Webio launches Propensity Studio, the Game Changer in Digital Debt Collections

New AI-powered credit and collections offering from Webio optimises customer engagement using AI and automation and enables companies to manage debt collection conversations like never before.

  • Webio announces its latest product Propensity Studio, which leverages the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to predict customer conversation outcomes.
  • The first of its kind in credit and collections, bringing actionable conversational AI to the industry.
  • Webio is on a mission to rebalance the credit, collections and payment ego-system by reimaging the way companies engage and converse with their in-debt and vulnerable customers
  • Webio delivers credit, collections and payments customer engagement using Conversational AI to make difficult payment conversations easy.

Description

Webio, a leader in Conversational AI and customer engagement orchestration in the credit, collections, and payments industry has launched Propensity Studio, the company’s latest digital debt collection offering.

Propensity Studio leverages Webio’s credit and collections expertise and conversational AI platform to enhance how businesses engage with their customers by predicting individual business outcomes throughout their messaging conversations. Designing fully personalised journeys for all customer types, delivering the right message and level of agent resource at the right time.

Customers have moved to chat, and messaging and companies have had to follow suit shifting their customer engagement to digital channels like SMS, Webchat, WhatsApp, RCS, Messenger, etc. Customers now have an expectation of instant interaction with their companies, whether that is checking on a delivery or discussing their finances.

However, it is a challenge engaging with customers and managing the nuances of each individual customer’s personal circumstances especially for digital conversations at scale. Having the right conversation at the right time in a fair, empathetic, and compliant manner is a need that Webio team are addressing with the development of this AI credit and collections solution. Working hand in hand with clients to develop, this custom-built AI engine is transforming how credit and collections teams will interact with customers.

The first of its kind in credit and collections, Propensity Studio is designed to optimise customer engagement using AI and automation and enable companies to manage digital debt collection conversations like never before.

Webio’s AI Propensity Studio analyses the words, phrases and language of conversations enabling companies to better understand the needs and requirements of their customers in real-time. For example, customers experiencing personal challenges in their lives can be identified more easily and thus get the support they need.

Propensity Studio enables collection organisations and teams to move beyond the traditional customer interaction by:

  • Guiding customer conversations using Natural Language Understanding, incorporating intents, and sentiment analysis, Webio’s Propensity Studio interprets customer’s language, response behaviours and previous conversational history to determine how best to manage each interaction.
  • Working with Webio automated chatbots, or in conjunction with live agents, Propensity Studio identifies a companies specific business outcome within a few utterances a real-time propensity score that identifies how likely a business outcome is. This score can then be used to move the conversation to the next best step. This scoring mechanism allows efficient, low-cost management of the flow and content of an unlimited volume of customer conversations.
  • By predicting what the conversation outcome is going to be, customer journeys can be more fully automated. This reduces the amount of agent resource needed to manage conversations and agents work on the conversations where their talents are really needed. Propensities used in conjunction with workflow rules gets the balance right between automation and live agent engagement.
  • Webio Conversational AI is designed to work empathetically with the end customer’s best interest in mind. Identifying vulnerable customers at any stage and engaging with them in a responsible manner.

Commenting on the launch, Webio CEO Cormac O’Neill says, “Credit and Collections are one of the most challenging customer service environments in the world. It’s an environment whereby having the right conversation can make such a difference in people’s lives. In developing our conversational AI, we have put the needs of indebted customers and our clients front and centre. In so doing our Propensity Studio will not only make a substantial difference to the operational efficiency of businesses but also reshape how customers and companies relate to one another in a new powerful way.”

There has been a lot of hype surrounding AI recently, but the reality is that delivering effective AI that makes a meaningful difference is a challenge. I’m thrilled that Team Webio has met this challenge and I am excited to see the impact that Propensity Studio will have as we continue on our mission of rebalancing the credit and collections eco-system.”

Key Benefits:

  • Effectively manageall customers based on their specific circumstances, whatever they may be.
  • Use Natural Language Understanding to interpret customer’s language, response behaviours and previous conversational history to determine how best to manage each interaction.
  • Manage highly personalised designed conversationsto get the balance right between automation and live agent engagement.
  • Optimising engagementto manage vulnerability.
  • Automate customer journeysmore and even better than you ever thought possible, simply because you know what the likely conversation outcome is going to be.
  • Allows efficient, low-cost managementof the flow and content of unlimited volumes of customer conversations.

SmartSearch calls on UK businesses to work with AMLA

Leading UK RegTech specialist SmartSearch has warned the UK could be left behind in the fight against money laundering and financial fraud, if it fails to coordinate with the new agency being formed by the EU.

It has emerged that the European Commission will launch the Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA) as part of a raft of measures contained in its action plan, set to be revealed on July 20.

The AMLA is a dedicated agency working independently of member states’ national authorities, giving it much greater power to identify and act upon significant money laundering threats.

It will also have new powers to fine businesses in breach of regulations up to ten per cent of turnover, and it will be looking at risks from non-EU countries such as the UK.

John Dobson, CEO at SmartSearch which operates both in the UK and the EU, said: “The formation of a dedicated resource to tackle the growing problem of money laundering, primarily through sectors such as the property market, is a positive step by the EU.

“Since the outbreak of the global pandemic we’ve seen organised criminal gangs in the UK taking advantage by exploiting loopholes in AML processes and using increasingly more sophisticated forged ID documents to get their dirty money through the laundering process.”

As part of the UK Budget announcement in March chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the formation of a new HMRC taskforce to tackle tax evasion and fraud, which is set to employ 1,000 extra investigators.

Dobson says the task force needs to work alongside agencies in other countries and make use of the latest technology to identify the source of the most significant money laundering threats.

He adds: “Of course, this is a global issue so it’s vital that the UK coordinates its response with the EU and other nations, as organised crime gangs won’t be concerned about political borders.

“Obviously as we are no longer part of the EU, this new authority will have no jurisdiction in the UK, but in order to be able to fight the threat of money laundering here in the UK most effectively, it’s vital that we coordinate and cooperate with the AMLA, otherwise risk getting left behind.”

SmartSearch warns against rushing AML to beat SDLT

Leading UK RegTech specialist SmartSearch has warned against the dangers of rushing through anti-money laundering checks, in a bid to beat the upcoming stamp duty holiday deadline at the end of June.

Thousands of homebuyers are expected to benefit from the temporary lifting of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) for properties worth up to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland, following the decision to extend the holiday from March.

However, as the deadline gets ever closer there are concerns that mortgage applications and contracts may be rushed through, providing opportunities for criminals and fraudsters to take advantage of a system under pressure.

Martin Cheek, managing director at West Yorkshire-based SmartSearch, said there had been increasing levels of fraud and money laundering attempts since the outbreak of coronavirus, as criminals can easily bypass manual security checks.

He said: “In a busy market as we have today, which is driven by the rush to beat the stamp duty holiday, it’s a sad fact that criminals and their enabling agents, will look to exploit the opportunity.

“Property transactions remain the number one target for money laundering and with the volume currently going through the system there is a danger that some AML checks and procedures may be rushed through.

“But in a way the bigger danger is from agents and legal firms still using manual methods of verification for anti-money laundering processes. Document forgery is a major industry with highly sophisticated products available on the black market.

“It’s almost impossible for even the most experienced broker or agent to tell the difference. If they’re under time pressure, or just seeing a passport image copied into an email, there is a real danger criminal applications will get through unchecked.”

According to Cheek, regulated businesses operating in the property market should be looking to switch to electronic verification as a secure, fast and accurate method of onboarding new customers and remaining compliant with Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulations.

He adds: “Financial services firms who are unwittingly processing applications from criminals will be held responsible by the FCA so it’s clearly in their interest to do everything they can to prevent them even getting through.

“The most effective way of doing that is by switching to electronic verification for Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures. With the technology available today it takes two seconds to carry out an individual search, across multiple global data bases, with just a name, address and date of birth.

“Manually checking hard copy documents is no longer necessary, or secure. The switch to digital is long overdue for many businesses who would not only save themselves time and money, but ensure criminals are kept out of the system.”

AML and identity checks: Lessons learned from the NatWest case

NatWest’s landmark money-laundering case has dealt a huge blow to consumer trust in online banking; an industry that more than three quarters (76%) of UK consumers already admit they don’t fully trust, according to research from anti-money laundering specialists, SmartSearch.

The ongoing lawsuit being faced by the high street bank has put others on high alert to the threats and scale of money laundering in the UK, but experts warn this case is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to financial crime in the UK.

So, what can businesses learn from NatWest to avoid the same costly pitfalls? John Dobson, CEO at SmartSearch, shares his expert insight:

Customer trust is shaken

Among the high street banks there really are no two ways about it, your customers must trust that their money is safe with you. Never has this been more prevalent either, with the pandemic forcing many into online banking after the closure of more than 200 branches around the country last year.

With NatWest now facing criminal prosecution after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) accused them of failing to appropriately scrutinise numerous suspicious cash payments, this scandal has not only damaged the bank’s reputation but has also impacted consumer trust across the industry.

We know from our research that trust is paramount, so it’s more important now than ever that businesses do everything possible to instil trust among their customer base.

Better electronic identity verification

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a case of this scale in recent years. Australia’s Commonwealth Bank fell into similar difficulties in 2018 and ended up paying £400 million in fines as a result of failing to adhere to the strict AML regulations.

Even in pre-pandemic times, AML procedures and regulations would frequently change and update to ensure they were as robust as possible, which unfortunately makes way for human error. Over the past year, the use of electronic verification has accelerated, as has the need for more rigorous online security checks.

Developing the right procedure before implementing it is key. By adopting a watertight, multi-layered identity check process, you will eliminate the chances of fraud and ensure any suspicious activity is flagged.

Combine the right technology with robust training

Utilising this kind of system whilst ensuring all staff are kept up to speed on AML law and policy will go a long way to preventing any shortfalls in the process, which will ultimately safeguard against failings.

At SmartSearch we have developed an innovative TripleCheck system, requiring all customers to complete a three stage ID check, including documentation checks, facial recognition and digital fraud and data referencing checks. This approach makes it easy for businesses to identify and eliminate fraudulent activity, helping them to stay AML compliant at all times to avoid sanctions.

To support businesses which are thinking of strengthening their current AML framework with electronic identity verification, John shares the key steps to take:

  1. Given how easy it is to create forged copies of hard documents, it’s vital to implement a framework that requires no more than a name, address and date of birth to carry out a full, global search to verify the customer’s ID.
  2. When looking at online solutions, a single platform with multiple database searches is more streamlined and effective than having to check with multiple platforms, such as Equifax, Experian, then another separately.
  3. Check how the business stores customer details. Not all solutions automatically update the database when changes occur, such there are updated PEP lists and so implementing a system that is aligned to make these changes makes the process more fool proof.
  4. You don’t necessarily have to invest huge amounts in new IT infrastructure to submit and receive data. The quickest and simplest access for users is through the browser on your company laptops and desktops, which are safeguarded by heightened security and protection.
  5. It’s vital to check how easy it is for anybody in the company to use. The most advanced technology should be easily accessible for people who need to use it day-in day-out, and not the just IT dept, to avoid any confusion or mistakes when handling personal information.
  6. Ensure the ID verification system you implement includes FCA compliant data records automatically. If your business is required to provide an audit, having a system designed to incorporate detailed records which are fully compliant will save you time.
  7. Using technology such as facial recognition will further enhance the level of certainty when checking an ID. If integrated with global database searches and document verification you can be sure you have a watertight system that meets all regulations.

SmartSearch warns against risk of GDPR breaches

Leading anti-money laundering specialist SmartSearch has warned many businesses may be at risk of being in breach of GDPR rules, due to a lack of secure data hosting.

The end of May marked the third anniversary of GDPR becoming law in the UK, yet according to the RegTech specialist, regulated businesses in the housing chain risk non-compliance if they rely on manual customer records.

John Dobson, CEO at West Yorkshire-based SmartSearch said that even three years after the law was introduced, a lot of firms do not have procedures in place to protect customer details, which has been exacerbated with the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

In response to the concern, SmartSearch has enhanced its data hosting capability which updates customer details automatically when something changes, both increasing due diligence and data security.

Dobson adds: “Customer data hosting is something that can be overlooked, or businesses think the processes they have in place are good enough. But the fact is, even three years after the introduction of GDPR, a lot of firms still have manual records in the office, which poses a genuine GDPR risk.

“If you have a digital platform in place to carry out ID verification for AML purposes when onboarding new customers, it’s crucial that the data is hosted so that it updates automatically. And if there is a knock on the door from the auditor, a fully hosted system will make it quick and easy to pull a report which has everything on it necessary for compliance.

“Once the customer inputs their client data, they don’t need to do anything with it from an AML perspective, which enables them to forget about it and get on with the job of running their business.”

EQ launches virtual thought-leadership conference

EQ Credit Services, the consumer credit technology and outsourced services provider, is gathering industry experts from the financial services, strategic and academic worlds to take the temperature of today and tomorrow’s lending sector at its week-long “Future of lending” event.

Now in its fourth year, the annual thought leadership conference will feature a series of live and pre-recorded panels with senior EQ experts and guest speakers including Whitecap Consulting, Economist Trevor Williams, Money Advice Trust, Bamboo Loans and the Vulnerability Registration Service.

Six short sessions, taking place from the 21-24th June to minimise disruption to the working day, will cover topics including the role of strategy and regionality on building societies, how regulation and technology impact the “newly vulnerable” customer, and the UK’s economic outlook.

Attendees will also be able to hear in-depth analysis of the findings from EQ’s latest consumer borrowing report, released earlier this May – in particular, how there is an industry-wide need to remodel lending for the “new nervous” consumer.

EQ Credit Services Managing Director Richard Carter will be joined by EQ CEO Paul Lynam to discuss the impact of 2020 on the financial sector. Richard says: “Our signature thought leadership event is back, and it’s come at a crucial juncture for the financial services industry. Even as restrictions lift and the world reopens, the credit landscape remains uncertain and we’re faced with a set of newly vulnerable and nervous consumers.

“Customer vulnerability is a pressing concern in the lending space – now more than ever – which is why we’ve assembled leaders from across the industry to share their expertise on what can and needs to be done to rethink responsible lending.

“We’re lending in uncertain times, and by sharing insights and engaging in these discussions, events like this can begin to empower the sector to reimagine a new calibre of proactive, tailored and compassionate service. Cross-industry innovation: that’s the future of lending.”

EQ’s “Future of lending” week runs from the 21-24th of June. Participants can register for free and access the full agenda at the following link: https://prsnt.live/eq-credit-services/eqlendingweek.

SmartSearch urges agents to ‘ditch documents’ to be compliant

Leading anti-money laundering specialist SmartSearch has warned property agents are in serious danger of non-compliance with new regulations, unless they ditch documents and embrace a digital solution.

As the June 10 deadline approaches for estate and lettings agents to register with HMRC to ensure compliance, there are concerns that some agents are not yet prepared for the extra regulatory responsibility, and that relying on outdated methods of ID verification is leading to a rise in fraud.

In addition to the HMRC deadline next month, many estate agents are still having to work through the requirements of the fifth EU Money Laundering Directive which came into force almost 18-months-ago.

As the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic also led to an increase in attempted money laundering in the property sector, it has been a challenging period for the sector in trying to prevent fraud.

However, John Dobson, CEO at SmartSearch says there needs to be much greater awareness of the flaws in the practice of checking hard copy documents in the customer onboarding process, which he says is wide open to fraud. In addition, the UK government has enshrined in legislation the need to use electronic forms of verification wherever possible.

Dobson says: “No doubt it is difficult for any sector to make the changes that are being asked of property agents in lettings and sales, and doubly difficult when facing a global pandemic.

“The increase in organised criminal activity using the property sales market to flush through its dirty money, has been widely reported. But also, we’re seeing reports of serious spikes in fraud in the rental sector, where criminals are using fake IDs to rent accommodation as a base for their nefarious activities.

“This is being allowed to continue because agents are still relying on manually checking somebody’s passport or utility bill as part of the customer onboarding process. But criminals are turning out highly sophisticated forgeries of these documents which, in a sector as busy as it has been this past 12 months, are not undergoing the necessary scrutiny.

“So, if agents really want to ensure they are compliant and want to prevent fraud and money laundering attempts, they need to accept that documents are dead when it comes to ID checks.

“A digital solution scanning global databases and lists for sanctions and PEPs (politically exposed persons) is far quicker with individual checks being carried out in two seconds. It is more accurate, cost-effective and ensures compliance as it updates client details automatically.”

Dobson adds that the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, also has a part to play in raising awareness of the potential benefits of technology over manual methods of verification, otherwise many agencies could be facing serious penalties for failures to comply.

He adds: “We are seeing record numbers of regulated businesses coming through our doors as they have seen for themselves over the past 12 months how inadequate the manual methods of verification have become.”

Momentum builds to industry awards

Professionals from across the industry have begun to claim their packs to enter this year’s Credit Excellence Awards, in association with Esendex.

Packs are now available showing how you can easily apply for the industry’s awards programme, where the judges will choose from the very best in the industry.

Stephen Kiely, editor of CCRMagazine, said: “It is always a hugely exciting time as professionals start to request Application Packs. If you are proud of yourself, your team, your product, or your service, I would heartily encourage you to make an application.

“This has been a challenging time for so many in the industry, as well as our wider society, so I feel that it is particularly important that we should honour the good practice that goes on throughout the industry. Every day credit and collections professionals work hard for their customers, and the Credit Excellence Awards allow us to recognise that.

“I hope the Virtual Awards Ceremony, in June, will be an opportunity to mark and recognise all that is good in the industry – and that can only happen if professionals put themselves.”

The Credit Excellence Awards are unique because applications for each category are open to the whole range of the industry in those sectors. So you can apply if you are an individual credit professional, a team, a consumer or commercial creditor, or a supplier company, or a product.

Previously, the judges have looked for a range of key characteristics from winning entries, including:

  • Truly exceptional behaviour.
  • Business leadership.
  • Professional excellence and processes.
  • Real results.
  • Industry innovation.
  • Customer focus.
  • Social responsibility.

To claim your Application Pack, and to apply free of charge, please contact Stephen Kiely at stephen@ccrmagazine.co.uk.


About Esendex
Esendex is very proud to be sponsoring the Credit Excellence Awards 2021, which celebrate innovation, responsible lending, safety and customer support. Esendex provides the communications and mobile payments technology that underpins many successful debt recovery campaigns. The most successful campaigns bring together technology, empathy and flexibility in a way that supports customers and creditors alike, and we’re really excited to see this year’s entries. www.esendex.co.uk

Comment: “Wholesale shift to digital solutions needed” to prevent £200m of property fraud

Following the publication of a report by the Solicitors Regulation Authority board which says suspicious activity worth £200m was reported to NCA last year, Martin Cheek MD at SmartSearch commented: “Since the outbreak of the global pandemic we’ve been aware of an increase in money laundering activity and the property market has been the prime target for criminals.

“Fraudsters have always considered house purchases as an effective way to launder cash but this has been exacerbated by the gaps in security that have opened up in the past 12 months due to an end to face-to-face meetings with new customers.

“Conveyancers and brokers have been relying on manual methods of ID verification which have involved taking a photo of a passport and sending on email, which is an open invitation to criminals with the ability to make sophisticated forgeries.

“The Solicitors Regulation Authority says that the increase in fraud is down to better awareness and reporting, but there has undoubtedly been an increase in criminal activity in the property market since the pandemic.

“Looking ahead, if the sector is going to prevent fraud and money laundering more effectively, there needs to be a wholesale shift to digital solutions for ID verification, which are more accurate, efficient and compliant with FCA guidelines.

“It’s no longer good enough to rely on manually checking over hard documents when they can so easily be forged and allow fraudsters into the process through the front door.”

HighRadius Raises $300M Series C at $3.1 Billion Valuation to Accelerate Growth in Order-to-Cash and Treasury Markets

HighRadius, the Artificial Intelligence-powered Order-to-Cash, and Treasury Management software leader, has raised $300 million in a Series C round at a valuation of $3.1 Billion. The investment was led by D1 Capital and Tiger Global with participation from existing investors ICONIQ Growth and Susquehanna Growth Equity. The round also included investments from tech industry leaders, Frank Slootman, Chairman and CEO of Snowflake, Michael Scarpelli, CFO of Snowflake, Tooey Courtemanche, CEO of Procore Technologies, and Howie Liu, Co-founder and CEO of Airtable. The new capital will be used to fuel product innovation and expand global go-to-market reach.

The HighRadius AI-powered platforms for Order-to-Cash and Treasury Management help more than 600 clients, including more than 200 of the Forbes Global 2000, optimize their working capital. HighRadius was recently named to the Forbes Cloud 100 and identified as a Leader in both the Enterprise and the Mid-Market editions of the IDC MarketScape for Accounts Receivable Software.

Sashi Narahari, Founder and CEO of HighRadius, said: “We are excited to have D1 Capital Partners and Tiger Global join our existing investors, Susquehanna Growth Equity and ICONIQ Growth. Our goal has always been to build a long-lasting business that outlasts all of us. I look forward to working with such high-quality long-term investors who share a common vision of transforming the Office of the CFO using a combination of Artificial Intelligence built on top of connected finance workspaces and embedded analytics.”

“Our mission at D1 is to back visionary entrepreneurs as they solve large, pressing problems,” said Daniel Sundheim, Founder of D1 Capital Partners.  “Offices of the CFO have historically relied on antiquated, analog processes and infrastructure to manage their accounts receivable and treasury functions. HighRadius is a clear leader in driving digital transformation in the Office of the CFO.  We have been impressed by Sashi and his team’s long-term focus and look forward to joining the company’s journey.”

“HighRadius is in the opening innings of defining the next big software market for the Office of the CFO,” said John Curtius, Partner at Tiger Global Management.  “HighRadius bears all of the signs of being a ‘category defining’ business for Order-to-Cash automation.  We are thrilled to join the HighRadius team for the ride.”

HighRadius was advised by Atlas Technology Group for this transaction.