Until a few years ago, banking, as an industry, seemed ripe for disruption at the hands of pioneering fintech startups; the big banks and other traditional financial institutions saw these new entrants as interlopers. But, in 2018, these rivalries seem like a distant memory. If anything, fintech companies seem to be working side-by-side with the traditional players of the industry. At the centre of this new intersection between traditional banking and technology is FI.SPAN. Founded in 2016, the startup reimagines the business banking experience.
Essentially, FI.SPAN is a platform that helps banks service their corporate clients better by integrating banking services with fintech and enterprise solutions. For banks, these integrations can be a huge advantage because modernizing their legacy systems so that they can talk to other solutions can be costly. But, with a marketplace of fintech services already preloaded onto the FI.SPAN platform, banks can essentially pick and choose what they would like to add to their own systems. These new technologies can then be tested in a sandbox within the bank’s own domain before going live, greatly reducing the time-to-market.
We sat down with FI.SPAN’s cofounder and chief strategy officer Clayton Weir — Lisa Shields is the other cofounder, and the chief executive officer — to learn more about the company, doing business in Canada, and the importance of data security.
Trulioo: Can you describe your aha moment? Where were you, what were you doing, etc?
Clayton: I am not sure when Lisa first had the inspiration, but I invited her to speak at a fintech event and she shared her first thesis for what became FI.SPAN. It just felt like such a correct assessment of where business banking was going that I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I had seen over 300 startup pitches and hadn’t felt that way before.
Trulioo: How would you describe the current state of business banking innovation in Canada?
Clayton: At the risk of being controversial, I would describe it as stagnant. The whole Canadian system has spent a lot of time and money on trying to improve retail banking and has had some wins. We do believe the work that Payments Canada is doing — modernization combined with open banking is going to start to warm things up. That being said, there are a couple of financial institutions in Canada with very bold visions for banking and when those become public, I think it [innovation in business banking] will attract investment.
Trulioo: Security is a hot topic when it comes to regulations, especially when it comes to managing banking information. How does FI.SPAN ensure data security, privacy and compliance?
Clayton: From a process perspective, we are really proud of achieving a SOC 2 Type 1 certificate right after our first birthday. SOC 2 is a reporting standard that focuses on a business’ non-financial reporting controls as they relate to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of a system. This certificate is mandatory if you want to become a significant service provider to tier one banks.
On the security side, we use a lot of the awesome features that AWS has made available in their infrastructure stack. In addition to HTTPS for all our APIs, we also use the OAuth protocol for API. We maintain good hygiene with regular penetration tests, static code scans and tests on every release.
On privacy, we are trying to migrate towards compliance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which, on principle, has a lot of the right ideas and similar concepts that will arrive in North America shortly. We have dedicated security and privacy officers; we also have our annual SOC audit.
Trulioo: This last question is a fun one. If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Clayton: I would read a ton more. A couple of years ago, I read about 65 books, but I had to kill pretty much most of my hobbies, and neglect some of the chores around the house. Learning is fun.
To learn more about FI.SPAN and get the latest updates, follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn.
If there’s a fintech company you would like to see featured in our Fintechs in Canada blog series, please submit your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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