S02E03: Martina King, Featurespace

In our series of conversations with founders of European startups, we speak with Martina King of UK-based machine learning software company, Featurespace, which is well on its way to unicorn status.

The world leader in fraud and financial crime prevention, Featurespace is the creator of the ARIC™ platform, a machine learning software system developed out of the University of Cambridge. Joined by Russell Goldsmith of the csuite podcast, Tyto’s co-founder and managing partner, Brendon Craigie, speaks with Martina about Featurespace’s roots in academia and challenging conventional thinking to help eradicate fraud. They also touch on the evolution of fraud and business in general during these unprecedented times, expanding on how companies such as Featurspace are adapting to the new normal, working through the current lockdown, and their plans for when we are hopefully through the other side.


Russell: [00:00:00] Thanks for downloading show one hundred and three of the csuite podcast. The third in our special series of episodes that we’re recording in partnership with the European PR agency Tyto, around and their own Without Borders podcast, where we are interviewing leaders of unicorn companies to find out about the key issues, pain points and challenges that startups face and how they can address them with a strategic approach to marketing and communications. My name is Russell Goldsmith and obviously the world has changed somewhat since our first interview in the series with Poppy Gustafsson of Darktrace, which we recorded just before Christmas. And so naturally we’re going to be looking at how companies are adapting to the new normal, working through the current lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and their plans for when we are hopefully through the other side. I’m hosting this special series of interviews with Tyto’s founder, Brendon Craigie. How you doing, Brendon? How are you coping with the current situation?

Brendon: [00:00:51] Well, I think firstly, friends, family, all well. So, you know, that’s something you have to. It’s obviously the first priority. And then from a business perspective, we’re fortunate that we work. We work in an entirely remote way. And we have done all, you know, since beginning. So that’s meant that it’s not been very disruptive for us at work. And then I think actually from a professional standpoint, challenging times like this make for very challenging work. And, you know, when you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, that’s kind of quite, quite exciting and in a way, from a professional standpoint. So, yeah, obviously very concerned for everyone out there that’s having to on the frontline. But I think from a from a personal and business perspective, everything’s good.

Russell: [00:01:39] Thats good. Well, importantly, onto our guest for this episode, I’m thrilled to say that we are joined online by Martina King, CEO of Featurespace, The world leader in fraud and financial crime prevention. I should point out that Featurespace aren’t quite yet a unicorn, but they’re certainly heading in that direction. Welcome to the show, Martina. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us. I’m assuming you’ve joined us from home. Where are you and how are you doing at the moment?

Russell: [00:02:28] Well, it’s actually it’s interesting because I guess so many people are gaining, you know, a couple of hours a day, aren’t they?

Martina: [00:02:34] Yeah, very much so. And the whole productivity question is a fascinating one. Somebody said to me last week, she said this is a really interesting social experiment. It’s not your typical, oh, can I work from home today? You know, everybody’s having to do it. So it’s going to be fascinating to see what we can take from this social experiment into our regular lives when we go back into work.

Russell: [00:03:01] Well, let’s hope that’s not too long away. Erm, we should probably start by getting you to give us a quick overview of Featurespace.

Martina: [00:03:10] Well apart from it’s you know our love Featurespace was founded actually in 2005 by a gentleman called Professor Bill Fitzgerald, Bill was head of signal processing and statistics at Cambridge University and also a fellow of Christ College. I had the privilege of working with him for two years. He was an extraordinary man. He could play pretty much every musical instrument you can imagine. And his rooms in Christ College were exactly what you’d expect of a wire haired professor, you know, full of white papers everywhere, dust. And as I said, lots and lots of different types of musical instruments. And in his ancient fireplace was an iPad that was playing a digital version of a fire. With him in his room when I met him was Dave Excell, one of his PhD students. But Bill started featurespace in 2005 purely to fund PhD students. And it didn’t come out of the university and become a company until 2008 when Betfair was looking for a new type of fraud solution. And they were told to go and meet with Bill and Dave. And they explained to them that was a totally new way of solving the problem. They asked them to enter what’s referred to as an RFP process to request the proposal because they’d never done anything like that before. So you had, you know, these two academics entering this kind of business environment and Betfair appointed them. They gave them some money to found the company, to take it out to the university and also to build them the technology. And so that was how the company going.

