Authors: Leen Cuypers & Matt Elton
Two recent conversations we had about the success factors of RegTech, both from very different angles (one in advising an investor, the second one an interview on the RegTech boom) got us thinking deeper about the topic of what to look for when considering RegTech investment and prompted us to share our thoughts in this blogpost.
In times where new regulations and the threat of fines for non-compliance seem to be coming from everywhere, the potential for RegTech is real, and it is likely it will become much bigger than FinTech. At the same time, the space has become so crowded, one can speak about a RegTech minefield, where it’s hard to distinguish the high potential start-ups from the less interesting ones. At the start of the RegTech investment boom 12 months ago, a lot of funding was focussed towards reporting solutions. The space has heated up with an increasing variety of solutions out there, and many solutions branding themselves as “RegTech” to take advantage of the boom, thereby clouding a clear view on the real opportunities. As one of the investors in our network described it, “investing (in early stage startups) is like throwing darts at a dartboard”. To help you as an investor at better pointing your dart to the RegTech dartboard, here’s some observations from our side on the factors for RegTech success. These are especially applicable to start-ups, less so to scale-ups who have, hopefully, already proven the value the provide and the interest they have generated.
Show something different
As RegTech has become a buzzword, a lot of Tech companies are focussing on the low-hanging fruits. They understand some of the challenges of the industry, and dedicate their focus on the less complex ones. Currently, we see a huge number of companies working on solutions for identity verification, AML/KYC, automated onboarding, of primarily individual customers. Without renouncing the technical quality of these solutions, a profound analysis is needed to understand what differentiates one solution from the others on the market and what are the chances for this one to be successful and leave the others behind. The majority of these solutions focus on identifying individuals, whilst the industry knows the real headaches come from the identification of beneficial owners behind corporate structures, like, for example institutional investors. Our recent meeting with a solution provider especially targeting the identification of beneficial owners across multiple jurisdictions, shows there are entrepreneurs who are able to step away from the big crowds’ focus and are able to understand the real challenges of the industry.
Understand the value chain
This brings us seamlessly to the second point: understand the value chain, and the challenges beyond the obvious. Get to know those challenges that have absolute priority, where companies are willing to dedicate time, effort and money on – after all, as financial institutions face many challenges, of which some or more pressing than others.
During a recent conversation with a Compliance Officer of a large international institution, he described the situation they find themselves in – in fact, they now have so many point solutions in place, each dedicated to one piece of regulation or regulatory requirement, that what they are looking for now are ways to reduce this huge number of point solutions, lacking overview or structure, into “one, or maybe two solutions”. There is a clear need, therefore, for holistic solutions, which provide more challenges in developing them, but focusing on the true needs of the industry. Those start-ups which committed time and effort to conduct a profound market research in order to understand the value chain are able to address the problem and not the symptom; increasing the chances for success greatly.
RegTech 1.0 has made place for RegTech 2.0, where Tech entrepreneurs are looking for ways to strengthen the industry beyond the simple automation of regulatory processes. The financial industry has suffered serious reputational damage through the 2008 crisis and other scandals, all based on the misconduct of some individuals within the industry. Developing a technical solution to protect the firm and at the same time strengthen the wider industry, might be one of the golden eggs investors are looking for. RegTech’s value proposition of strengthening instead of disrupting, enables the technology focused on regulation, compliance and supervision to transform the way in which traditional industries like the financial one, function and enable the existing companies to remain relevant. Those start-ups understanding the bigger picture and using this proposition to the fullest are likely to be very successful.
The RegTech space is moving so rapidly that, like the FinTech boom before it, it is becoming more and more important to look at the real long-term value that solutions provide to the market – we are not only talking about understanding customer needs, but a process that goes much deeper. Unquestionably there are no shortages of imaginative ideas or initiatives, but are they targeted at releasing value? To determine the real value of a solution requires a deep understanding of the value chain and the inner workings of the business.
About the Authors
Leen Cuypers: Leen’s ability to see creative solutions, coupled with her analytical skills and drive to get things done, helps her investigate, define, and solve business challenges for the 21st century. Focussed on RegTech for emerging economies she delivers credibility and trust.
Matt Elton: Matt is one of the world’s leading RegTech strategists. Working with governments, regulators, and industry, he shapes the future. Matt has delivered real results for financial services organisations, and the public sector, throughout Europe, and in Canada.