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Cracking the innovation code: Jessica Denny sheds light on Xapien’s scaling success

TFN-jessica-denny

TFN was the official media partner at the recent IFGS 2024 Conference held at London’s Guildhall last month. One of the fintech leaders we spoke to was Jessica Denny from Xapien, the AI due diligence platform. Denny spoke with us about her and Xapien’s journey, the fintech landscape, and the challenges for diversity.

See the full video below:

Solving the due diligence problem

Most closely associated with finance, due diligence is important, or essential, across a range of sectors. The problem is that it can be incredibly hard. “Why is it hard? Because that data isn’t all in one place. It’s scattered across all sorts of different places,” Denny explained.

It meant that the relevant searches could take days, or even weeks, as multiple sources had to be manually retrieved and trawled. “Our founders set out to automate that end-to-end research process using artificial intelligence, natural language processing and fast cloud computing.” Xapien could compress the job into a few minutes, providing a report that covered every aspect needed.

Denny wasn’t quite with Xapien at the start. Instead, her journey took her from being one of their first clients to joining the team. “I was working in a risk intelligence company, where we used to manually create these kinds of reports,” she recalled. “And they came and said, ‘we’re thinking of building this solution. Do you think there’s application for it?’ We said, ‘yes, absolutely’.” The two companies worked together, helping Xapien build their product. “I found it really exciting working with them. So, in 2021, I jumped ship and came over to the team.”

“At that stage, the company was only 10 people and hadn’t really gone to market yet,” Denny said. “Now we’re over 40. We went to market in 2022. And are on that kind of rapidly scaling journey, which is, which is a white-knuckle ride!”

The tricky landscape for fintechs has added to the difficulties faced by any scaling company. Denny highlights the global risks, “whether it was war in Ukraine and increasing sanctions, regulation or whether it’s issues in your supply chain, the risks for any business can grow.”

However, she believes that climate can provide opportunity for a business like Xapien. “AI can provide the holistic and nuanced picture about a potential counterpart in a way that other tools and technologies can’t do,” says Denny. “Although there are challenges for the fintech industry, I think there’s already an easy solution there.”

Denny also notes changing trends can provide new opportunities. One is the potential for partnerships.

“We’ve just launched a partnership with Dow Jones Risk and Compliance,” she told us. Denny believes that increasingly larger businesses are looking for partnership models rather than in-house or acquisition. “I think they’re recognising that rather than building their own AI solution, it’s better to partner with a tech company, like ours.”

She also stresses the need to add value. “Undoubtedly, it’s a challenging fundraising environment,” she said. But, she added, that also underlines the value of companies like Xapien. “We’re a b2b business that is entirely focused on driving efficiencies in other businesses. I think that is what investors are looking for. That’s what companies are looking for. When there’s pressure on bottom lines, you need to drive efficiencies.”

Xapien certainly offers efficiencies. “We work with a range of different sectors because we’ve automated background research reports on any individual anywhere in the world in a few minutes.” Denny highlights their work for Banking-as-a-Service Griffin, where they have reduced the production of their due diligence reports to just twelve minutes.

Diversity

Denny also spoke about the importance of building company culture and diversity. “We’re about 40 people, and we’re growing really, really quickly,” Denny said. “So, we’ve done lots of exercises on developing our company values, and our company culture and lots of monthly team socials where people bring ideas because at this critical point in our journey where we need to preserve who we are.”

A key to that is having the input of diverse viewpoints. Sometimes, this can simply be a practical benefit, Denny highlighted that their product has to handle input and output in over 130 languages. But she also stressed the importance of other diversity. When it came to issues like the ethical use of AI, Denny feels that diverse input was a strength. “You need to have a diverse pool of thought, I think, within the organisation in order to make the right decisions. It’s something we’re really conscious of.”

As a relative newcomer to fintech, Denny notes it is still better than her previous sector, but still has work to do.

“I feel like women have given their voice so much more here, and I feel so much more empowered,” she said. “But when you look at the founding teams it can be more tricky.”

However, she is optimistic. “Yes, a combination of financial services and technology is a match made for whatever the opposite of heaven is for equal opportunities!” Denny joked. “I actually think we’re really moving in the right direction,” she continued. And that needs everyone to contribute, even if leaders are not from diverse backgrounds, their actions count. “The thing is, you’ve got to genuinely listen to people.”

To watch this conversation in full, and see more in our Fintech Talks with TFN series, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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