Russell: [00:04:53] Amazing. And what were your expectations when you then joined? Because you obviously you’ve only been there you know, you joined, 8 years ago wasn’t it?

Martina: [00:05:01] Yeah. At the end of 2012. Yes, I. As I say, I met Bill. And I remember thinking, goodness, I don’t know what you’re talking about. But Mike Lynch, the founder of Autonomy, had introduced me to him. And Mike and Bill had been lifelong friends from Mike’s time, studying with him at Cambridge. And because Mike had said he’s invented a fundamental technology, I knew I could trust Mike’s judgment on that. So it was then a question of trying to make sure that, you know, if could could I get my head around the technology? Could I explain it to other people? Could I get organisations, to trust us with their data? Could we find something extraordinary? Could we prove to ourselves that the technology was genuinely something that was revolutionary? And then after that, could we persuade more companies to contract with us? And then could we scale? So they were all the challenges that we needed to go through. When I joined at the end of 2012, we were running out of money, it’s that typical story, which is there was a whole host of other experiments were taking place because at the end of 2012, you know, machine learning was something that was described in an academic environment. It wasn’t a term that we were all familiar with in the business world. One of the aspects of Bill’s inventions are two major contributions he’s made to the world of machine learning, one which was separating signal from noise, which is an expression I’m sure most people are familiar with these days. And the other one, which is anomaly detection and one of the consequences of anomaly detection and separating from noise is you have greater accuracy in understanding what it is you’re looking for. But there’s an expression that we’re all very familiar with at the moment because of the tests that we’re doing, the COVID-19 virus, and that is the false positives. So we were taking tests at the moment and there’s the false positive rate. So that is the number of times that we get something right versus the number of times that we get something wrong. And it was that those types of expressions and language back in 2012 that Bill and Dave were using, but that were very, very uncommon in the business environment. And applying that to the of the fraud world, what was happening in fraud industry was people were writing machine learning models based on what known fraud looked like. And the consequence of that was that good transactions or good payments would get caught up. So we there are far fewer these days. But you know, how you get your card regularly declined and that’s referred to as a false positive. So the cost of declined transactions was actually greater than the fraud loss. So trying to find a new way of identifying new fraud attacks as well as allowing more transactions to go through was really revolutionary. And the way that Bill and Dave did it was by turning convention on its head. So you typically would model what bad looks like and apply that to the whole dataset. What they were suggesting is you model what good looks like and therefore the bad starts to stick out like a sore thumb. And whenever you challenge conventional thinking, it takes a great deal of time to be able to get people to experiment with you. But once we got through those experiments, we realized that there really was a eureka moment in fraud prevention and fraud detection, and that really was the creation of Featurespace’s, business in anti-fraud.

Russell: [00:08:41] It’s a very different background, though, to what you’ve been used to, obviously, from where you were working previously.

Martina: [00:08:48] Yes, you can say that. Yeah, very different. But oh, I’ve always been inquisitive about new technology and its impact on the world. And I come at it, not from a academic’s perspective, but more of a layman’s perspective and how technology can impact society. And also, one of the things I’ve learnt over the years is there aren’t enough people in technology who really question the impact that these new inventions can have on society. There’s an awful lot of people out there who will build and say, just because I’ve got it, I’ll launch it and then it’s out into the world. And I think we have a duty to ensure that we, before we launch technology, understand what the impact on society is going to be.

Russell: [00:09:38] I mean, obviously, we should say that because you mentioned Bill and David. I mean, Bill obviously, sadly passed with cancer back in 2014, wasn’t it? Dave, is still working for the company and has a key, day-to-day role. How how does your relationship then work? You know, you’re the CEO, but one of the founders is still there on a daily basis, how does that relationship work?

Martina: [00:10:02] I mean, it was such a cruel irony that Bill developed a brain tumor. And, you know, for somebody with such extraordinary intellectual capacity that it was a brain tumor that killed him. But when he was in the hospital, he asked to see me and said, Martina, can you help me make my company as commercially successful as I’ve been academically and is a very rare mission and a promise that you make to somebody, and there’s never any end to that. I mean, Bill was one of the top five machine learning experts in the world. So that means we’ve got to be one of the top five companies in the world. And, you know, and and Dave and Bill created the companies that we’ve continued that mission together. Dave and I. And there’s hardly a moment that I don’t have Bill in the back of my mind wondering how and if we’ve come close yet to being able to achieve the ambition they had for the company.

