Interview with Greg Woolf, Founder & CEO of FiVerity
Tell Us About Your Journey
Well, originally, I’m from South Africa and I came to the USA more than 20 years ago. My entry point was at PWC in Boston. We chose Boston because we love the city over here, where I worked in the risk and assurance practice in the financial services sector for PWC. And that’s where I got to find to meet folks in the space and realized that there was a combination of technology and finance, which now is known as FinTechs, and an opportunity to create a business around financial services technology.
After working at PricewaterhouseCoopers for a number of years, I set out to start a company based on the contacts and the knowledge that I had earned at PWC. And the first company I started was actually a company in the financial services space doing data and analytics for investment companies, asset managers, some of the large asset managers that we know in Boston. And that really showed me that there was a great opportunity to work in Boston and find opportunities to apply technology to improve the way businesses and financial services companies work.
What Is the History of FiVerity?
At FiVerity, we’re focused on anti-fraud for financial services firms, and we started out actually at the DCU Fintech Innovation Center. After selling my prior company, I was looking for some new opportunities in the financial services space. And DCU ran a center which allowed opportunities to meet with senior executives and through a program and understand potential needs in the market around financial services.
This proved to be a really important space because when the pandemic happened, obviously fraud became rampant, especially digital fraud. It changed the profile, and it changed the nature of how financial services firms, banks, and credit unions interact with their customers. And we found that applying AI and machine learning to fraud was a very effective way to identify when bad actors were trying to infiltrate financial services firms and steal either their money or defraud their customers.
What Motivates You?
What motivates me is I’m excited by applying technology to solve customer problems. I love the financial services space. I think after healthcare, money is the second most important thing to us. And making sure that our customers and in turn their customers and consumers are protected from the bad actors in the space. This is a challenging space, financial services for sure it’s highly regulated, but one of the things that we’ve built over the years is we’ve built a strong relationship with government, actually. So we’ve worked with the Federal Reserve, FinCEN and some of the other regulators and we find that there’s a real opportunity for collaboration and working together. And that excites me bringing a number of different parties together, using technology as a platform to help these firms do better at fighting the bad guys.
What Challenges Have You Faced?
So one of the biggest challenges in our space is data privacy. We’re working with highly regulated institutions, banks and credit unions who are obliged to maintain secrecy around their customer information. And if you look at our platform, our platform is an antifraud collaboration platform, which really requires for multiple firms to share intelligence and work together. Kind of like an antivirus solution, but for fraud. So one of the key things that our team was able to do was build out a secure, private way for financial institutions to share intelligence. We use a double encrypted technology that enables the sharing, the private sharing, of information around consumer information between financial institutions while keeping that private data anonymized and depersonalized. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges for adoption in the space. And once we were able to crack that nut, we found that the financial institutions were much more comfortable in working with us and being able to share intelligence between them.
Where Do You See FiVerity in 3-5 Years?
In three to five years, I think we have an amazing opportunity to make a real difference to fraud detection and protecting the financial service industry from criminal elements that are looking to defraud them on a daily basis. The cybercrime economy is the third largest economy in the world, after the US and China, estimated to be $10 trillion a year. And we know it’s all just getting worse. And by using advanced technology like AI and secure info sharing, we’ve been proven that we’ve been able to help institutions, regulators, data providers in the space by working together and enabling them to fight those criminal elements. And I believe that the demand for this type of technology and this type of solution is going to be even more as the criminals get more sophisticated. And in the same token, we have a great opportunity to address that and mitigate those risks for financial services firms.
What Value Has Gesmer Updegrove Provided to FiVerity?
Working with Gesmer has been a pleasure, and I think the biggest advantage has been the diversity of talent and capabilities of this firm. I worked with Gesmer previously to sell my previous company. We’ve worked with Gesmer in FiVerity for financing, fundraising, venture fundraising, which is a challenging space, and then you really have to know what you’re doing, as well as client contracts, contracts with some of the large data providers, and investor contracts. So I think just the diversity of the depth of the Gesmer team and offering different types of resources has been hugely helpful for us as we’ve grown as a company.
Why Go With Gesmer?
I chose to go with Gesmer when I started this company because Gesmer has provided us support from the early stage, from our earliest funding rounds, all the way through multiple VC rounds, with a depth of talent and capability that has supported us at every level as we’ve grown our company.
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