudsters and bad actors.
The explosion of data. Like most things it’s a double-edged sword – there’s more data to do bad things with, but also more data to do good things with, and that’s what Contego is all about. I want to use every relevant bit of data on the planet and do more positive things with it to protect people.
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