Russell: [00:11:00] Yeah. Must be a great drive for you.

Martina: [00:11:03] And you know, the thing about about Dave is that he’s an extraordinary intellect, but he’s also the loveliest man. He’s very selfless. And I remember him saying to me that, Martina, I don’t mind you being the CEO. I just want great things for my company. And I know I can learn a lot from your experience. And it’s funny, you know, because over the years Dave’s become an accomplished businessman. I can’t say that I’ve become an accomplished mathematician.

Russell: [00:11:30] It’s not yet. Not yet.

Russell: [00:11:33] Well, so this this this series of of interviews is focusing very much around the journey to becoming a unicorn. So you’ve you’ve secured some big investments in the business as you’ve grown towards that billion dollar valuation that, you know, that that huge milestone that you’re heading towards. How has that changed the perception of your company?

Martina: [00:11:53] Well, I think it shows that we’ve grown up. You know, I was describing earlier with young companies at the beginning. There’s a huge amount of experimenting that takes place. But as soon as you start winning serious customers, big banks, for instance, big payment companies, there’s an expectation that you’re going to operate at the same level as them and that the same professionalism is going to pervade your business in the same ways it pervades theirs. So, you know, in the early days where you can behave in a naive way, you absolutely cannot do that once you are recognized as being an equal and as a challenger brand to some of the more established for prevention companies out there, there comes a point where all of a sudden you go from being the underdog to also now being seen as as a as a successful company. Somebody said to me the other day, well, of course you’re the big guys now. And it really took my breath away because having been part of that battle to drag a company into being something that has become relatively successful. Of course, to others, they look at you and see you the success that you’ve achieved. Whereas when you’re living in it every day, you just don’t see that. You still see that struggle.

Brendon: [00:13:14] I think when you’re growing a business, whatever size it is, it’s always kind of a moving target, as you know, and you never, it’s very rare, I think, to acknowledge, oh, we’ve we’ve we’ve been successful because you’re always shooting for the next horizon.

Martina: [00:13:29] Yes. And there’s something wrong if you’re not.

Brendon: [00:13:31] Although sometimes I wish actually maybe it would be quite good to be content at certain points. In terms of that journey that you’ve gone on and sort of with the business growing. And you mentioned earlier, you know, that you do a lot of traveling. And to what extent do you think that that journey, making your name on the world stage as a as a breakthrough technology company, is it, is it harder or different if you’re in Europe versus if you’re, say, in Silicon Valley?

Martina: [00:14:03] That’s a really good question. And I think my personal ambition when I became involved with Featurespace was to see if it was possible to take a great British invention and turn it into a great global success. And one of the things that’s very admirable about the big US technology companies is that they are brilliant at commercializing their inventions. And if there’s one thing we can learn in Britain, I think from those companies is the ability to do that and not to be shy about trying to commercialize your organisation. In a way, I went into Featurespace initially. There are a number of people there and we had this classic debate, which is where we’re going to build this technology and they will come, well, who is they? The answer to that is there’s no such thing if you don’t let people know about your technology in simple. Terms and in business terms. Then why will anybody find you? How will they find you? Why would they use your technology? So I think the the US is, they’re masters at that. And obviously, they have an enormous home market. And there are you know, there are so many British technology companies that have tried to go to the US and haven’t made it. So we’ve really decided we were going to point ourselves at that market and do everything we could to succeed. And that, again, is a long journey, but we’ve made some incredible inroads there. And that is going back to Dave. He’s now running our US business.

Brendon: [00:15:37] Right. So having that kind of sort of being in the mix there is being quite important in terms of, you know, building your presence in the US.

Martina: [00:15:44] Yeah, I think it comes back to being clear that. You know, there are ways in which you can crack a market and just turn up with a flag and dropping it into a piece of land doesn’t necessarily mean to say you’re going to be successful. It’s the why, the how and the relationship you build. And then the people that are able to work and encourage you to come along. So, you know, we’ve been able to make some really senior relationships very early on in the US. And those people have been instrumental in bringing the success of Featurespace to that market.

