Know Your Customer simplifies the ID verification process

22 Jul 2019

Image: Claus Christensen

Our Start-up of the Week is Know Your Customer, which provides a platform for companies that require ID verification during the onboarding process.

Know Your Customer was founded in 2015 by Claus Christensen, Richard Barrett and Cormac Doddy.

The three co-founders had all worked in different industries in various parts of the world, but had a shared experience at work. Christensen, Barrett and Doddy all agreed that the process of client onboarding needed a lot of updating, as it is often an extremely manual process.

Know Your Customer’s founders developed an automated system to securely retrieve information from official company registries and improve the ID verification process for the end customer, while freeing up time for compliance teams and empowering them to focus on high-risk cases.

Christensen explained: “We help organisations streamline and automate the know your customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) checks that regulations now require they perform on prospective clients, making the whole experience much more streamlined for the end customer and a lot more efficient for the organisation.”

The team

Christensen, who spoke to about Know Your Customer, is the company’s technical co-founder.

An entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in the IT industry, Christensen previously founded a company that develops email server infrastructure products for more than 60,000 global customers. He also previously served as vice-president of electronics at an aircraft engine manufacturer.

Christensen’s colleague Barrett is a barrister and entrepreneur who co-founded a global real-estate company with more than $2bn of assets. Barrett has also listed several companies on the London Stock Exchange, the Singapore Stock Exchange and London’s Alternative Investment Market.

Meanwhile, Doddy spent a significant portion of his career in international capital markets and specialises in commercial real estate. On top of contributing to Know Your Customer, Doddy is currently working as vice-president at Stockbridge Capital Group. He lived in China for nine years before all of this, working with Forterra Trust and Cushman & Wakefield.

The market

While Know Your Customer recognises the huge need for its services within traditional financial institutions, the company also targets other types of organisations that require ID verification, and KYC and AML checks during onboarding.

These companies include law firms, challenger banks, accountancies, insurance companies, wealth management firms, and e-payment and money transfer providers, among others.

Christensen told “In terms of geographical spread, we are currently focusing on strategic jurisdictions in both Europe and Asia, in part because of the recent rise in AML regulations in these two regions.

“Our team’s extensive experience and cross-border market knowledge has also enabled us to position Know Your Customer as the technology partner for companies based in Europe and looking to expand into the Asian market, and vice versa.”

The team behind Know Your Customer believes that now is a particularly interesting time to participate in this market.

“Although we’ve been hearing companies talk about the need for ‘digital transformation’ for years, I think that most financial organisations are only now starting to take proactive steps towards it,” Christensen added.

“For this reason, this is a wonderful time for truly innovative and mature start-ups to partner with forward-looking corporate clients and quickly scale their business.

“Both in Ireland and in Hong Kong, I have witnessed the impact that these opportunities have on the fintech/regtech start-up scene as a whole, which is becoming more intertwined with the traditional financial services sector.”

The technology 

“Our SaaS platform is cloud-based and it is built as a flexible and sophisticated set of tools that can be easily configured to address specific compliance needs,” Christensen explained.

“For instance, in the case of organisations dealing with individual clients, we offer a variety of customer-facing tools for document collection and ID verification during onboarding, including a mobile app, a browser-based portal and Rest APIs for a seamless customer experience.

“When dealing with corporate clients, our solution removes the need for certified copies by sourcing official company documents directly from government registries.

“Our technology then uses OCR [optical character recognition] and AI to extract key information from the official incorporation documents, and automatically builds complex company structure charts, identifying ultimate beneficial owners as required by regulations.”

The future

The last two and a half years have been pretty successful, according to Christensen, who pointed out that the company now has clients across 10 different vertical markets, including traditional and digital banking, insurance, payments, real estate and asset management.

At the end of 2019, the start-up will launch a late seed round and it will open a Series A investment round on the back of reaching more than $1.5m in recurring revenue.

Beyond that, Christensen and the team believe that their automated, end-to-end approach to customer onboarding is the future, and they plan to expand beyond the eight geographies the company currently operates in.

“On a more fundamental level, our company’s goal is to promote transparency globally by making strict regulations less onerous on both suppliers and consumers of financial services. As a result, we level the playing field between large established financial institutions, new digital contenders and the end customer,” Christensen said.

He sees Asia as a brilliant market to cultivate the company’s services in: “For other tech self-starters based in Europe right now, don’t limit yourself to Europe and the US alone. Especially for regtech and fintech companies, Asia is an incredibly vibrant market with great potential for growth.

“There are numerous effective accelerator programmes organised by large corporate organisations, especially in Hong Kong and Singapore, that can help you get a better understanding of the region and its unique challenges and opportunities.

“We speak from experience, since in 2018 we took part in Standard Chartered’s SuperCharger programme and Accenture’s Fintech Lab Asia Pacific, both in Hong Kong. And this year we’re part of global accelerator Plug and Play’s first iteration in Singapore.”

While everything’s going quite well for Know Your Customer, there have been some bumps along the way. Speaking of challenges, Christensen said: “A challenge that will probably resonate with a lot of companies specialised in enterprise software is the cumbersome internal procurement process, often extending an already long sales cycle.”

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic