Data driven insight at Vocalink

We interviewed Marc Corbalan from Vocalink about AML Insights: data driven innovation that delivers real benefits to customers.

AML Insights (Anti Money Laundering Insights) from Vocalink won the Rising Star Award at Market Gravity's Corporate Entrepreneur Awards in November 2018 - a proven concept with the potential to make a significant impact.

So who are Vocalink?

  • Vocalink are a Mastercard company, acquired by them last year
  • They operate payments infrastructure between banks in the UK, processing 12 billion payments per year
  • Those payments are highly structured. High volume, high structure payments react well to advanced data science treatments such as machine learning and artificial intelligence
  • 4 years ago, Vocalink created a company which creates products out of the analysis of this data for banking clients , UK consumers and other businesses

AML Insights is one of the most successful products that Vocalink has created. Fraud is a huge problem in the UK, with money launderers typically transferring sums to one account and then quickly breaking that sum down through multiple transfers to different accounts, with different banks. This process is then repeated by the secondary accounts to make tracking the money incredibly difficult. Fraud figures in the UK are very high: in the first half of 2018 the total value scammed from people was £145 million.

What does AML Insights do, and how does it work?

  • AML Insights is a network product - enabling suspicious payments to be traced, even if the payment is split between multiple accounts and across different banks.
  • The product creates a visual map of when and where the money has moved, and is also able to pinpoint individual accounts known as 'money mule' accounts, which are used to transfer stolen funds.
  • This works to disrupt the networks by which fraudulent money is being dispersed. Making fraud more difficult therefore acts as a disincentive.
  • The tool can reduce the amount of time that fraud analysts spend looking at accounts by adding flags to those suspicious accounts. Contrary to perception, this has actually caused fraud teams to expand, because they have more information available to them.

"The majority of banks are competitive. Fraud teams see collaboration as the way to raise the bar. That uniqueness of banks collaborating with each other through fraud has created a good environment for us to work together. "
Marc Corbalan, Vocalink

How did Vocalink test AML Insights?

  • AML Insights invited anti fraud teams to the data lab, matching them with payments experts, data science and products experts
  • Extensively piloted the technology with real (offline) data
  • Presented the results to banks and waited for their approval before applying it to the live data
  • Used a feedback loop: the algorithm finds the accounts that it thinks are suspicious, these are then assessed by a fraud analyst. Through that feedback loop, the system becomes more and more accurate.

AML Insights is a world-first product and has attracted a lot of attention with other countries and other markets. They're currently working to see how they can deliver this technology to those businesses and customers.

If you'd like to learn more about Vocalink, or AML Insights, take a look at their website here

To listen to our dulcet tones on the podcast, you can find us on all the podcasting apps, or here


Corporate Innovation: from launch to 500,000 registered users with Yolt

"If you do things that are already known, you’re not innovating. New territory comes with making mistakes." - Frank Jan Risseeuw, Yolt

Hello friendly blog readers. I’m trialling a new format of the blog this month. If you find the podcast a little tl;dr, (too long; didn’t read) then you can now use this blog post to catch up in an easily digestible format. And if once you’ve read it, you want to have a listen, as always you can find us here.

This month, Ben and I spoke to Frank Jan Risseeuw, the CEO of Yolt, on their journey from an idea at ING 2.5 years ago, to 500,000 registered users and a plan for European expansion.

What is Yolt?

  • Yolt is a new money management ‘aggregator’ app which has just reached 500,000 registered users in the UK.
  • Why the UK? Yolt was launched here first because Frank Jan said it’s the capital of FinTech innovation, with a large appetite to test new apps. There’s also a wide banking landscape and a real opportunity to bring a digital only banking app to the market.
  • However, Yolt have recently launched a closed Beta test in Italy and France to see how the product will grow in this market.
  • The Yolt journey began in 2016 at ING, when the new open banking legislation was coming into play. ING wanted to capitalise on this and saw an opportunity to create a ‘bank without the balance sheet’. 