Brendon: [00:16:19] So so obviously, we’re recording this podcast, a very unique time in history in terms of the kind of challenges that we’re all dealing with and navigating. And an obviously those are, there are broader society challenges and then there are personal challenges we’re probably all grappling with in our personal family lives. But as far as being a CEO at this time, you know, what’s been some of the biggest challenges that you’ve had to deal with currently? And how have you kind of overcome them?

Martina: [00:16:49] Well, I think the first one for me was recovering from a suspected Covid myself. So I became flawed on the 6th of March. There was a colleague of mine who had exactly the same symptoms. She’d been to the doctor a couple of times and they said, you definitely don’t have it. So I battled on and then I had a couple of extra meetings, et cetera, et cetera. But, you know, still being told, no, you definitely don’t have it. And of course, latterly, when all the other subtle, more subtle symptoms have been released, you then realize that it couldn’t have been anything other than that. So I think understanding the impact that this virus has on the individual enables you to have great empathy with what’s going on more broadly in the world to feel enormously grateful that it didn’t I didn’t require any hospitalization. And thankfully, nobody on the featurespace team has caught it to the extent that they’ve required hospitalization. So I think that in itself is a real leveller. And when it came to listening and heeding the government’s advice and, you know, the the overarching single aim is to protect the wonderful team that we’ve built in order to be able to look after the amazing customers that we’ve got. So, you know, for me, there was absolutely no debate. The first thing is right, priorities change. And the first priority is we’ve all got to take care of ourselves. So go home and be safe. So I think that was the first thing. And that’s a very simple, clear, easy decision to make. And then you can start taking your other decisions around the business about how you enact that. So simple things which require a great deal of common sense. Have you got all the equipment you need in order to be able to work a home? No, we haven’t. Right. Okay. Without breaking any of the rules, we’re gonna have to try and get chairs and consoles to you. And we have to get the secure network up and running for not, you know, a low number of people who would normally use it, but for, you know, hundreds of people to be able to access it. So lots of very practical, simple things in the first instance that require a great deal of common sense. And when when your teams see that you taking those decisions to do the best you possibly can for them, then the reward starts coming back because people go the extra mile for their company.

Brendon: [00:19:15] Now, I think that’s really I think that’s really helpful and kind of clear focus on looking after your team. That makes a lot of sense and very pleased that you overcame the virus without any complications.

Russell: [00:19:28] Yeah, I very much agree with that. Martina, that other any specific things you’ve implemented for the team during lockdown?

Martina: [00:19:36] Well, yes. I mean, well, first of all, it’s trying to ensure that everybody has, you know, a working environment that’s commensurate with trying to be effective from home. But on top of that, we’re trying to use this as an opportunity to keep ourselves fit. So we have an eight o’clock in the morning workout class, which everybody does remotely. It’s obviously not compulsory. But the King family, we get up at eight o’clock every morning. And so actually, even though the beginning of this journey for me started with the illness, I now don’t think I’ve been as fit as I am for years. So I’m very grateful to our HR for putting on the fitness class. And then on top of that, we have mental health and wellbeing seminars and so on that we’re doing as well as well as then reaching out to people individually to try and ensure that people are feeling in a good place during this difficult time. We’ve also been doing surveys and there’s a couple of bits that have come back from the survey that I found surprising again, going back to this idea of it being a social experiment. So, you know, people who have got young children at home and with a couple who are both working, that’s incredibly difficult, so expecting productivity levels to be high when people have got those sorts of home challenges. So we are giving advice, which is just close the laptop and play with your kids for a bit, you know, and then just try to do the best you possibly can. Focus on the top things that you can do on a day to day basis. And then the other side of it, is people who live on their own. And I think that’s quite tough as well. So it’s how do we make sure we we really look after those individuals to help?

Russell: [00:21:19] How are you doing? Are you having one-to-one calls with them? How’s that working?

Martina: [00:21:23] Yeah. And again, I think this is where, you know, the strength of management becomes important, too. So we’ve invested an awful lot in managerial training over the years and in leadership training. And so we’re making sure the managers are fully trained and equipped. So we have training sessions for the managers. How do you deal with these complex situations that we’re helping our managers be technically fit themselves for being able to motivate their teams of people during this situation? And then we also have a leadership coach that we as a leadership team work with. And we’re trying to make sure that he helps us make sure that we’re doing the right things.

Russell: [00:22:03] What about keeping the teams positive? What should organizational leaders be doing with respect to that?

