“Be persistent, and be convicted, and that takes you a long, long way. The ones that lose their passion and convictions peter off. So, really if you believe that you are changing the world, back yourself.”
That’s advice to fintech founders, from New Zealand-based Authsignal founder Justin Soong, who “fell into fintech, and fell in love with fintech”. It’s advice that comes from 10+ years of experience, which culminated in the development of a platform offering a suite of cybersecurity tools.
Soong says, “Authsignal really was born out of the fact that for the past 10 years I've been, I guess, typecasted as a fintech engineer. And throughout that journey, there was just one thing that I kept seeing reoccurring with every start-up or new fintech platform that I joined … [that] fintechs chase the customer and acquire customers very quickly, but on the flip side, realise that as financial product providers, [they] are also risk-based businesses. What I found was, from fintech to fintech, all these risk controls that every good financial and responsible platform needs to have [are] built from scratch. Authsignal plans to have a suite of tools that can be dropped into any fintech, so that they can sleep easier knowing that their customers are safe and they’re doing everything they can to be responsible with privacy and data.”
Authsignal provides an out-of-the-box, passwordless / multi-factor authentication (MFA), no code rules engine suite, built specifically for modern Fraud Ops teams, allowing businesses to create workflows, trigger rules and implement challenges in hours. Soong says they have drawn on several best practices and industry trends to develop an intelligent, ‘plug and play’ solution.
“The way I tried to analogise it is, when [you’re] ingesting and collecting sensitive data or providing very complex and very readily available financial products, you need to figure out whether or not your locks on your system [are] either bigger or stronger and hard to break into, or whether or not they’re smart enough to identify and understand what the customer is doing and [how] their users are behaving on your platform.
“Authsignal’s suite of products essentially can be dropped in any kind of fintech platform that’s really concerned about security and safety, but not compromising on the customer experience. Our rules engine … can ingest customer data or behaviour and give you the rules for your platform to essentially change the levers to how secure something should be, depending on risk, and letting … customers through without any kind of blockers.
“That's where the future of security is moving, rather than big heavy locks and big safes that are really great at stopping people from accessing the data, but ultimately, it really doesn't do anything for the customer experience and puts people off using the service.”
The cybersecurity industry has been a major focus over the past year, and Soong says that although the data breach incidents have been unfortunate, the discussions around them have assisted in making data security a key focus.
“For the last 10 years or since the last crisis where we’ve experienced a boom in the delivery of digital products and services, especially during COVID, we've [society has] done a very good job in digitising a lot of our interactions with businesses. But, where the wheels come off is, there are big questions that need to be asked on how companies actually treat sensitive data.”
“So, it's a great time to do this, and it’s also a great time where security and data and privacy is now more in the spotlight as opposed to high scale consumer acquisition. So, I'm glad that we're here now after the last couple of years. I think it’s number one with every financial product now.”
Soong says that shift from consumer acquisition focus to value-add focus has been important. “I think there’s obviously a huge mandate shift from investors to their companies … to a more profit-driven mindset, and you're starting to see fintechs that have already baked-in good economics into their business model – the ones that are responsible with financial, interest-bearing products, they're very slick consumer experience – [which] seem to be weathering the storm.
“There's been a big push in other parts of fintech … it's now up to them to really turn [to] their consumer bases that they rapidly acquired and figure out what other value-added options and value that they can give. I think it’s very exciting because the economics is now dictating a shift in how products need to change and it's not a pure customer acquisition play. This is a great time to be thinking about how fintech can really shape the next 10 years.”
Authsignal raised its first round of funding in mid-2022, with fintech investors including ANZ brands, which provide a “great tick of validation” for the business and technology. Soong says that while “privacy and security is a global problem”, the launch in Australia and New Zealand makes sense.
“Aussie fintechs, especially in this climate, are very interested in security and privacy, and we have great chats because they just want to connect to begin with, understand the risk landscape, and maybe tap on a little bit of my previous experience in ‘buy now, pay later’ to overlay that with what they do. So, I'm very happy, [and] very fortunate to have alumni, and pool their environment [or] ecosystem in our backyard.”
When he’s not focussing on cybersecurity, Soong has a hidden talent he likes to practice. “I used to be part of a barbershop chorus and we, about 7 years ago, flew to Las Vegas to perform in front of a 40,000-large enthusiastic American crowd. … I’d love to pick that right up now I have a little bit more control over my time being a founder, as opposed to running around, being under the pump. … [Performing] is an unreal feeling. I think I just have to shake it off and open my trap and sing as loud as I can. Having that opportunity was electric and it’s good memories.”