Many a corporate innovation or new idea never get off the ground. What is Yolt’s recipe for success? For Frank Jan, you need to have the following:

  • A clear purpose
  • A good plan
  • The trust of investors or the company backing the concept 
  • The right culture, which he defined as: the right people, who have the freedom to work and deliver 
  • Belief and trust in your idea: not bringing in new features and ideas every week – but sticking with the idea and having regular check-ins 
  • An ambitious yet resilient attitude – understanding that you need to get things to market quickly, in order to learn. When you do things that don’t work or make mistakes – that’s all part of it. 

ING had an idea, and Frank Jan took the role of CEO and started to build his team. What did he look for in the people he was bringing onboard?

  • People who can see the big picture, and understand the purpose of what you’re trying to achieve
  • People who can make traction, always taking small, agile steps to get things done
  • People who strive not for 99% but for 100% when the time comes

How did Yolt approach testing?

  • Test and learn cycles were employed throughout the process, starting with discussions with customers about their attitudes and thoughts on money management
  • Continuing to run focus groups and testing around the topic of ‘Unthink’, as Unthink Money is Yolt’s tagline, to continue to engage customers
  • Building a community of power users who were very invested in the product
  • A flexible roadmap of planned features which would change depending on customer feedback

And finally, here’s a picture of the Yolt team accepting their Excellence in Innovation Award at the CEAs this year. Well done Yolt!


Revolutionising the retail shopping experience

Ever been fed up with how the in-store shopping experience compares with shopping from the comfort of your own home? Market Gravity are taking on the challenge of changing the physical shopping experience.

Re:store is a new project that Market Gravity are working on in Leeds. The project brings together several partners; Market Gravity, Landsec (a large UK property owner), Leeds City and Alibaba Cloud Retail to deliver a new, evolved, shopping experience. A shopping experience that responds to the needs of customers and aligns the digital experience (arguably in many ways easier, slicker and more personalised) to the physical store experience). We’ve all felt the frustration of seeing an item in a shop window, going in to try and find it, being unable to, seeing a huge queue for the changing room and till, and then ultimately deciding to leave without trying anything on at all. This is what we uncover on this week’s episode, available here.

What does the project entail?

The project is made up of several elements: physical stores in Trinity shopping centre where new technology can be tested in real time with real customers; ‘The Walk’: the new work space for big brands and innovators in retail and tech to collaborate and re-imagine retail in a flexible workplace, and ‘shopalytics’ which is the Market Gravity name for the combination of technology that will be monitoring and gaining insight in the physical stores.

How did this project come about?

As you’ll hear on the podcast, the team were passionate about changing the high street shopping experience. It seems the current news story is that the high street is dying, with a new retailer going into administration every week. There’s no denying that traditional retailers are under threat, but 80% of shopping is still conducted in physical stores, as opposed to online.

“You read every week about some other bricks and mortar shop chain going into administration, and the exciting part of this is that it’s helping that world to evolve. Not to overtake…but to catch-up. We can really use technology to change customer experience for the better – and retail experience for the better,” said Tom Day, Innovation Director at Market Gravity. “The shopping experience hasn’t moved on or developed – most brands haven’t changed the ways they engage with customers.”

The team believed that Leeds had the talent, resource and ambition to become famous for tech in the North. Leeds has a rich textile history, as well as as a vibrant personality and an intention to innovate.: the project ties in closely with the work that Leeds City Council is currently doing to transform Leeds. We spoke to Tom Riordan, head of the Council, about the project.

“It’s great that in the city where Thomas Spencer and Joseph Marks started Marks and Spencer we have innovation happening today. We have an ambition to be the best city in the UK- we want to be neighbourhood based, family friendly, with a strong social ethic.”

Leeds are working to digitise many aspects of their council, and to use technology to make improvements to challenges facing the community, such as social care, improving transport, and getting people online. All these elements came together to show that Leeds was the perfect place to run the project.

