Tag: technology

4 reasons to meet us at RegTech MENA

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We have a confession: we love to scan.

Any kind of ID document; you have it, we want to scan it.

The NOW Money team have been geeking out over customer onboarding over the past few months, and the conversation in the office rarely steers from what’s come to be known as “scan chat”.

Ben Walton, NOW’s Technical lead, has been working tirelessly, testing different techniques to find the crème de la crème of compliance and biometric security. He’s scanned Co-founder, Ian Dillon’s passport so many times we think he’s now been put on a warning list. There’s been hours of fun testing comparisons such as a female’s ID photograph against a male selfie.

“Do I REALLY look 12% like a man?”

All in the name of onboarding security.

When we were invited to the RegTech conference in Bahrain on 22nd and 23rd November we jumped at the chance to get involved in the conversation in the region. Ben even moved his flights forward for Bahrain 70.3 triathlon, which he’s taking part in the following weekend. He’s that dedicated to RegTech.

If you’re going too, here’s 4 reason’s you should come and find us for some “scan chat”

  1. See a demo of the most advanced onboarding service in the Middle East

As one of the region’s first and most prominent FinTech companies, we’re ahead of the curve when it comes to digital onboarding. But you’ll have to see it to believe us – and we want to show you! Get in touch to arrange a meeting.

  1. Hear about cyber security from NOW Money’s Co-founder

Don’t miss Ian Dillon speaking on the subject “Cyber Security and Cyber Risk in the Age of RegTech” which is on Tuesday 21st November 21st at 11:35 AM. Put a reminder in your calendar and bring your best questions.

  1. Learn how to save time

With many companies in the region, onboarding and KYC processes can take days, weeks and even months. If any information is missing at sign-up, then the application is not progressed or refused. Our onboarding solution can verify documentation on the spot, using the latest scanning, biometric and KYC technology, saving you time making multiple trips to a branch.

  1. Discuss blockchain with people who know what blockchain is

So often you go to a conference where the speakers are throwing buzzwords around in an attempt to show they’re keeping up-to-date with industry trends. But we really do know our stuff. We are using blockchain in our onboarding solution to solve real life problems in the Middle East. We live and breathe FinTech and RegTech, so if you want to have a proper chat about the latest fashionable buzzwords, we’re your guys.

Have we convinced you? Get in touch now to arrange a meeting.

Meet Ben – Technology Specialist

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Although a developer by trade, Ben has proven to be quite the estate agent since joining NOW Money in September 2017. Not only has he been driving NOW Money’s technology to the next level, he’s also taken on the office move. He can code and build flat-pack furniture – what more could a start-up want?

Tell us about your role here

I’m currently working on the technology which on-boards customers to the NOW Money platform. The on-boarding process is how we identify customers, collect all regulatory information from them and prevent fraudulent accounts being created.

The job involves testing lots of different technologies and using them across lots of different platforms. The process so far has allowed me to dive into all of the latest RegTech and biometric innovations. There’s some really advanced technologies out there – it’s really great to be working alongside those at the forefront of the industry.

What is your first short-term goal within the company?

Other than really improving the application, my secret goal has been to relocate the NOW Money office as close to my apartment as possible.

What do you like most about working for a start-up?

Pretty much everything. I love working in small teams trying to do big things, and the feeling that we’re all really motivated, heading towards the same goal. Oh, and also no pointless meetings!

What are you most excited about over the next few months?

Seeing the stuff I’m working on going into production. Everything we do at NOW Money has the chance to change people’s lives, and the company has great potential to do some amazing things over the next few months. We get closer to these everyday.

What were you doing before you joined NOW Money?

I’ve been in the UAE for ten years now. Originally I came here to work for Dubizzle, which, at the time, was a start-up of similar size to NOW Money today.

After seven years at Dubizzle I was keen to do the start-up thing again, this time right from the start. So, I co-founded a fitness technology start-up, as well as working with other start-ups remotely.

If you weren’t with NOW Money, what would you be doing?

I’ve been really interested in FinTech for a while now. If I wasn’t with NOW Money, I’d probably be developing my own cryptocurrency.

Start-ups attract people who can’t sit still. What do you do when you’re not developing things?

Usually riding one of my bikes at Al Qudra, running somewhere, or eating copious amounts of burritos at Taqado.

How do you let your hair down?

Some sort of hop-based-bevaerage, maybe of the German weiß variety. Aside from that I love travelling and visiting new places, preferably ones with great vegan food options!

Am I just misunderstood?

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Having worked in marketing for six years, I feel like I’ve been to every conference, breakfast briefing and information session going, and the messages are always pretty similar:

  • Content is king (massive cringe)
  • Score your leads
  • Nurture your leads
  • Automate all processes (so your role becomes defunct)
  • Read and re-read your copy until there are definitely no errors. Then read it again at least 4 more times, just to make sure.
  • Know your audience

The most recent conferences have taught me that business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) are now being overtaken by something called human to human (H2H).

But, what if that human isn’t a sarcastic Brit like me?

