Deciding on a theme for this week’s edition of Our Week in Digital was a tricky one. Not being able to decide, we opted to go with two, AI and Fintech!

AI and Fintech are both huge topics which regularly dominate headlines. AI and the closely associated RPA are two of the hottest tech trends set to explode over 2020. Therefore it is not surprising that there is acquisition, launches and investment a plenty within this growing space.

The noise surrounding Fintech has never been louder. As consumers, we are demanding more from our financial service providers. Challenger banks are expanding their services to better meet our needs. Significant investment is fuelling this growth.  This means that there are more options than ever before for both personal and business banking. The fintech revolution means the world has become smaller. We are seeing UK headquartered enterprises looking to expand globally, while mainland European institutions are increasingly identifying the UK has a hotbed of opportunity.

Read on for more!

Directly raises $20m to improve Customer Service with AI.

In the first of our stories from the AI and Fintech spaces we look to practical uses of AI. A survey conducted by CustomerThermometer suggests that 54% of us have higher expectations for customer service than we did just a year ago.  

Concepts such as AI, Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation are changing the way routine, repetitive tasks such as customer service are performed. Automation means that these procedures are becoming more slick and streamlined.  

San Francisco based startup, Directly have reacted. It has recognised how automation is pivotal in helping business organisations meet our expectations. Directly help enterprise customers to launch and train virtual agents. Ones that can double their automation rate.  

This week Directly have announced they have received a $20 million investment. According to Directly, Chief Business Officer, Mike De la Cruz, the fresh capital will “significantly” expand the company’s ability to bring AI and customer experience automation to the market.

What are the benefits of using Directly?

De la Cruz claims companies using Directly can reduce support-ticket volume by up to 80%, and cost per customer contact by over 90%. This is a remarkable saving, especially when it is considered that the top 2,000 corporations in the U.S. spend about $250 billion each year on supporting customers. Despite this huge spend, the average customer service rating for these corporations stands at 75%. Directly claim that it can boost those ratings to around 93%, and can reduce response times to a maximum of 3 minutes across digital channels. 

Directly have some high profile clients; Microsoft, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Autodesk, Samsung, and SAP to name a handful. De la Cruz says these huge corporations are saving an average of tens of millions of dollars per year. He goes on to say that SME companies can reap rewards of $1 million each year.

How does it work?

The Directly platform taps AI algorithms trained by thousands of subject matter experts. They have analysed contact centre interactions and have taught the AI to strategically answer, automate, and prevent customer issues. The algorithms are designed to integrate with existing customer relationship management platforms and messaging apps. These include Microsoft’s Bot Framework, Salesforce’s Einstein Bot, and Google’s Dialogflow. It matches chatbots and human agents with customers across channels in a unified experience.

This latest round comes off the back of a very lucrative year in Delivery’s journey – the startup has grown by 10% per month over the last six months. It brings the total raised by Directly to over $55 million. In April 2018, Directly successfully raised a Series B investment of $20million.  

This investment was led by Industry Ventures with participation from Samsung, NEXT and AvidBank. Existing investors M12, Costanoa Ventures, True Ventures, and Northgate also participated.  

Broadly speaking, autonomous customer service is becoming the norm. It seems many of us like it this way. Some studies detail that 25% of people prefer to have their queries handled by chatbot agents or other self-service alternatives. Salesforce has published stats which suggest that roughly 69% of consumers choose chatbots for quick communication with brands.

Challenger bank, Monzo is in talks with Softbank.

The second of our stories from the AI and Fintech worlds shifts focus back to the Fintech side with Monzo, a huge name within Fintech. According to some tech news pages, Monzo Chief Executive and co-founder, Tom Blomfield has twice met with senior SoftBank Vision Fund executives.

It has been remarked that these meetings have been fuelled by the challenger bank’s plans for US expansion. The business is seeking new funds to realise its vision. 

It is understood that the startup is seeking to harness around £100 million in new funding. Back in June, Monzo received a £113 million investment from US fund Y Combinator Continuity. This was an investment which led to the company being valued at over £2bn. This figure is double its previous valuation.

The discussions are at an early stage, and no formal funding deal has been agreed. However, the landscape looks promising.  

SoftBank has a history of showing an interest in European fintech startups. The Japanese investor has invested $390m (£297.7m) in British digital bank OakNorth. OakNorth is a lender to small and medium enterprises. Additionally, SoftBank has already met with Monzo rival, Revolut.  

Revolut, is believed to be in talks to raise hundreds of millions of pounds of venture capital. Money that could value the firm at up to $10bn.