So the question was: how might we reimagine the future of the high street?

Market Gravity’s Shopalytics platform is an analytics platform that takes individual pieces of data and puts it into a model. This means that you can ask it questions, such as how many people came into the store, what did they do, how did they interact? Software and Hardware Lead, Pete Mills, told us: “The real value is being able to run experiments and see in a rational, objective way, which changes have made the most improvements” – which is a stark contrast to the way traditional retail stores are run today.

To support this, additional partners have been brought onto the project, including Alibaba Cloud Retail, on the technical side. Chris Potts from Alibaba stated “What’s incredibly exciting about what we’re doing here, is that we’re turning the physical store almost into a website. So all the data and interactions that you can do on e-commerce, we are going to try and achieve that in a physical store. Alibaba has a wealth of experience in achieving that in China – where we combine online with experience in store.”

In addition to the technical aspect, there’s also a physical space to transform. The challenge was to transform 7,700 sq ft of empty retail space above Leeds Trinity Shopping Centre into a retail tech hub with a clear identity, purpose and competitive market offering, dubbed ‘The Walk’. This hub would support the experimental approach taken in the physical stores, where new technology could be tested to measure its impact on the shopping experience.

Market Gravity are bringing their expertise by completing a 4 week sprint project to look at what the proposition and brand should be for The Walk. Based on a launch date of end of January, the team have been working to develop a set of experiments that will test their assumptions, brand positioning, and get the first businesses signed up to work in the space.

We hope you enjoy listening to this month’s podcast – it’s an exciting opportunity hear about how Market Gravity and partners are coming together to experiment and fundamentally change the way that retail responds to customers, providing better experiences for both customers and business owners.

Any comments or feedback? Let us know at launchbreak@marketgravity.com


From idea to reality: interviewing start-ups on Launch Break

The latest Market Gravity podcast is all about the start-up mentality. How do you go from idea to reality? What’s the process behind launching a product, and what do you learn along the way?

Ben and I interviewed Noah Geeves from LIC Frozen Cocktails and Edward Tweddle from Flint Watches to hear how they started their respective companies. Their stories are similar: ideas sparked by recognising a need for something that they didn’t feel existed. (Listen to the full interview on the podcast here

 

LIC Frozen Cocktails was born from a complaint by Noah’s co-founder’s Mum. She was wondering why she couldn’t buy a frozen cocktail whilst on the beach. On returning home, Harry told Noah (both have backgrounds in Chemical & Electrical engineering) and they started from there. Ed’s company Flint Watches was sparked by a vintage Fossil watch found in a charity shop, which got him thinking about ways to bring new materials into the watch market.

How on earth do you go from an idea in your head, to a real product on the shelves of Sainsbury’s or being sold online I hear you ask. Each founder had a slightly different approach, but both reinforce the idea of continuously learning at every stage.

 

“We have a bit of a process around it…we’ll say ‘what is the end goal’? And we will sequentially work back one step at a time…essentially you break it down and break it down into tiny problems and then just knock them out the park one at a time – that’s the theory anyway” says Noah with an easy confidence.

 

Ed’s process was more organic – “when we release a product now it’s different to how it first happened” he said.  “The first product was a learning curve, and it took a lot longer than we expected to bring that to market. We learnt everything we needed to know in order to release products in future…and I don’t think we would have learned that without going through that process.”

In order to learn, Flint Watches tested with customer focus groups to understand what they wanted from a premium watch brand. LIC Frozen Cocktails tested with family and friends before heading separately to two events determined to sell all the stock they had – with the belief that if they managed to sell it, they had a good product.

 

Ed’s determination was similar, driven by a passion for watches and wanting to create something that incorporated his passion for art and design. “There wasn’t anything out there that was really an artistic product” he says. However, passion alone wasn’t enough – it sounds as though getting the product out there was difficult at first: there were issues with their supply chain and their grass-roots, low budget approach led to complications.