Well, the challenge for me has been to work out my audience and find a way to connect to them on their level. After all, the majority of the population in the UAE are migrants, originating from a wide variety of countries, none of which I have been to.

At Christmas I took an Instagram photo of what I deemed to be an appallingly decorated tree and sarcastically posted it under the heading, “beautiful, just beautiful”. You can imagine my surprise when a Dubai local commented “it is beautiful, isn’t it?”, in complete seriousness. It showed me that what I deemed hilarious, witty commentary, others, who weren’t brought up in the same culture as me, took as face value.

This is when I realised that what to me is glaringly obvious, can be interpreted differently by others; after all, we’re all different. Of course, I was aware of this before, but when you go international, addressing your audience is a whole new ball game.

It has been incredibly important from me to take note from this, because at the end of last year, I took on the UI/UX development of the NOW Money app. I had to detach from what I thought we should do and listen to what our users wanted and needed; as they’re the ones who will be using the app, not us!  So, my job has been to understand how to address these people and ensure they understand the app and want to use it (completely essential to the success of the entire company. No pressure)!

So, I went out and spoke directly to them. After every round of changes with the designer, the team and I took print-outs of the interface to shop keepers, taxi drivers, and construction workers etc, and listened to their feedback.

I discovered that words that made the most sense to me, such as “recipient” (which fitted grammatically for when they pick who to send the money to), were not widely understood. Instead the users requested that we used “receiver”. This was an absolute OCD nightmare for my colleagues and I, but who are we to stand in the way of popular demand? In order to be successful as a company, these days, you have to listen to what your customers want.

It all makes sense now! I’ve noticed a lot of marketing material in Dubai which has made me laugh and would leave the grammar police with a nervous twitch. At first I was quick to judge and think their editor was having a laugh, but now I’m not so sure. It appears that when addressing this audience you just need to ensure the message is conveyed effectively, whichever way that may be.

If spite of this, here are some of my favourite grammatical nightmares; I wonder if you’ll laugh as much as I did? Or is it just me, after all?

Photo 31-01-2017, 15 57 51

That all encompassing plate…

Photo 31-01-2017, 15 58 03

Ok, Shakespeare

Photo 31-01-2017, 15 58 14

Twitch

Photo 01-02-2017, 20 19 34 (1)

Off or on?!

Photo 31-01-2017, 15 58 26

No, I still can’t get my head around this one.

Invention & Innovation: have we run out of new ideas?

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I was watching a TED talk recently that Robert J. Gordon, a renowned macroeconomist, gave in 2013. It was titled “The death of innovation, the end of growth”.

That’s the spirit.

Whilst I didn’t agree personally with his opinion, his overall argument, or his approach (which wasn’t exactly constructive), I was struck by a question he posed to the audience. He asked them to choose between option A (you get to keep everything invented up until ten years ago, including Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, running water in the home and indoor toilets) and option B (you get to keep everything invented up until yesterday, including Facebook and your iPhone, but nothing before the past ten years). The point he was trying to make was that we have run out of ‘big ideas’. Are we really no longer able to invent or innovate things that have as profound an impact on our lives as we were able to in the 20th century?

I use invention and innovation interchangeably here, but I know they aren’t one and the same; I do think, however, that they are inextricably linked. Maybe even in a chicken and egg sort of way. By definition, according to the Cambridge dictionary, invention is “something that has never been made before, or the process of creating something that has never been made before” whereas innovation is “(the use of) a new idea or method”. You could go one step further and say that innovation almost relies on invention – you can’t use or improve on something unless it already exists.

Now that we’ve cleared that up (sort of), we can go back to the question at hand. Robert J. Gordon isn’t the first person to call out the issue that we aren’t, or don’t seem to be, inventing fast enough or ‘big’ enough; that we are long past the ‘golden age’ of invention. But has that opinion formed because we have the benefit of hindsight?

Did they imagine back then the extent to which the discovery and subsequent innovative applications of electricity would impact the way in which we live, how quickly it would enable and accelerate technology? Could anyone have predicted the specific physical, social and economic impacts the invention of transistors, followed by integrated circuits and microprocessors, would have on the world before they were used to build modern-day computers? I doubt it. How can anyone, therefore, assume that we have reached our limit in innovation and invention today, when we simply don’t know what we don’t know?

Perhaps the way in which we measure our growth and productivity is outdated; we live in a digital age where inventions and developments aren’t always physical, but that doesn’t mean they, or their benefits, aren’t tangible. When Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007, he hadn’t invented anything new, but what he had done was taken something that we were all using and growing accustomed to (the mobile/cellular phone) and made it better through innovation. The initial ‘wow’ factor wore off (the touchscreen, the apps, the upgrades are now the norm), but the benefits that it brought to our society are still multiplying – as much as we complain about always being on our phones, they have enabled us to truly live and work on the go. Erik Brynjolfsson summarised this idea during another TED talk (tip: watch this if Robert J. Gordon left you gloomy) saying that we are in a ‘combinatorial’ age, where new innovations are built off or inspired by previous innovations.