Monzo’s growth

Monzo has grown significantly since 2015. It currently has over 3.7 million customers in the UK and is now beginning to launch its banking app in the US. Back in June, the company initially offered its services to a limited number of customers in Los Angeles. Since this time, the company has burned through venture capital funds in its pursuit of expansion. The latest accounts show that it lost around £55million in the year to February, up from £33m in the previous year.

Analysts predict that any new SoftBank investment into financial technology will come from the investor’s second Vision Fund, which began investing money last year. 


If more proof was needed that AI automation was the hot ticket of 2020 and a lucrative investment opportunity….  

Customer experience automation platform, ActiveCampaign has received $100million in series B investment.  

Our third AI and Fintech story stays within the realm of finance, for an impressive funding round. The round was led by Susquehanna Growth Equity and has come off the back of four years of significant growth. ActiveCampaign has boosted annual recurring revenue sevenfold AND has opened offices in Indianapolis, Dublin, and Sydney while “significantly” expanding its presence in Brazil. It has also grown its workforce from 65 to over 550 employees. 300 of these have joined the team in the past year alone.

ActiveCampaign help businesses automate email marketing, customer relationship management and ad campaign processes. ActiveCampaign’s automation is powered by AI and machine learning algorithms. They are customised with flows that inform hundreds of unique experiences generated dynamically for each person.

What does it cover?

The ActiveCampaign suite of products covers email and text marketing automation. Emails can be broadcast to anyone in a contact list or configure triggers that send messages based on purchase intent, site visits, or engagement. It has segmenting tools that let managers group audiences and orchestrate email autoresponders, funnels, and scheduled emails. An integrated drag-and-drop email designer enables features like revision histories, geotracking, analytics, image hosting, and social sharing.

ActiveCampaign also supports split testing. Up to five emails with different subject lines, content, images, and calls to action can be tested at once. It records metrics like conversion rate, opens and more, which allow companies to group the best-performing options to the top. A split action feature allows customers with a certain number of products to make offers until they sell out before sending contacts down a different automation path.

Looking beyond email, ActiveCampaign offers both a text message and social media marketing platform; ones that support scheduling, notification, automation, targetting and segmentation. Companies can target people with Facebook Ads for example, and draw on data. They can then automatically retarget recipients based on their visits to websites, product interests, form submissions, custom fields, and other collected information.

What sets it apart?

One of the appeals of ActiveCampaign over competitors is that it integrates with several notable existing tools. These include Gmail, Outlook, PayPal, Stripe, Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Facebook, Zapier, WordPress, and over 250 others. It also can boast a marketplace with over 300 predefined automations from 200 tech partners.

Founder, VandeBoom confirms that ActiveCapmpaign’s client list is growing; 90,000 customers covering 161 countries. Echoing the sentiment from our first story he believes that “Customer experience makes or breaks a business” and that he is proud to head up a business that can provide the “critical piece that helps growing companies find success … as they scale”.  

The global campaign management software market was valued at approximately $1.85 billion in 2017. It is estimated to grow at 15.65% from 2018 to 2025. With this fact in mind, VandeBoom is not wrong to assert that ActiveCampaign became open to funding at the right time. It will undoubtedly ensure that he and his growing team can continue to deliver during this time of rapid growth.

BBVA – backed digital bank, Holvi launches in the UK.

Another fintech story for our AI and Fintech focus for you next! The Finnish digital banking service for self-employed and small businesses, Holvi has officially launched in the UK this week.

Headquartered in Helsinki, this launch sees Holvi expand its European presence with plans to build on the 200,000 users who already use the digital banking service.

Holvi’s mission is to help self-employed and small business owners succeed financially. Holvi provides an easy-to-use service that saves time and money. Both of these are invaluable and in short supply if you fall into one of these two business categories.

Holvi suggests that its customers save up to 10 hours a month managing their business finances. Time and effort that is better spent developing their product.  

How does it do this?

Primarily, it does this by removing friction…such as manually inputting receipt data to spreadsheets – and doing away with complicated calculations needed for tax and invoice management.

Holvi offers an all-in-one payment account that allows business owners to set up their accounts digitally. They can upload photos of expense receipts, create and send professional invoices, get notified when they receive payments, categorise expenses for bookkeeping and see how their business is doing in real-time. This can all be done with no paperwork and across a single platform.

CEO Antti-Jussi Suominen is optimistic about the future of Holvi’s UK expansion and is not fearful over the uncertainty Brexit presents. He remarks that the UK is, and always has been, one of the strongest markets for fintech and has a great reputation for incubating small business and sole traders.  

