In Episode 14 we interview Amy Barbieri Co Founder and President of Vital4. When it comes to knowing your customers and key stakeholders, you can’t afford to be in the dark. Amy discusses Vital4’s automated AML/KYC data tools analyze more than 6,000 global watchlists to help identify subjects involved in financial crimes, terrorism, or corruption.
Vital4 is an Atlanta-based, woman-owned SaaS company dedicated to providing data solutions for due diligence, risk management, and global compliance – without the high prices, lack of transparency, and risks associated with legacy services.
This podcast is sponsored by OMI the company that makes CRM work! Today, I am speaking with Amy Barbieri, with Vital4. Amy, I wonder if you could, you're the co-founder of president Vital4. I wonder if you could tell us just a little bit about what you do?Amy Barbieri:
Sure. Absolutely. Well, thanks for having me. I am, co-founder and president, and actually a chief growth officer of Vital4. N ow that's a, a little bit of a mouthful t here. My role at Vital4 is really to help drive strategy for our brand internal and external messaging for go to m a rket s trategy, also support our chief revenue officer and sales business development, marketing efforts. I drive the prioritization of our technology ro admap a nd work closely with our product development teams as well in respect to what the market is looking for. But a little bit about Vital4. We are a wo man o w ned t echnology company located here in Atlanta, Georgia. We are actually known, a s a Reg or a F i nTech c ompany. We provide global data to companies all over the world for compliance purposes. So those companies use our data to mitigate risk within their organization and to try and stay compliant with, w hatever the global regulations that they're trying to comply with. We're in a couple of different markets. One market is the global background screening industry. So we provide data to the industry for pre-employment purposes, again, to mitigate, w i th someone they're hir ing and then, to the financial services industry for global anti-money laundering into the Know Your Customer regulatory compliance.Play the King:
So Amy, I know the audience for this, has some, some idea about this industry for someone like me, who, and people who m ay b e a little less familiar. Can you tell me a little bit about how you do what you do? You know it seems like a huge problem that you're trying to solve, and I know you have various ways of doing that, but like, I would have n o idea how to get started with, screening, you know, background checks or like screening for information, or like looking for cyber crimes or, you know, all the stuff that you guys do.Amy Barbieri:
Yeah, no, that's a great, that's a great question. Well, so high level, from a problem perspective globally, I think it's nearly$2 trillion dollars of illicit funds go through our banking system and, I'm speaking more from the financial services industry, and then I can touch on the back ground screen industry, but, you know, with those illicit funds, crimes that are being, you know, ta ken, you know, through the processes, terrorism and human trafficking, drug trafficking, you know, scams involving involving the elderly an d, an d t h e t h ings l i ke t h at, an d h orrific type th ings. So, so really the banks that are responsible for identifying these types of activities and these bad actors, if you will, they're faced with a huge task to be able to, you know, Wade through a lot of data to try to identify these types of people. And so with that being said, they're faced with a lot of regulatory fines every year, I'm talking in th e b illions of dollars. And so part of, part of that falls into what I mentioned earlier, th e a nti-money laundering, r egulations. And so the problem is, is th e, is, like I said, th e s orting through all this data and trying to get to the relevant data is if you can imagine a, a massive task. So what we doPlay the King:
Again, and, and, and just to, just to jump in, I, I, I, I would also imagine that a lot of that data is like proprietary or private. Like, you know, I'm just wondering how, you know, and I'm sure some of it is like public because it regulatory stuff, but, maybe you could just untangle that for me as well.Amy Barbieri:
Yeah, sure. No, that's actually a great question. And people ask me that all the time, the majority, surprisingly enough, the majority of the data is publicly available, and then you would think, well then why would they need somebody like Vital4 to, to capture that, but it's quite complex. Um, so when you think about, you know, 240 countries around the world, in their all publishing different types of lists, um, and that that's in respect, you know, kind of one category, and then you're talking about media outlets all over the world where we capture information on try to identify people that are, you know, in kind of in the negative light in the news. If you could imagine hundreds of thousands of sources and how do you capture all that into one place? Well, that's kind of where, where we come in. So kind of to your original question, to kind of simplify what we do think of our technology as a giant search engine. And it, it goes to a very highly curated, um, list of sources all over the world. And of course we have to configure every single one of those, but we've been doing this for a long time. And, and, um, that's what we're, that's what we're good at. And so we're able to capture data, um, in real time, directly from the, the source in a lot of cases, government published sources, obviously there's a lot of sanctions news right now, um, with what's going on in Russia. Um, so that type of information we're capturing, and then we're delivering that, you know, to our customers in, in real time as possible. And, and then they're looking to that data for insights, right? Hey, what kind of level of risk could this person, or could this company that I'm, you know, doing business with p ose t o my organizationPlay the King:
