First up, tell us a bit about yourself and what your career journey was before you joined Aveni?
Career wise, I’m a chartered accountant who has spent the bulk of my career in asset management. I started out at Morgan Stanley before moving on to a company called Ignis where I spent 8 years in a range of finance roles. Ignis was a great place to work and was the perfect environment for me to learn, it was here I began to focus on the more forward looking side of finance with a focus on how we can drive change from the finance function as opposed to looking backwards. Ignis was acquired by Standard Life Investments (SLI) and that took me through to Edinburgh for the next 5 years which was definitely a change for me and my family given the now 3 hour commute.
SLI was a much bigger beast than Ignis and really allowed me to push on professionally and focus on what I enjoyed most which is that forward looking commercial insight. I have been really fortunate to have worked with and learnt from some great people over the years (you all know who you are!) and one of them happens to be our CEO Joseph which led me to Aveni.
Personally, I am married to Katie and have 3 children, Jack, Finlay and Lucy which is still super weird to say given 2 of them were lockdown additions! 3 children under 3 have been interesting through lockdown and they have all been a permanent feature in the last 6 months of video calls! If anyone ever wonders why I am bouncing in a video call I most likely have 2 babies at my feet!
How did you come to work at Aveni?
As I mentioned, the key catalyst for me getting involved was my relationship with Joseph, however, in all honesty, it’s an area I’ve been interested in for a long time.
My Dad is a financial adviser so I know the market relatively well and I’ve always been interested in the concept of getting people engaged in their finances when they’re young enough to make a difference. I truly believe Aveni and other technology providers have a big part to play in making this happen and that at the core we can make a difference to people’s lives.
As for enjoyment, startup life definitely has its ups and downs!! As cliche as it may be though, the variety and impact your decisions have is definitely what I enjoy most. There’s no hiding so everyone has to work together to ensure we are moving forward which is a refreshing change from a life in big corporates.
What do you enjoy most about working at Aveni?
Startup life definitely has its ups and downs! As cliche as it may be though, the variety and impact your decisions have is definitely what I enjoy most. There is no hiding so everyone has to work together to ensure we are moving forward which is a refreshing change from a life in big corporates. At Aveni we want everyone to have an opinion and to contribute to the direction of the product and the business, the people really are the most important factor.
What is Aveni working on right now?
We’re working hard just now on our risk monitoring tool Aveni Detect. The main aim being to be able to identify, rank and provide actionable outputs of a range of risks direct from the voice. Our long term goal with this product is to transition risk monitoring to a live setting so as to be able to act as a preventative measure as opposed to a reactive.
How do you see technology transforming the financial services industry?
In so many ways, the industry has really only started scratching the surface. People spend far too much time on tasks that don’t add value, in the short term technology will solve that which will hopefully pave the way to better service and cheaper prices for end consumers. Longer term though technology needs to be able to aggregate all the information points across the many systems and utilise this data to drive outcomes. Think personalised assessments across all customers and agents.
Where does that leave the human?
It’s equally important to highlight what technology can’t do, and that is build relationships. It has been proven time and time again that people want to speak to people when making material life decisions and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable which is why it’s important we wrap technology around those conversations.
Where do you see Aveni heading in the next few years?
The opportunities for this type of technology are endless and in almost every conversation we have we come up with a new use case. In the short to medium term, we will consolidate our position in Financial Services with a focus on solving problems the industry has today while building for the future. Longer term, we see very similar problems across multiple geographies and industries so we will look to expand in these areas.
We’ll continue to innovate and ensure we’re using the latest tech via our labs function. Beyond Financial Services we see similar problems across multiple industries.
How will open banking benefit consumers and how can fintechs work to close the financial accessibility gap in the UK?
One vital component of the data driven solution I mentioned earlier is open banking and the transition into open finance. The ability for a person and adviser to see their full range of assets and liabilities in one place will in my mind fundamentally change how people engage with their finances. Offset all this insight with an individual’s short and long term goals, and in real time people will be able to understand how achievable those goals are, and more importantly be presented with realistic solutions to get there before it is too late.
Customer engagement levels in their finances is a not a new problem and many organisations have tried to bridge this gap to limited success. The role of fintechs is to combine all the data points with a truly engaging user experience that drives obvious and immediate value to the end consumers. The journey has started on this but the possibilities are endless and I believe open finance will be the real step change to a generation who wants to be in control of their finance and truly understands where they should be in that journey.
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