Joanne Smith: Tech is a male dominated industry and this is means that women don’t often see themselves succeeding in a tech career. On one hand, getting women into tech is about making sure they have opportunities to learn the key skills. The number of initiatives which are helping get women and girls into coding are a great example. But on the other hand, companies need to get more serious about workplace diversity today, otherwise the next generation of girls won’t be able to see role models among the ranks of the big tech players and might be discouraged, even if they have gained the skills they need.
What are the key differences between senior roles in a corporate as opposed to running a tech business?
J. S.: Having worked in corporates, I know all too well how decision making can be political and slow. This especially true for women as we were never taught the rules of engagement! Running a tech business is fast-paced. Our team can see decisions become action in almost real time. Of course, one of the pitfalls of success in a tech business is getting larger. The growing pains of the company are acutely felt by the founder, whose once scrappy team is suddenly much larger and less nimble.
How did you get the idea of your startup – why AI?
J. S.: Part of being an entrepreneur is about being brave enough to believe you can solve a stubborn problem. I think you need to be especially brave to try and solve a problem that you are an example of. I had been working with my team in compliance consulting for decades. We knew the limitations of how our advice was being applied by financial institutions. It was clear that a scalable technology solution could fix a lot of what banks were struggling with. In short, instead of trying to use the same limited tools to solve expanding problems, we starting thinking about how we could expand the tools. AI is a brilliant new frontier in this regard. It help makes the human input, which remains so critical, have a much greater impact.
You gathered an amazing team – data scientists and linguists from Cambridge as well as lead engineers of Apple’s ‘Siri’ to develop Recordsure. How did you motivate them to join your startup?
J. S.: Tech companies often get evaluated on the quality of their “talent.” We certainly fortunate to have a highly talented team at Recordsure. During our hiring phase, we found that Recordsure appeal to some really brilliant people for two reasons. First, they were excited to be developing a first-of-itskind product that is difficult to create. This is real innovation. Second, individuals were excited to work on a project with people with very different talents and background. In bringing engineers, scientists, and linguists together, you ended up with a much more dynamic workplace. I think companies should embrace diversity in talent– it helps attract the best and brightest people.
What is the main problem your business is solving?
J. S.: Recordsure makes it easier for large banks and financial institutions to ensure that their employees are conducting themselves to the highest standards and looking out for the interests of customers or clients. Our technology helps companies record and analyse conversations with customers to make sure that the right information is being shared in the right ways so that both the customer and the bank have better outcomes.
What are the major challenges for your business?
J. S.: Financial institutions are large and complex organisations. Anytime you want to institute a new technology or a new type of process you will encounter challenges. The organisations we work with very quickly understand the value of our solution, but it can take a bit longer to find the best way to implement it! l Do you see applications of your business activities in the field of financial inclusion? (It’s totally fine if you don’t!) – Although we are currently focusing on a rollout with financial institutions, we see lots of potential applications wherever a sensitive conversation is happening between someone providing advice and a client. For example, the ability to better monitor conversations between doctors and patients could offer health services an ability to finetune their healthcare.
What is the major social impact your business has delivered so far as you see it?
J. S.: We believe that our platform will improve the quality of service that banks are able to provide their customers. More transparency and better compliance monitoring should help protect the interests of the public in many ways.
Your piece of advice to women in tech?
J. S.: Never doubt that you could be the first person to have an excellent idea.
Recordsure was founded in 2011 by Joanne Smith. The concept for Recordsure emerged from Joanne’s 20-year career in financial services and her subsequent role as CEO of TCC, the UK’s largest leading provider of compliance solutions. Prior to founding TCC, Joanne held senior roles at leading financial services organisations including HBOS and KPMG. She also worked as a regulator at the FSA. She holds an MBA from Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausées in Paris. Named Women in Compliance Awards’ first Inspirational Woman of the Year in 2014, Joanne is also a Natwest Everywoman Award nominee. This award recognises female tech entrepreneurs developing real-world solutions to help build a smarter planet.
In 2012, seeing a gap in the face-to-face advisory market, Joanne realised that technology could help solve some of the complex compliance issues affecting financial institutions, as well as the potential for future mis-selling (which has cost UK banks over £53bn in the last 15 years) and poor advice issues for customers. It was then that Joanne committed substantial finances to research and development for a technology product that could be supported by the existing expertise and industry knowledge of TCC. She employed a raft of data scientists and linguists from Cambridge as well as the lead engineers of Apple’s ‘Siri’ to develop Recordsure and now has the most advanced AI conversation analytics on the market. She received £14m in funding from the Business Growth Fund