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Pete - 10 / 01 / 2024

How One Financial Technology Provider Is Future-Proofing With AI

By Guy Remond with special guest Mark Hartley

How are companies riding the current technological wave?

AI has been making huge waves recently. From all indications, this revolution will continue over the next decade and will greatly impact businesses (it’s already doing so!).

In our most recent episode of Fast Growth Funding, I spoke to Mark Hartley, Founder of BankiFI, about how he is future-proofing his company in this current era. 

BankiFI is a financial technology provider on a mission to help banks and traditional financial institutions build better relationships with their small business customers. 

This technology enables banks to provide integrated services – accounting, invoicing and payments – designed around the processes small business customers use in their daily operations.

It was also the first-ever investment project under The Startup Factory, EHE’s specialist engineering company for tech products!

In this blog, we’ll look at how BankiFI is approaching the current technological wave, as well as the other practices underpinning its growth journey.

You can also listen to us chatting on the podcast here.

BankiFI’s approach to AI 

BankiFI is a terrific product – and we’re proud to have played a part in its investment journey. So far, at least four of the biggest high-street banks already use this technology, and Mark is looking to expand in Australia and the US.

It’s worth noting that the initial version of the product had no AI integration. I was curious to find out if this had changed over the years and how Mark is integrating AI into BankiFI’s long-term growth strategy.

Mark: “I’ve always had a keen eye on technology and how it will be used across the board. AI is going to have dramatic changes and effects on every walk of life, which is why I am looking to see how it can improve our business. 

This improvement isn’t necessarily from a commercial perspective, i.e. integrating AI into our product’s features and functions. The way we’ve looked at it so far is how it can actually help us in the development of our products, in terms of productivity and efficiency. 

Software engineering – coding, in particular – is an area where AI will have dramatic effects on productivity and efficiency. For instance, if you feed a machine with very specific instructions and it’s able to produce the same amount of lines of code as an average developer with fewer quality issues, then you’ll be able to streamline activities.” 

Future-proofing your business with AI

Mark’s input clearly shows that you can still build a great business without having to shoehorn AI in just for the sake of it. When it comes to adopting AI as a startup, it has to make commercial sense. If it doesn’t, it’s wise to look towards other areas within the business where it could be applied. 

In Mark’s case, although AI might not be useful for the product itself right now, it’s still a very useful internal tool – which is an important consideration. 

We recently revealed our fund for early-stage and growth AI investments. Essentially, the fund is looking to back businesses with a core strategy around AI for their product, whether now or in the near future. But that’s not where it ends. 

We’re also looking at how companies use AI to make themselves more efficient internally – which is precisely what Mark is doing. Engineering has become more efficient over the years, especially with the advent of new frameworks and open-source software.

AI will likely take this efficiency to greater levels over the next few years, freeing engineers up to concentrate on different things and use their skills in different ways.

What else should be included in the founder’s growth strategy?

As I’ve mentioned previously, AI isn’t a silver bullet. Businesses need to also have other components in place in order to achieve (and maintain) fast growth amidst the current technological wave. At the very early stages of BankiFI, Mark had these requirements in place, which helped him secure funding.

They have also played an instrumental role in BankiFI’s growth journey since then!

Let’s look at each of them in closer detail.

The right blend of people (the team)

Mark: “When I started building BankiFI, I knew it was important to get the right blend of people around me – a strong team from different backgrounds that would make the business attractive to investors. So, I made sure I built this team, bringing in all the people we needed.”

Expertise, credibility and capability

Mark: “We also needed to demonstrate credibility and show investors that we weren’t a pipe dream that was never going to take off. I needed to prove that I wasn’t just a starry-eyed founder who didn’t understand the problems of his customers. I also had to prove that we had the technological capability to serve our target market – which, by the way, is very complicated as they’re typically highly regulated and compliant.” 

The right network

Mark’s point about technological capability reflects a salient issue for both founders and investors, and it’s something we’ve covered in previous blogs. As a “non-techie” how can you future-proof your business, secure funding, and (for investors) vet the opportunities that come your way?

Mark: “ I actually didn’t have a technical network in the UK, which was why I went to The StartUp Factory in the first place. It was a very nice complementary model because TSF was looking for companies that had credibility, a strong vision, domain expertise and needed technological capability. On the other hand, we were looking for that technological capability to build our MVP because we didn’t have it at the time. So, it turned out to be a perfect match. And since then, we’ve expanded and grown.”

The bottom line

To survive the current technological wave, founders need to bake AI – not necessarily into the product – but into the business’s systems and processes to improve efficiency across the board. 

Click here to find out more about BankiFI and how it’s changing the world of business banking.

If you’d also like to learn more about our new EIS-qualified fund for UK early-stage and growth AI investments, register your interest here.

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