MindBridge's fraud-busting AI now a 'need-to-have' as firm brings new partner Equifax on board: CEO

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When MindBridge came on the scene seven years ago, the Ottawa company that uses artificial intelligence to help auditors detect financial fraud and accounting errors faced a familiar challenge for many tech firms breaking new ground: how to convince an industry governed by rigid guidelines that have evolved over decades – in this case, accounting – that it needed to leap headlong into the future.

In the wake of the firm’s latest blue-chip customer win, CEO Leyton Perris believes MindBridge is taking another step closer to the mainstream.

“We are seeing a general market acceptance of AI-enabled science and machine learning being a need-to-have versus a nice-to-have,” the New York-based executive told Techopia in a recent interview.

Perris has plenty of reasons to be in a buoyant mood – not the least of which is MindBridge’s new partnership with data analytics giant Equifax Canada. 

The company best known for providing consumer credit scores is teaming up with the Ottawa fintech firm to build technology that will help Equifax’s clients pinpoint potential identity fraud by identifying unusual patterns in financial data flows and other suspicious behaviour. 

According to Equifax, so-called synthetic identity fraud costs Canadian companies more than $1 billion a year.

“This can help our customers by providing them with richer context and information to make decisions throughout the lending life cycle, which can ultimately help Canadian consumers,” Carl Davies, Equifax Canada’s head of fraud and identity, said in a statement. 

Fathi factor

“We have been impressed with the simplicity and effectiveness of the MindBridge technology and are looking forward to continuing our partnership with the MindBridge team.”  

The Equifax deal is the latest indication that AI is poised to become standard equipment in the financial services industry, if it isn’t already. And MindBridge is right at the forefront, a place it’s been since its inception in 2015. 

The pioneering software venture had a few things tilting the odds in its favour from the get-go.

Founder Solon Angel already had plenty of street cred thanks to his previous stints in Silicon Valley and at data analytics firms CaseWare and Solink, another fast-rising Ottawa fraud-detection startup where Angel served as head of product development before launching MindBridge.

Then there's the Fathi factor. 

Founding CEO Eli Fathi was already a local legend before taking the helm at MindBridge, having co-founded online survey provider Fluidware among other successful ventures while serving as a mentor to countless tech founders over a four-decade career. Fathi remains chair of the board, serving as a valued adviser to Perris.

Under their leadership, MindBridge secured partnerships with blue-chip customers such as the Bank of Canada and Bank of England and landed more than $40 million in venture capital. Two years ago, the firm forged what it called a “bridge to Europe,” opening an office in London following its acquisition of U.K.-based AI startup Brevis, which helps customers with tax and corporate reporting.

In addition to its headquarters on St. Laurent Boulevard, the company also has offices in New York, Austin, Tex., and Adelaide, Australia, to help it serve a growing number of customers in more than a dozen countries. MindBridge is gaining attention in the financial press south of the border, too – last summer, Forbes named the firm to its list of the world’s 50 most promising AI companies.

One eye-popping number sheds light on the scope of the problem MindBridge is attempting to address. 

$4.7 trillion lost annually

According to the latest data from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, more than $4.7 trillion is lost annually to occupational fraud worldwide. While auditors find billions of dollars in fraud each year, the vast majority of nefarious financial activity still goes undetected, suggesting MindBridge should have a planet full of customers willing to buy its software.

Perris, who took over as chief executive when Fathi retired last summer, says sales wins are indeed starting to come with greater frequency. MindBridge’s recurring revenues rose more than 200 per cent last year, and he expects the firm to follow a similar trajectory in 2022. 

Now at about 130 employees, MindBridge is on pace to add another 30 to 40 workers to its payroll by the end of this year, mostly in product development and service delivery, as it continues to hone its AI and tweak its user interface.

While many Ottawa software executives are gnashing their teeth over the much-publicized tech talent crunch, Perris says he sleeps soundly at night knowing his firm is in good hands.

“There’s no issues finding talent,” he said. “We have good retention and wonderful access to talent in Ottawa.”