Quantexa CEO warns businesses must be ‘extra vigilant’ as COVID-19 continues to change the face of financial crime

Quantexa CEO Vishal Marria
Quantexa CEO Vishal Marria

  • COVID-19 has increased the threat of financial crime for businesses and individuals alike, with fraudsters targeting the millions of workers plugged into their devices at home around the clock.
  • Almost half of all businesses have been victim to some form of fraud in the past two years, according to professional services firm PwC.
  • Vishal Marria, founder and CEO of data analytics and fraud prevention startup Quantexa, told Business Insider what his firm was doing to help clients navigate a tumultuous period. 
  • Business Insider previously named Marria on our list of 10 leaders transforming enterprise tech in Europe
  • Visit Business Insider’s Transforming Business homepage for more stories.

Amid the chaos and disruption unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic the world over, the scourge of financial crime has only got worse. 

The crisis has brought with it a host of new opportunties for fraudsters, with millions stuck at home and plugged into their devices around the clock, while businesses scramble to adapt to the new normal. 

Almost half of all businesses (47%) have been victim to some form of fraud in the past two years, according to professional services firm PwC, based on a survey of 5,000 businesses around the world. The firm said this was likely to have increased significantly once all the data for 2020 had been tallied. 

For Vishal Marria, the CEO and founder of Quantexa, the startup using big data to help clients uncover the hidden risks of financial crime and fraud with its AI-driven platform, “digital resilience” is the watchword for 2021.

Vishal Marria was featured in Business Insider’s Transformers 100 for 2020. 

“COVID-19 has changed the face of financial crime,” Marria said in an interview with Business Insider. “This crisis has taught organizations that a new level of agility and digital resilience is needed across ecosystems, partners, and their supply chains.”

Since stepping down from his role as an executive director at the well-known accounting firm Ernst and Young – where he oversaw their efforts against financial crime – Marria set up Quantexa, and has raised almost $100 million in funding to date.

“I was working with a lot of large banks, and they were often relying on just a small slither of data to try and figure out when there was an issue,” he said. “But when you sound the alarm based on a small set of patterns, you end up seeing a lot of false positives popping up.” 

The funding rounds have been put together with the support of industry stalwarts like HSBC, Accenture, and Evolution Equity Partners. Fundraising over Zoom at the height of a pandemic was never going to be easy, and Marria admits to being “a bit nervous” about the process. 

“Chemistry’s really important to me,” he said. “And meeting people over Zoom or Teams is always going to be different to having a face-to-face meeting. But our existing and new investors doubled down, and we’re really pleased with what we’ve managed to achieve.” 

Outlining the firm’s approach to rooting out financial crime, he said: “You wouldn’t agree to buy a house if you’d only seen it through the letterbox. You would look around, check out the bathroom, the living room, and so on. And then you’d look at external information: Where are the schools? What’s the crime rate like in the area? 

“You’d make a decision after gathering a lot more internal and external information…that’s effectively what we help our clients do.” 

For Marria, offering businesses a single overview of their financial risks is “imperative to modern decision-making”. He said: “By using a platform that supports multiple use cases across from a single platform, you effectively allow companies to lower their overall costs.” 

In 2018, Marria won the prestigious Developing Entrepreneur prize at the Enterprise Awards, in London, locally considered “the Oscars of the technology industry.”

Speaking from his home in London, Marria told Business Insider how Brexit, which could see Britain crashing out of the EU without a trade deal at the end of the year, could bring increased risk in the new year. 

“Organizations need to make sure they can keep up with the ever-changing and complex illicit activities carried out by criminals,” he said. “As the UK also faces Brexit alongside the pandemic, there will huge changes to the way we work and conduct business. 

“That means organizations must be extra vigilant – and prepared with efficient monitoring systems to spot and detect suspicious activity.”

He added: “It’s now even more paramount for businesses to focus on trade sustainability, and making sure they know who their customers are to avoid criminal exploitation, while also uncovering hidden opportunities.”

The shift to cloud computing brings fresh risks for business

Going into 2021, Marria predicts businesses’ increasing shift to cloud web services will bring its own fresh set of challenges. 

Experts say the cloud storage market could triple in value to over $100 billion annually by 2024, and financial firms are facing a major fork in the road due to a nexus of factors, including adjusting to a work-from-home environment in 2020.

For firms who may not have the need, expertise, or the budget for on-site infrastructure, servers, or data storage, there’s a growing interest in cloud-based market data solutions. In the words of Amazon Web Services managing director Scott Mullins, the pandemic meant “urgency replaced perfectionism” for financial services firms doubling down on cloud inegration in 2020.

Business Insider recently revealed how much leading tech giants like Netflix, Snap, and Pinterest were spending with cloud providers, after Airbnb committed $1 billion to making the shift

“As the world moves to more cloud-based programs, we’re focusing on making our platform more frictionless to deploy,” he said. “In addition, our customers are focusing on the integration of software into existing ecosystems and integrating out-of-the-box APIs, especially where users interact directly with the intelligence, as they do in marketing or case management.” 

He continued: “Digital resilience is fundamental to being able to adapt in a virtual way, from delivering customer success to R&D, through to sales and marketing. We’ve been able to adapt to a new way of working due to our agile nature.”

Looking ahead to 2021, Marria says Quantexa is “focusing on more frictionless deployments” across its client base, and working to ensure customers stay well protected.

“We’ll continue to support our clients with their digital transformation and increased cloud adoption.” 

https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/quantexa-technology-fraud-covid-19-2020-12-1029904661

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