KYC Portal may have started as a side project, but its massive success has made it into a leader in the client on-boarding market.
Kristoff Zammit Ciantar had no idea that he would end up spearheading the development of the know your customer (KYC) market when he launched Aqubix, the IT consultancy and experienced solution provider, in 2004. Before that, he had enjoyed a career as an IT consultant for a few years. The establishment of the Malta-headquartered company would eventually lead to him launching several compliance solutions of which KYC Portal, the digital due diligence solution, has become the biggest hit.
Today, KYC Portal is run by both Aqubix and Finopz, which is headquartered in London. The company has provided financial institutions, banks, law firms and other industries since 2016. Since then, KYC Portal has reaped numerous successes, including being integrated with the data provisioning services of Acuris Risk Intelligence and partnering with ComplyAdvantage.
Zammit Ciantar himself serves as the CEO of both companies. Over the past decade, he has become an authority in the RegTech industry, often offering his insights into wide-ranging topics such as what financial firms get wrong with KYC solutions, how RegTech might step out from underneath the shadow of FinTech and how investing in data processes can increase General Data Protection Regulation compliance.
While he launched Aqubix in 2004, the story of KYC Portal really kicked off in 2014. That was when one of Zammit Ciantar’s many clients started talking about the EU’s then-upcoming Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (4AML). “It’s a nightmare to manage,” Zammit Ciantar remembers the client saying.
The client nudged Zammit Ciantar and his team to create a product that would automate compliance to the demands of the new regulations. Thinking about it, he realised that there was a massive opportunity for the company in the KYC market, especially since Aqubix already had several clients in the banking, insurance and payment space that would be affected by 4AML.
This led Zammit Ciantar and his team to taking their first steps in developing what would become KYC Portal. In order to ensure they were on the right track, the team let some of their clients trial it for free. “All of them went crazy and said, ‘This is fantastic I want to start using it’” he remembers. They had to remind clients that it was still not a finished product but a concept.
Encouraged by the results, the Aqubix team decided to test the waters further in February 2017 by submitting it to the Finovate conference. “It is a conference where you get selected,” he said. “We submitted our idea of KYC Portal to the board of Finovate and, believe it or not, out of 900 applicants we were chosen as one of the top 16.” After that success they launched the product officially.
Things happened really fast after that. Financial service firms, crypto payment companies, insurance, gaming and even logistics firms started to line up to use the product. “We started to be approached by large companies [and doing] international orders,” he says. “It started growing quite fast. Even today, it is growing at a speed that is quite challenging. Fast. Impressive. Fun.”
In fact, the product grew so much that it is now 85% of the company’s entire business. “When you develop ideas and develop products in there’s [always an element] of luck, because it’s not only [about] having a good idea, it’s [about] having a good idea at the right time,” he says. “So when we launched this product, it was spot on.”
Zammit Ciantar adds that the company also benefited from being very early in the market. “It’s only this year that we’ve started to see companies competing with us, but they are still far behind,” he says.
Zammit Ciantar is also optimistic about the success over the past few years having lined up the company’s ability to keep growing in the years to come. “When you have clients using it live in various jurisdictions [and] in various industries, the information and the feedback that they give us back is a gold mine,” he says.
The clients are happy to provide feedback to the team, enabling Zammit Ciantar and his colleagues to constantly improve the products. That, in turn, he believes will widen the distance from his competitors even more. “I think we’re in a very good position,” he says.