August 26, 2017
MEDICI now! Startup Stories highlights the companies that are shaping the new financial technology industry. Keep an eye out each week for new stories! If you or someone you know should be highlighted, send us a note. Without further ado…
Company Name: Ascent Technologies
Name / Title: Brian Clark, CEO & Co-Founder
Industry Segment: RegTech
Target Market(s): US
LTP: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Brian Clark: I attended the University of Illinois where I earned a degree in economics and political science, and began my career as a regulator, reviewing high-frequency trading at CME just after the 2008 recession. After completing my law degree at night, I worked as General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of an international broker. I was always fascinated with turning the qualitative into the quantitative and decided to pursue my MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
Ascent was founded out of the frustration with existing inefficient regulatory processes (which, unbeknownst to most, cost the economy up to 10% of GDP annually), and wanted to find modern technical solutions that industry had not yet embraced. I’m mostly self-taught in data science theory and co-founded Ascent in school. The company was a finalist in the school’s New Venture Challenge in 2015.
I am graduating from Booth in August of 2017, and am currently authoring a paper on the economics of artificial intelligence. I am passionate about the intersection of technology, free-market economics and philosophy, and believe that quantifying goodwill would empower capitalists and laborers alike.
LTP: Give us a paragraph pitch of your company.
BC: Ascent is one of the first RegTech companies using AI to build and automate regulatory compliance processes for firms. Our domain-specific platform takes a quantitative approach to a qualitative field, challenging contemporary processes and protocols by applying a data-driven, Intelligence-as-a-Service (IntaaS) solution. The platform integrates utilizes natural language processing and predictive analytics to construct firm-specific regulatory "backbones," providing targeted intelligence based on each company's business activities.
LTP: In a sentence or two, what problem are you solving today?
BC: Financial organizations must play by an ever-expanding regulatory rulebook. But it’s impossible to keep up with regulatory compliance manually. Using modern machine learning and data processing techniques, the Ascent platform creates a targeted end-to-end regulatory compliance change management system that helps users build, automate, and report on regulatory data in real time, saving firms time and money and reducing their risk.
LTP: Who are you selling to?
BC: Our target market is primarily in financial services, including clearinghouses in the derivatives market place, brokers, CPOs, CTAs, swap dealers and IBs. We are also in the process of partnering with global banks and are building out modules to support the securities vertical.
LTP: Why did you start the company?
BC: During the recession, I saw firsthand the disproportionate impact of regulation in response to the financial crisis on resource-constrained small and medium-size financial organizations. Regulatory compliance costs firms an estimated $68 billion annually. I wanted to find a way to help enforce the rule of law while reducing costs and to make it easier, more efficient and cheaper for them to stay compliant. The evolving use of artificial intelligence is radically transforming how firms handle compliance, and AI is poised to empower businesses that operationalize the technology in an efficient and commercial manner.
LTP: What's the most important change coming to your segment in the next 3-5 years?
BC: With an increasing demand for machine-learning technology, AI will continue to be a powerful force in regulatory compliance and risk assessment in the next five years. Manual tracking and operational administration will soon be replaced by automated tools that can adapt to the continuously changing regulatory rules. These technologies will eliminate tasks such as researching and tracking that can take days of work. We will also see an increase in financial institutions looking to imbue its processes and businesses with automated compliance offerings.
LTP: What’s your next milestone?
BC: We recently launched our regulatory platform to help financial service firms build, manage and automate their compliance programs. Moving forward, we will continue to harness our domain AI technology, improve our algorithmic outputs, and partner with leading global financial institutions to provide cutting-edge and completely customizable regulatory compliance programs.
LTP: Anything else you want to say to our audience?
BC: Artificial intelligence is the future of the regulatory compliance (as with so many industries), but you can't apply it generally and expect it to work. It's an enabling technology, so algorithms need to be crafted with specific solutions in mind. Domain expertise is the functional underpinning for any AI solution, and properly applying it to problems in regulatory compliance will help streamline the production of knowledge.
LTP: What's one thing you wish customers knew before a sales meeting?
BC: Domain-specific AI is a far more efficient and targeted approach to producing intelligence, the basis of Ascent’s platform. This allows for more accurate outcomes and efficient processes. The technology, based on internal and external assessments, can save firms anywhere from 40-49% of the time of a compliance officer. We can save firms a great deal of time and money, but materially reduce the risk of a regulatory infraction at the same time.
Thank you, Brian!
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