The fintech interview: Part 1 Taina Technology
The fintech industry is made up of many small but fast growing companies, most of which are only known to a niche group of people.
Just to confuse onlookers further these companies might be part of a fintech subgroup like regtech or insurtech.
But beyond the buzzwords and marketing spiel the B2B fintech industry offers businesses a wide range of products and service, which often help reduce costs and make them more effective.
But who are these companies?
In this series I hope to explain who they are, what they do and where they came from.
In this edition meet Taina Technology, a company in the regtech category. It helps financial services companies meet their daunting tax regulatory requirements through automation technology. This is done through the company’s Fully Automated Tax Form Validators (who said fintech is exciting?) It can read, understand and process tax documentation.
In the UK alone billions of pounds worth of tax goes unpaid due to errors as well as evasion. As governments around the world try to get people to pay their taxes, global regulations have been set on all financial institutions, enforced by tax authorities.
The burden on finance firms and the amount of paperwork required makes this a daunting task. It is difficult to automate the checking of paperwork.
Taina Technology’s tax validation software can read tax forms in an intelligent way. Its core value add is taking the manual work out of reading and checking the hundreds of millions of tax forms in the finance sector.
It then cross checks the financial organisations own data against other public data, such as that held by tax authorities and stock exchanges. It then makes decisions on how to classify the customer. All this happens in seconds.
Maria Scott, CEO and founder at Taina Technology, said: “The software acts just like an intelligent, educated accountant or lawyer. It goes through the forms, cross checking, coming out with a classification and then preparing a report for the tax authorities.”
In the past all forms would have been sent to an accountancy firm with a charge per form, but Taina’s software means they no longer have to do this.
It also makes things easier for the customers of the finance firms. In the past they would fill in paper forms but through Taina they can use an online interface. This gives them guidance, cuts errors, and eliminates frustration. The form is not sent until it is correctly filled in.
Taina Technology has 10 full-time employees but serves customers with tens, even hundreds of thousands of staff. I came in contact with the company when it was chosen to be part of a Tech Nation fintech programme.
Scott was a lawyer with 15 years in practice, and like many startup founders it was her experience as a lawyer in financial services, and the problems she faced doing her job, that inspired her to find a better way.
“Like many of us business to business startup founders we have experienced the problems we want to solve,” she told me.
“I was working at a massive bank for over a decade. When you are inside a company like that as a tax lawyer it is obvious there are a lot of things that are done manually that should be automated,” said Scott.
She said its about lowering costs and improving accuracy.
“If you have multiple systems trying to do a particular task inevitable you will have breaks, you will have to keep reconciling the system,” explained Scott. “All of that stuff is in dire need of automation.”
“I worked at a very advanced institution but what we found was even these advanced organisations couldn’t get it right.” And this isn’t through a lack of investment. Banks spend billions on the latest IT.
Armed with vast knowledge of the regulatory frameworks facing finance firms Scott took the first step and got in contact with some computer scientists to see if what she had in mind was possible.
“I was very lucky because at the time I was in business school which put me in touch with amazing mentors,” she said.
One of these mentors was a techie who had built huge businesses. “He helped me recruit the right people.”
Taina Technology launched towards the end of 2016. From idea to prototype was only three months. “We had a prototype at the time and we approached the market to get feedback. This was very valuable in shaping the solution.”
From prototype to production was another six months and the product is being constantly improved. “We are building every day and rolling out releases every two weeks
Taina has 10 full-time employees but typical of fintechs that does not stop the company attracting big customers. For example it is currently working on a project with a financial services firm that has over 130,000 employees, and also with one of the big four accountancy firms.
In fact it may be small but its main target customers are nit. Its first ever customer had 50,000 employees. “We can help small companies but so far the most interest is coming from the big guys.”
At large financial institutions the head of compliance would be the executive that Taina Technology targets. “But inevitably they will be working with IT and a number of stakeholders come together to make decisions,” said Scott.
But it is not just traditional financial services firms being targeted. “We also work with challenger banks. These are smaller banks and our typical contact would be in the legal department.”
Service providers to financial institutions, including accountancy firms, are also amongst Taina’s customers.
The offering currently focuses on tax forms. “It is very contextual so the more the software works with tax forms the better it becomes.”
But where next? On the product side Taina will expand beyond tax regulation. “As a financial institution you have many regulations to comply with including anti money laundering laws and rules around customer verification, known as Know Your Customer (KYC). Scott said: “The technology is good at reading documents and we want to use it as a platform to cover full customer lifecycles.”
Taina is based in London’s Canary Wharf, but Scott said she spends most her time in New York. This year it plans to set up p an office in New York followed by an office in Toronto next year and from then other English speaking countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
“We decided to stick to English speaking countries because we need focus to ensure regional functionality is really good,” explained Scott. With regulations different in different jurisdictions this is vital. “We plan to do English speaking countries first and then move on to French speaking.”
Scott said one of her challenges is to get more staff. “I do not have enough people and require many more. “All of my team are hard core research and development. These are computer scientists, developers and product. I have no sales and marketing or finance.” The company has 10 full time staff in London and also
Taina works with three universities in partnership to access some of the skills it needs.