EUROPEAN BUSINESS MAGAZINE MEET’S WITH DSS CEO E. Jay Saunders
The high flying entrepreneur from Turks and Caicos who is leaving his mark in the GlobalFintech Industry.
Domus Semo Sancus (DSS) has recently won 2 ACQ5 Global Awards: company got the 2017 International Company of the
Year (FinTech) award, and you, as the CEO, picked up the International Game Changer of the Year award. This is truly
impressive.What are the main goals for the company now, in 2018 and for 2019.
EJS: Every time we receive an award, it validates what we’re doing. That we should keep focusing on “Making Lives Better”. As for our
main goals for 2018 and 2019, we have several items on our roadmap that we’re excited about rolling out. Features that will further
save our customers time and money. We’re closing out 2018 strong in terms of sales, better than expected, and we expect the trend to
continue in 2019. To accommodate the projected sales growth, and to continue to provide a high level of customer service, we will be
hiring additional staff in 2019.
DSS was established in 2014. Now, as almost 4 years have gone by, you are receiving International awards in FinTech.
What were the main challenges that company had to overcome to get here?
EJS: DSS is a Caribbean technology startup, founded in the Turks & Caicos Islands, and we’re very proud of our roots.
Unfortunately, there are so few Tech startups in this region, that there is no ecosystem in place that we can tap into. Venture
capital is nonexistent, so finding funding is difficult. To overcome that, I self-financed DSS 100%. Thankfully it’s now at the
point where it’s generating revenues and covering its costs, but it took a few years and lots of personal sacrifice to get here.
DSS is committed to closing the divide between the banked and unbanked by helping individuals gain access to the
financial services they need. Company has created 2 powerful tools — SafetyNet and Wowlet. They’ve even been named
as the products that are “set to reshape the financial world“.
Can you explain to us more this statement?
EJS: There are approximately 1.7 billion adults in the world that are unbanked. That’s larger than the population of China. It
is estimated that banking the unbanked will generate approximately US$380 billion in new revenues for financial
institutions. With our tools, financial institutions are now able to bring the unbanked into the formal banking sector, and
when that starts to happen in earnest, major disruptions will take place in the global banking sector.
Are there any plans in the future to release more products that complement each other like SafetyNet and Wowlet?
EJS: SafetyNet is integral to all our products, and we expect that to continue with our future products. As for Wowlet, it’s a product
and an ecosystem, and we have plans to roll out many complimentary products and services within Wowlet’s ecosystem.
SafetyNet.ai — an award-winning cloud based enhanced due diligence (EDD) cognitive search and crime prevention tool.
How did it come to life — what’s the story behind it?
EJS: Before we can make Wowlet available to the global unbanked, we need to minimize the chances of it being used for nefarious
reasons. First, and foremost, we need to know who our customers are, and not just collectively, but at an individual level. The Know Your Customer (KYC) guidelines are set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – the inter-governmental body that sets the
standards around combating money laundering and terrorist financing. Over 190 countries have signed up to the FATA guidelines.
Since our intention is to make Wowlet a global product, we needed a screening tool that could cover the globe. Unfortunately, there
wasn’t one available, and so we built SafetyNet.ai. It was originally meant to be our in-house KYC screening tool for Wowlet, but as
other organizations started expressing an interest in using it, we decided to commercialize it.
How does it help to prevent crime?
EJS: SafetyNet helps organizations conduct enhanced due diligence screening on their customers, allowing them to get a good
understanding of the potential risk that each customer represents. With SafetyNet’s machine learning and pattern recognition
capabilities, along with its ability to search through structured and unstructured data, organizations can quickly detect and prevent
crimes such as identity theft, money laundering, and terrorist financing. SafetyNet Safe City (designed specifically for law
enforcement) goes even further with built-in linked analysis and object recognition capabilities, which helps law enforcement detect
and solve crimes within hours rather than days.
Wowlet. It’s described as a pre-paid digital wallet designed to encourage financial inclusion and help bridge the e-
commerce divide. It’s built on top of SafetyNet. There already are a few options of digital wallets — what do you think makes Wowlet unique?
