Behind the Idea: Squirro

The pandemic caused a sharp acceleration of digital transformation in most industries, especially financial services (FS). Traditional banks and FS firms were faced with an urgent requirement to adopt the digital-first approach favoured by challenger brands. This also required boosting the number of touchpoints and interactions with their customers and delivering an exceptional customer experience.

This was virtually impossible to manage without the right data and analytics tools, which led to an increased interest in augmented intelligence. Squirro was able to meet this demand. The Insight Engine is Squirro’s core platform, gathering data from all sources. It uses natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to analyse unstructured data such as emails, customer call notes, news articles and earnings announcements. It then accesses the insight within it, and delivers the right information to the right users at the right time.

Dr Dorian Selz, CEO of SquirroDr Dorian Selz, CEO of Squirro
Dr Dorian Selz, CEO of Squirro

This process is augmented via Squirro’s solutions, which cover many FS sectors (like real estate, wealth management, investment banking and more) and departments (such as risk, sales, marketing, service) to provide recommendations, next-best actions, sentiment analysis and predictions.

Dr Dorian Selz, CEO of Squirro, is one of Switzerland’s most prominent entrepreneurs. Before co-founding Squirro, he founded the Swiss search platform, which became the market leader in four years.

What has been the traditional company response to financial technology innovations nationally?

To an extent, traditional FS firms have been unfairly castigated for being slow to embrace digital-first. We work with some big names such as Standard Chartered Bank, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, and the Deutsche Bundesbank. They are full of smart people who understand the need to innovate and make better use of their unstructured data to get actionable insight. But the structure of many bigger banks has made it harder for them to tap into fintech innovation.

We work with challenger FS brands too, and there is undoubtedly a difference. They are faster, more agile and they are willing not just to adopt digital but to base their entire business model around digital and data.

How has this changed over the past few years?

The situation has changed at speed. The pandemic accelerated the pace of digital transformation for everyone, and traditional FS firms now know they need to put fintech innovation front and centre of their proposition. Some will get there quicker than others, but there is much more urgency now around the need to change and make better use of insights held within data.

Is there anything that has created a culture of change inside the company?

Squirro has always been a company with a progressive approach to modern ways of working, so it’s been more of an evolution of what was already there. For every organisation, the way we interact and collaborate and find, share and consume information has changed. The volume of information is overwhelming, let alone the complexity due to the format and context. This undoubtedly requires a change of approach.

What fintech ideas have been implemented?

We have developed many projects over the past few years that expand the benefits of augmented intelligence, especially in fintech and regtech. The Bank of England adopted our ML-driven solution for its unstructured data mountain. This cognitive search project allowed 1,500 supervisors to easily search through documents and emails from their file systems, with intuitive and easy to use dashboards.

The European Central Bank uses our Insight Engine and Risk Insights solution to monitor and contextualise all relevant risk factors for the bank. Teams are provided with insights and next-best-action recommendations to help actively assess and mitigate ongoing risk levels.

What benefits have these brought?

Bank of England workers benefited from significantly reduced search time and gleaned greater insights from their documents. With access to information an increasingly important part of FS, Squirro Cognitive Search delivers a year-over-year reduction in search time of up to 90 per cent.

Our Risk Insights solution provides highly effective risk mitigation, supporting the digital transformation processes in FS institutions and providing clear, actionable insight on the best course of action to take when an organisation is presented with a potential risk or threat.

Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?

Something that we see more and more is organisations redefining the way their employees find information. Traditional enterprise search based on keywords is outdated. Cognitive search, based on a user’s intent and context, delivers faster and more accurate results and new ways of visualising the available data.

Within FS, many institutions are building internal data lakes to access data that has been mostly inaccessible until now. There is an ongoing need to get more insight from the data an organisation holds, and this need is only going to grow.

Can these challenges be aided by fintech?

They absolutely can. Squirro Cognitive Search is a proven and highly effective technology in significantly improving access to information. It even uses self-learning algorithms to enhance relevance. Our technology is ideally suited to FS firms that have large data sets. We can connect to a data lake and provide the required analytics to generate business value.

Final thoughts…

Across FS there is an increased necessity for a different approach to working with data. We have flipped information provision – instead of the user going to information, the right insights come to the user at the precise time when they are needed.

In marrying all kinds of data with intent and context, we help FS organisations make informed decisions and deliver actionable insights to them. Such insight is integral to CX and future banking models, and traditional banks are more alive than ever to the need for cutting-edge fintech innovation to drive them forward.

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.