He goes on to say that;

“We want to support every single sole trader and freelancer in the UK. They are the backbone of the economy, and we genuinely believe that the banking market for microbusinesses is ineffective – it simply doesn’t work for a lot of businesses…For most people, their business is personal and therefore they need a solution tailored for their needs – something Holvi delivers.”

Perhaps this driven statement is fuelled by Holvi’s history. The business was co-founded in 2011 by Tuomas Toivonen. He experienced firsthand the frustration of trying to balance a core ‘job’ with managing the finances from a traditional banking platform. He worked to develop Holvi as a solution to these issues; the result is a company and service based upon empathy and understanding for small business owners…a demographic not traditionally supported by legacy banking institutions and services.

ServiceNow acquires conversational startup Passage AI

For our fifth AI and Fintech story, we shift the focus back to AI in chatbots. It has been announced this week that ServiceNow has acquired Passage AI, a startup that helps customers develop chatbots in multiple languages.

With this acquisition, ServiceNow gets a host of Passage AI talent as well as some amazing AI technology. Technology which coincides nicely with the ServiceNow mission! The company’s chatbot solutions give ServiceNow an automated way to respond to customer/user inquiries.  

Interestingly for ServiceNow, Passage AI includes an IT automation component that uses a conversational interface to submit tickets, handle queries and take direct action through APIs.  

It also includes an HR automation piece, giving the company an intelligent tool it could incorporate across its Now Platform in tools like ServiceNow Virtual Agent and Service Portal, as well as Workspaces in multiple languages.

Debu Chatterjee is the senior director of AI Engineering at ServiceNow. He has confirmed in a statement that it is the multi-lingual aspect of the offering that appealed. 

“Building deep learning, conversational AI capabilities into the Now Platform will enable a work request initiated in German or a customer inquiry initiated in Japanese to be solved by Virtual Agent”, he says.

As we know, increasingly, companies are looking for ways to automate common customer service queries…chatbots are being used as the primary resource. Humans are brought in in instances where bots are unable to answer specific queries. Passage AI will give ServiceNow greater knowledge among this growing area.

Although the companies have not shared details of the deal, it is expected that it will close this quarter.

UK Fintech Zeux launches savings alternative.

Our last AI and Fintech story that caught our eye this week comes from Zeux. This week, the UK financial institution has launched a safe, Easy Access Money Pot mobile savings solution which gives app users 5% interest AER. This is up to 25x higher than some high street banks saving interest rates. The Easy Access Money Pot alternative is not only generous but is also guaranteed by two financial institutions; Zeux Ltd and Wecash.

The growth of the fintech world has opened up the world of banking and financial services. One which shrugs off legacy banking and offers out services that deliver a better customer experience across many areas of consumer finance.

It also draws upon global models which have been successful. The way Zeux has set up its savings-like account, for example, is popular across Asian countries and works in a similar way to Alipay’s “Yu’e Bao”.

Zeux offers users payment functionality, along with the ability to track transactions and monitor savings and investment options seamlessly, while also ensuring that they are achieving the highest returns on their money.

Zeux evolved to democratise finance and to make the complex and expensive financial management processes easy and accessible to all. Founder, Frank Zhou is a technology entrepreneur and a former investment banker. He has experience of the obstacles that traditional banking structures present for customers, and has remarked openly that these models do not offer lucrative investment or savings options for UK savers.

How tech is changing the UK saving scene

“Savings rates for UK consumers are shockingly low, in comparison to other regions in the world. Technology has made it possible to open up the borders, enabling the creation of new and better performing financial options that bring higher interest rates and better yields to the UK market”.  

He asserts that although the tech revolution has transformed banking, in the most part, for the better, it has thrown out other challenges. Consumers are re-engaging with their finances through their smartphones, requiring the industry to provide a seamless and efficient user experience.  

In a world where customers have their finances spread over multiple specialist apps and are difficult to manage, Zeux creates a frictionless experience. Its single entry mobile platform options empower users to better manage their finances. Consumers get full visibility of payments, high-interest savings and investment options and the ability to pay anywhere using a cryptocurrency wallet, all in one mobile experience.


We hope you enjoyed this week’s edition with stories from the AI and Fintech spaces. As always, if any AI and Fintech stories have caught your eye then leave us a comment!   

About the author: As Client Relationship Director, I am responsible for helping grow the new and existing client base of Ignite Digital. I work as a “trusted connection” with my clients and candidates aiming to deliver the best service I can to connect talent to opportunity.

1 thought on “AI and Fintech – Our Week in Digital (31st January)

  1. Miles,

    A great read, please could you share this with me in a pdf format so I can reference? Many thanks. Liam

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