That is fascinating. And I, I would imagine that there's maybe also the problem of companies flooding, uh, with so much information sort of maybe hide stuff sort of the way the company might do during discovery, you know, in a lawsuit or something like that.Amy Barbieri:
Yeah. Well, that's, that's, yeah, that's another conversation too. That's a whole, a whole podcast in myself and part of the anti-money laundering regulations and trying to identify what we call universal beneficial owners of companies, because that's a really good way to hide, illicit funds and through those shells.Play the King:
So I wonder if you could talk to me about the, the global regulatory landscape, like just sort of, um, I don't know, fill in that landscape painting for me so I can sort of understand the, the breadth of that.Amy Barbieri:
Yeah. I mean, there's, there's a lot of different regulations all over the world that we can help companies comply with without getting to in the weeds and putting everyone who's listening to this, to sleep, as I mentioned, the anti-money laundering, um, and know your customer regulations and there's, and they're different for country. So a lot more stringent in Europe than what we're seeing, you know, here in the us. However, we're starting to see more, especially with our new administration, they're putting more stringent controls in around that. So I'm starting to see kind of the concerns that are from the financial institutions here in the us, very similar to what's going on in Europe. So I think we're starting to see that shift, but those, those things change, um, constantly. And they're constantly adding to the regulatory requirements and it puts, you know, banks cryptocurrency now is, is falling under that category real estate in Europe. We're, we're gonna probably see that happen eventually in the us. So, you know, again, where we are from a regulatory perspective and where we're going is not, you know, it's not gonna get any easier there's there's regulations that we have to follow around background screening, and that's called FCRA, which stands for the fair credit reporting act. Um, and you think about that as like a, an Equifax or transunion or something being a credit reporting agency and having to follow those guidelines. But that background screening in industry has to follow fair credit reporting act, uh, you know, policies as well. So we have to, we have to look closely at that. Um, and there's a lot of things that are changing constantly there in the us. There's date of birth, what we call date of birth redaction. So they're saying, Hey, you know, you can't use an individual's date of birth anymore to identify a person to a record. So if I I'm delivering a criminal record to a background screening company, and they're trying to make an employment decision, they're gonna have to pass through a candidate that potentially has a very dangerous background, because there's no way to quantify that information. So there's a lot of things going on from a regulatory perspective, not only here in the us, but, but all over, we also help comply with the UK bribery act to just some similar to the foreign practices act here in the us. And, um, you know, it, the list can go on. Those are just some, some examplesPlay the King:
That is really helpful. Yeah, no, that's really helpful. Thank you. So I'm just curious about actually your gut level reaction to this question, and it might be, you know, tell me if it's too simplistic, but I'm wonder you, you mentioned the new, the new administration sort of amping up the, the regulations, you know, when regimes increase sort of the, in the annoyance factor for, you know, financial firms, do you see a corresponding decrease in white collar crime, or is that, does that slider actually work or, or I'm curious, like, just whether you have noticed the at, in your career?Amy Barbieri:
No, I haven't. And I don't know that I, I would, I'm not that much of an expert in that area where the increase in crime has happened, particularly with COVID and the whole digital transformation that's happened. I mean, if you think about it, it's expedited the process. And so now we're moving really more heavily to digital payments versus, you know, the traditional way. We've been doing things for many, many years that has expedited white collar crime and, and fraud and corruption exponentially, because it's given it kind of a criminal is a segway into, you know, just being able to, to hide it and hide their true identity, because it's more, you know, it's all digital versus, you know, when you, you were able to go into a bank branch and open up an account, there's a process and there's human it's face to face less opportunity to fake your identity in that, in that instance. So that's where I see yeah, the opportunityPlay the King:
That, that that's really, really interesting. Thank you. Can you talk about how do you keep pace with the changes in tech, like, like from the Vital4 side, what are you doing to, you know, what are you implementing? What to, you know, you mentioned crypto, I'm sure that's, that's gotta be a headache trying to get a handle on that, but, you know, just in a, in a wider sense, how are you guys, um, how do you guys do that?Amy Barbieri:
Well, yeah, I mean, we have to, so we have to stay pretty up to date on, on what's going on in the world, if you can imagine. And we have a pretty strong compliance team that actually keeps a, keep a library of information that actually our customers have access to. That basically houses all the data, privacy laws in every country and territory in the world. That's a start, but yeah, we have to, we have to keep up with what's going on from a regulatory perspective so that we can stay ahead of things and, you know, keep our product roadmap full of things, gonna help solve those problems for customers. From a technology perspective, we are a definitely a technology driven, you know, innovative company. And this is something that, you know, we're, we're always looking forward, you know, for thinking with, um, taking advantage of all the new, um, capability, these and technologies that we can to always improve the products and improve the output for our customers, because we know what a challenge they have. So the, the great thing that we have as far as a unique, you know, positioning in the market is our competitors. What we call our legacy providers have what I see as a tremendous disadvantage from a, a technology perspective, because they're working on old systems and they're bandaided together, and it's hard to implement things like artificial intelligence and machine learning and things that were very critical to our platform like natural language processing and the way that our search algorithms work and all the things that we're able to take advantage of they're, they're really kind of handicapped by. So it gives us a big, big advantage. And I'll say the, um, super interesting, some of the, uh, regulatory enforcement agencies are starting to look to companies like us to help educate them on the technology and how that can help, help the industry as a whole move forward a little bit quicker and trying to solve some of these problems. So it's been, it's been interesting. Um, so it's hard to get buy in from customers sometimes when, you know, you're a smaller company and they don't know who you are. Um, and you're running up against, uh, legacy providers. Who've been around for many, many years, such as Lexus nexus. Who's had quite a bit of time to build a brand for themselves multi-billion dollar company. And, you know, and we're working with tier one banks and they might not know who we are. So, you know, it's really helpful to get a, a look from, uh, Fincen financial enforcement prime network to say, Hey, you know, you might wanna take a look, get what companies like Vital4 are doing, then they're not endorsing us, but they might, you know, they might say, Hey, you might want to look at something, you know, from a technology standpoint that, that some of these more, uh, modern companies are doingPlay the King:
Totally. And, you know, speaking of some of your customers, I wonder if you could just tell me a little bit, you know, make this concrete for, for the listeners who, who are you working with? Like who can you tell us about?Amy Barbieri:
Sure. Well, so, you know, as I mentioned, when we first started talking, we're in two different markets, so I'll, I'll address the background screening market first. Um, we, our go to market approach is really through channel partners. And so we have probably the top five largest background screening companies, maybe six, um, in the world that are our customers of ours. And they're looking to us to help provide data in screening services. And then they're packaging those services up and doing background checks and background screening for their customers. Um, utilizing our data in the financial services industry, we have the same approach from a partner perspective. We typically don't go straight to the tier one banks, which the sales cycle is, you know, could be three to five years long. We tend to partner with other fintechs or financial services companies that are, you know, providing services or maybe, um, technology to banks where they can, um, ingest our data and serve it to their customers to scale where,it would be, it would take us a lot longer to get there. So it's been a really good strategy for us and it's working. SoPlay the King:
Can I ask you what you've learned by being sort of, um, you know, a, a unique company in, in two ways? I think one, uh, a company led by women in, in the tech space and another, you know, being a tech company in, in Georgia in the south, like what do you think people don't understand necessarily about, about the, those two paths you guys are blazing?Amy Barbieri:
Yeah, that's a, that's a great question, too. I get asked about the challenges around a woman and tech company all of the time. And I think people are surprised by hearing my answer. And my answer is it's been an incredible advantage, I think, especially, I, I don't know if it's a Georgia thing. I, I know that we do have quite an incredible network of support here, whether it's the Metro Atlanta chamber or FinTech Atlanta, which I'm a part of the board there, and it's an incredible ecosystem here to support the industry and, um, particularly women in tech. So I think it's a great time to be, you know, a co-founder and a leader and a woman owned organization. So w e, I feel like we get a lot of special attention because of that. And, a nd we love it. We appreciate it. U m, nothing but open a rms w e've r eceived so far. So, yeah.Play the King:
Great. So just, could we summarize here and, and tell people where they can go to learn a little bit more about Vital4, your, your, your website is Vital4.net. Is there anything you you'd point them toward or, you know, like yeah, just, just, uh, wrap it up for us.Amy Barbieri:
Yeah, absolutely. Um, Vital4.net, and, you know, there's a, I know there's contact forms there, so feel free to reach out and we're happy to, to speak with anybody about what we do. And I just appreciate your, your questions and your time here today.Play the King:
Yeah, definitely. You too. Thanks. Thanks again.Amy Barbieri:
Yeah. And to real quick, the little, like, you know, tidbit of information, Atlanta has a nickname called transaction alley. Um, and you're, you're right it with the payment processors, but about 80% of the transactions in the country. And when I say transactions, I'm talking about a credit card, swipe, a debit card swipe, uh, you know, even a gift card, any, any kind of transaction that's happening is originated out of Atlanta. So to your point, yes, we've got a huge FinTech support system and a lot of payments companies, a lot of just financial companies that we're really trying to make Atlanta known as, you know, really as the FinTech capital of the world. And then we kind of compete with, with London, for, you know, financial services in New York, of course, but that's more on the traditional banking side. So it's cool. It's a cool you business to be in, at a really good time in a really good place.