The point is that invention, and therefore innovation, takes time. Let’s say that problems or desires are catalysts for invention: it takes time for problems to arise, it takes more time to turn ideas into solutions to those problems, and it takes yet more time to fully reap and understand the benefits of those solutions or inventions. Sir James Dyson agrees (humour me), suggesting that the reason we feel we aren’t inventing anymore is our impatience; we forget that invention is a long, hard process in a world of fads where we expect everything now or yesterday.

And who are we to say that what we invent today doesn’t match what has come before, or won’t lead to more ground-breaking innovation? We’re facing different problems today than we did 100 years ago; climate change, for example. Naturally, the inventions that the problems of today inspire will be different to the inventions that we already know. Only the future will tell the true impact and profoundness of an invention from today.

So, do I think that invention (and innovation) is dead? Have we run out of ideas? Not in the slightest. It helps that I work in a start-up and experience innovation every day, but I also don’t believe that thoughts and ideas are finite. Do I think we’ll ever have another ‘golden age’ of invention? Yes I do, but it won’t be the same; it may not even be comparable. It will be simply, but importantly, exactly what we need.

 

Want more? Here are the links to the TED talks to start you off:

Robert Gordon: The death of innovation, the end of growth 

Erik Brynjolfsson: The key to growth? Race with the machines 

 

The story so far…

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As Forrest Gump said; life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

The same can be said for business.

Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to one day run my own business, I just didn’t know what in. I grew up in sleepy Suffolk, where high-flying professionals were farmers and doctors. My ambitions stemmed far beyond that.

I idolised my grandfather for starting and running his own business, not without its trials and tribulations, and I knew that I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

I was never into academia at school – I went to university because I felt I should, plus it looked good fun. After taking a gap year where I saw a glimpse of the wider world for the first time, I did quite well and ended up going to Cambridge to study economics – a subject I didn’t really know existed until after school. I’m glad I went to university, as I met some incredible people, one of which is now my business partner, and co-founder of NOW Money (NOW), Katharine Budd.

If someone asked me what a bank was when I was 18, I would have said it’s a branch in town, and if someone had asked who is a banker, I would have said it was the branch cashier.

After university I was excited by the business world, but nevertheless I was still young and naïve. It was the depths of the recession in 2009 and I needed some money and experience, so I applied for one of the only banks which was still accepting applications from graduates, HSBC.

I planned to work for three years, get some money and experience behind me and then leave to start my own business. However, six years later I had made good progress, had worked with some great people and was enjoying my job, so it proved harder than I expected to make the decision to leave.

During this time, Kat and I had only maintained sporadic contact since university. It wasn’t until very early on a cold February morning when I was cycling into work in London that we rekindled our friendship.

I got hit by a car. I have that slightly sleepy driver to thank for being able to start NOW.

Following the crash, I spent time in hospital and then was recuperating at home, when one day, out of the blue, I received a box of chocolates from Kat – dark chocolates, as she remembered that I way preferred them to milk chocolates. Little did I know it, but this was the beginning of an incredible partnership, and it’s where NOW began.

I thanked her for her kindness – not before scoffing all the chocolates – and we picked up conversation again. She had moved out to Dubai, so as a post recovery treat I booked myself on a flight out there to go and see her and see what Dubai was all about. When I got over, I realised that there was so much going on and so many unrealised opportunities.

I was working for a large bank, so was intrigued by the challenger banks in the UK who were building a solution around what a 21st century customer actually wants, but knew that the UK was very over-banked and I was behind the curve. Coming to Dubai and seeing a new market, I realised there was an opportunity to do something similar in markets where everyone had smartphones but couldn’t access banks.

Kat and I initially turned our attention to a retail data analytics solution for retail banks, to help them understand their customers better. However, it never really got much traction. We realised that the biggest population in the Middle East are the low-income migrant workers, who in the UAE, unlike in Europe, aren’t able to open a bank account unless they earn a certain amount of money. This gave us a massive population of people that we felt we could service properly for the first time, because if we ran everything online, we’d have a low cost-base and could profitably provide these guys with a high-quality solution. It seemed perfect – it offered a social benefit, solved a clear problem and was a credible business. And this is where the idea for NOW was born.

The difficulty of leaving a stable career, where I was earning a lot of money and had career progression, plagued me. All of a sudden I had no idea what I was doing and I was working day in day out with someone I was good friends with, but had never engaged in a professional relationship with. It was a new dynamic – Kat had my whole life in her hands, and vice versa. You spend every day looking back and living in anxiety.

I got lucky – in hindsight, I couldn’t have started NOW with anyone but Kat. However, starting a business from scratch, in a foreign country has been far more mentally challenging than I could have ever imagined. Everything that previously gave me security got pulled from beneath me.

Now we are on an upward trajectory and things are gaining momentum. We are a team of nine people and seeing how excited they are to come into work every day, and how much they truly get behind our vision and our goals, is a way better feeling than I ever thought it would be.

Of course, we had doubts. Our initial thought was “we can’t do this, we have no idea what we’re doing!”

It has taken a lot of willpower, patience and hard work (and a little luck) but will hopefully go to show that anything is possible!

Welcome to NOW – the financial inclusion company that is full of endless possibilities.