“In order to produce a product and set up a company from a low budget, you need to take time, and it’s going to take you building relationships” says Ed.

Noah agrees wholeheartedly, “if suppliers don’t feel like stakeholders [in the business] they won’t work for you and they won’t invest.” Both founders impress strongly that neither company would be where they are today without the difficulties and everything they learned along the way.

Both founders have a can-do attitude – something that seems to be a pre-requisite if you’re starting your own company. We asked them their final piece of advice for fellow start-ups:

 

Noah: “Throw yourself in, reach out to people and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You don’t need to be solving the biggest problem in the world but, so long as you’re providing a better solution to someone’s problem, there will be someone who will want it. The next job is to get it in front of them!”

 

Edward: “Don’t replicate the winning components of all your competitors, as it will weaken your brand. Build a clear identity around your products, without overcomplicating your messaging.”

Find Flint Watches here or on social @flintwatches (Twitter and Instagram)

 

Find LIC Frozen Cocktails here or @havealic (Twitter and Instagram)


Market Gravity have a brand new podcast.

Launch Break (see what we did there?) is for anyone who wants to learn more about innovation processes and methods and the launches they have led to. If you’re wondering how to get that new idea from an idea to reality, from post-it to prototype, and you want to hear stories from others who have done just that, then this is the podcast for you. A fresh serving of inspiring and informative innovation content delivered to you on the first of each month by Olivia and Ben from Market Gravity.

You can find the podcast by searching Market Gravity on iTunes, or directly here.

Why are we doing a podcast?

Ben and I decided to launch this podcast because we wanted to share more stories of innovation and the launches that it has led to. Often, we hear about new products, services or ventures coming to market, but we don’t know anything about the journey to get there. What were the processes followed? What were the pitfalls and failures along the way that led to the success story? Who was involved? What methods were used in order to get it off the ground? You’ll hear answers to these questions and more as Ben and I interview corporate entrepreneurs and innovators from different industries and fields.

We wanted to give you the inspiration and information that you need, to ultimately help you launch your own venture. Perhaps that’s the confidence to start the process, or more help on where to even begin, and what support you need on the way to creating and launching something new – whatever that might be.

Ben and I don’t have any podcasting experience; we decided the best way to get the podcast going and to gain experience was to just do it! So, we’ll be learning along the way too.

What do Market Gravity do?

We help companies to create, design and build new propositions – and launch them into market. A new proposition can be; a product, service, new venture, customer experience launch strategy or physical store. One example is Conker, by Unite Students. It’s a new platform which helps students find great housing from responsible landlords.

We work with the world’s largest brands to help inject an entrepreneurial spirit into their businesses. That’s hard when you’re a huge company, and you have long standing, legacy ways of working. By sharing these stories, we hope to help other corporate entrepreneurs, or people who are interested in innovation, to hear how it’s been done, provide inspiration and share expertise.

How do we do that?

In practice, Market Gravity’s approach is to be customer-focused, not customer led. That means we bring customers into the heart of our creation process, to understand their needs and behaviors and use these to drive our idea generation. We test those ideas with customers, iterate them, and build them. We do this whilst developing commercial rigour around the proposition, assess the capabilities and requirements needed to launch a Minimum Viable Proposition (MVP). The MVP allows us to test and learn, building on the knowledge we gather as we work up to delivering the full proposition into market.

So what next?

You can expect to hear from different members from Market Gravity– starting with myself and Ben from the London office, interviewing fascinating people who’ve launched interesting things. If you’ve got ideas for who you’d like to hear us speak to, or want to know more about a specific topic, we’d love to hear it and incorporate it into the podcast – contact us at launchbreak@marketgravity.com if you do! Find the podcast right here, or in your favourite third party app.

Ben Hay, Consultant
Olivia Cocker, Consultant