EJS: Wowlet’s ecosystem is being developed to be as convenient as the prepaid mobile phone ecosystem is today. From a
commercial point of view, Wowlet’s feature set will be second to none, its customer experience will be best-in-class, and its
pricing will offer the best value for money. Notwithstanding its commercial strengths, Wowlet’s main strength will be its
regulatory advantage, as it will be tightly integrated with SafetyNet, allowing it to meet the stringent KYC/AML
recommendations of the FATF. With approximately 200 countries committing to the FATF recommendations, we expect
Wowlet to be in a very strong position when it launches in late 2019.
How does it work?
EJS: Wowlet will be available as both a cloud-based app and a mobile phone app, which will allow customers to engage with it through their mobile phones or on any device with a modern browser. It will support the cashing in (via bank transfer, credit/debit card, or with cash) and cashing out of funds. With Wowlet, customers will be able to conduct financial transactions such as transferring funds to other Wowlet customers, paying bills, and sending/receiving remittances.
What aspects do you think are the most important ones for Wowlet platform to be successful globally?
EJS: Before Wowlet can be deployed globally, it needs to be able to meet the FATA guidelines, which makes regulatory compliance its most critical success factor. However, to succeed commercially, Wowlet will need to be convenient, easy to use, and affordable.
EJS: Our databases are very large, and they’re growing by tens of thousands of records per day, but that’s still far from where we want to be, which is growing by over a million records per day. To support that type of growth, we’re investing heavily in Internet Search and Storage technologies. We don’t want our applications and customer experience to be negatively affected as we ingest more and more data, and so, we’re also spending a lot on database optimization and local searching technologies. However, none of that matters if we’re not producing reliable results, and so our most significant investments are in Artificial Intelligence technologies – mainly Natural Language Processing, Sentiment Analysis, Machine Learning, and pattern recognition.
De-risking and financial inclusion. These terms are frequently used while talking about SafetyNet, Wowlet and DSS in general. How do other players in the FinTech field react to them?
EJS: We haven’t seen any other FinTech companies trying to address the issue of de-risking. I think that’s mainly because the countries that are feeling the pain of de-risking are not the ones producing FinTech companies. The affected countries are doing the best they can, which is trying to address the issue through dialog.
What about financial institutions and banks around the world — what reactions do you get from them?
EJS: We’ve only been around for four years, and organizations are only now finding out that SafetyNet produces some of the highest quality results in the industry. As more and more financial institutions and banks realize that with SafetyNet’s insights, that they can reliably apply risk mitigation measures down to the client level with a high degree of precision, we will see the de-risking of whole regions become a thing of the past.
What are the main clients DSS is working with right now?
EJS: The category of companies that are mandated to meet the FATF recommendations are Financial Institutions, Accountants, Credit Institutions, Solicitors, Tax Advisors, Insolvency Practioners, Trust Service Providers, Casinos, Automotive Dealers, Jewelers, Charted Surveyors, and Estate Agents. Any business that fall into one of these categories is a potential client of SafetyNet, and many of our clients come from these industries. We also have a lot of Governments as clients – particularly Financial Regulators.
Can you say a few words about the future? How do you think DSS will look like 5 years from now?
EJS: In 5 years our staff size and global footprint will be much larger. We’re opening office in at least 2 new countries next year, which will increase the number of countries with a DSS office to 4. In 5 years, that number will be at least 10. While we’re mainly known for SafetyNet today, in 5 years, we’ll be mainly known for Wowlet, which by that time will have more than a million customers using it.
What do you think are the main challenges for this business and company ahead?
EJS: Right now, our biggest challenge is finding quality data that will allow us to scale up, but without negatively affecting the quality of our results. While we expect to always have this challenge, once we roll out Wowlet, we will take on a different set of challenges (e.g. regulatory, consumer customer support, and the build out of the ecosystem) as we go from being primarily a provider of products and services to financial organizations, to being one ourselves. However, with 1.7 billion adults still unbanked, we have more than enough incentive to overcome the challenges towards “Making Lives Better”.