The power and potential of artificial intelligence (AI) is no secret. However, for many financial service providers, it can be difficult, or too costly to implement the technology to maximise its effectiveness. One firm looking to ease these issues is Aveni.
Joseph Twigg is the CEO at Aveni, the Edinburgh-based regtech firm specialising in AI-driven risk assurance solutions. As a founder boasting 15 years of experience in the investment industry when he founded the company in 2018, we get his take on his journey into the AI space, as well as Aveni’s past, present and future.
Tell us more about your company and its purpose
Aveni was brought to being through a combination of deep financial services (FS) knowledge and world-leading natural language processing (NLP) expertise. We believe this combination is unique in the fintech world.
When I met Dr Lexi Birch – a professor at the University of Edinburgh and a widely recognised expert in multilingual NLP and ranked in the top 100 NLP engineers globally – in 2018, we agreed to set up Aveni and develop the AI products that could make FS much more efficient, productive and reduce the bottom line.
We are based in Edinburgh and have grown to about 35 staff – a mix of financial services, excellent engineering and sales and marketing experience. Many of our team are young and all are hungry to make a difference for our clients as we see AI explode into the world everywhere.
What are some of your recent achievements you’d like to highlight?
Development and launch of our Aveni Assist platform dedicated to enhancing the productivity of financial advisers by removing the administrative burden from compliance to sales and coaching. Tasks are automated to allow advisers to focus on the priority area: clients.
Partnership agreements with some of the biggest names in financial advice, banks & asset managers. Customers include Cavendish Online (part of Lloyds Banking Group), Aviva, Schroders, 7IM and Age Partnership.
How did you get into the fintech industry?
I’d worked in UK financial services for 15 years before, so I knew the market I was wanting to attract to this business and solutions. It is an industry well known for its outdated processes, constant regulatory changes and underserved demand.
My introduction to Lexi and the subsequent discussions that followed was when the business became reality. Together we conceived what was needed to make a difference for financial services and to bring something different to fintech.
How have your previous roles influenced your career?
I was the head of strategy at a global investment firm. My job was to grow business internationally from inception to sale; cradle to grave. That gave me loads of good experience to help start a business.
What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
Mistakes are an inevitable part of any journey, especially if you’re trying to do something new or hard. Mistakes should be quickly recognised, understood and resolved. The objective, of course, is to not repeat the mistake.
What has the future got in store for your company?
We will be making some interesting customer announcements over the next few months, and also raising further investment to help grow the business and further strengthen the team in both financial services and AI domain expertise.
From a product perspective, we are consolidating our platform – launching some exciting new functionality which will further support productivity gains.
The development of FinLLM with partners – a foundational Large Language Model (LLM) trained specifically on UK Financial Services data, looking to solve some of the most pressing challenges for LLM adoption in a heavily regulated setting.
What are the next key talking points or challenges for your industry as a whole?
How do we make AI easier to adopt and be more trusted – there is appetite and there is investment, but it has to stand up to regulatory challenges in this industry.
Really getting to grips with developing and honing industry-specific Large Language Models rather than relying on generic models which present a greater risk of mistake, non-specificity, and regulatory challenges. The pace of development is not speeding up but people are making choices based on FOMO and that isn’t the right process, ever.
In that same context, I would urge businesses to look to experts or specialists for advice, and not rely on non-expert consultants advising across multiple sectors. We have been very specific focusing on financial services to add much better value, knowledge and advice to our clients. That will bring better product offerings, and actual solutions as we really do understand their problems.