Martina: [00:22:10] Well, I think you said a moment ago, which is brutal honesty is absolutely, and trust, isn’t it? It’s in times of crisis. It’s about values. And when we started scaling featurespace as a leadership team, we went off and we sat in a room and we thought long and hard about the values of the company should be. For those of us who’ve battled day in, day out and we’ve all worked together as a leadership team for a long time. So, you know, there’s a shorthand we all know we all know them. They don’t need to be articulated. But when you grow rapidly with a, you know, lots of new people joining, then people do need to know what the values are. So we went away. We thought about them, we articulated them. And we you know, they’re taught and we tried to really try to live by them. And at times like this. This is when they get tested in particular. And our first value is to tell the truth. Tell the truth kindly. And if you can’t tell the truth kindly just tell the truth. You know, for me got to be the epitome of our value.

Brendon: [00:23:14] Love it. That’s great.

Martina: [00:23:16] Also, the other thing is us as a company scales and you get lots of different teams of people and layers of management. Sometimes messages, it’s a bit like Chinese whispers. They can get interpreted and misinterpreted. And one of the bits, I do a weekly all hands with everybody, you know. Because the other thing is it’s quite tough at the moment there’s a lot of serious information to convey. But at the same time, you want to leave everybody feeling confident and secure and a bit there’s a bit of lightheartedness at the end. So the very first one I had, my daughter kindly played the guitar and I sang ‘Close to You’ by the Carpenters and left. And of course, it was it was a very low benchmark. But then after that, every week we have somebody from the featurespace team who then is is displaying their real talent. So we talk about all the important things that I talk about how the business is faring. We haven’t had to furlough anybody. So that’s a very privileged position we’re in at the moment. The board have said we do want you to continue to develop the product and keep keep going. And again, that’s a very privileged place to be. So it’s it’s it’s interesting trying to get the tone right. And what we do at the end of all hands is to try and lift the spirit by making it about somebody else. It’s not about me. It’s about revealing another talent that exists our team.

Brendon: [00:24:45] Yeah. That’s a lovely story as well. Just in terms of you, you’ve talked quite a lot about what, you know, your role as a communicator internally. And I think that point you made about having these weekly all hands and cutting through the potential layers, you know, to ensure that everyone gets the story from your your side. I think that some come across very clearly, just thinking about your role as an external spokesperson. You know, this is I guess it’s a time for strong leadership and strong leadership internally. But how do you see or your how do you see that role as an external spokesperson for you? What does that mean to you? Being an external representative of the company?

Martina: [00:25:29] Well, I think that’s again, there’s an answer which is in layers. So the first one is at the moment, really, we want to hear from the country’s leaders. You know, tell us, tell us what’s the right thing to do right now and then we’ll go and do what we possibly can. And then it’s about your own sphere of influence. So I think just trying to have an uneducated voice enter into a debate on something that is so incredibly important at the moment is this vacuous? So I would consider myself to have a very quiet voice during this moment, time in time externally, because actually the voice that really matters are the voices of the people who are trying to keep us safe.

Brendon: [00:26:11] But maybe kind of stepping away from the current situation. How has your view of being a spokesperson for the company kind of changed over the years in terms of what that role means and I guess the expectations that come with it? So what we’re trying to get to at some of these conversations is trying to pass on that sort of knowledge and experience from people who’ve been in that position, say, you know, kind of what sort of advice they would give to other people that are kind of growing into that role of being a CEO of a fast growing technology company.

Martina: [00:26:44] That’s a good question. I think the main thing is what I’ve learnt over the years is that there are some classic traps, you know, and if you’re running a business, the only audience that really matters. First of all, your customers. And then secondly, all your team members. And then thirdly, all your investors. They’re all very important groups. But the you know, but it’s very easy to offend and it’s particularly easy to offend in a modern media environment. So I would strongly advise avoiding any political commentary, you know, unless your company is directly to do with politics. But we are totally apolitical company. I think lots have different opinions and passions. And my advice as a leader of a company is try to make sure that those personal passions are something that are very much on the backburner when you’re representing your business.

Brendon: [00:27:43] Yeah.

Russell: [00:27:45] Have you always been a natural communicator or have you had to formulate a plan to get get better at it over the years?

Martina: [00:27:53] The, I think for me, I’ve always been somebody who’s opinionated and I’m a lot more experienced than lots of people. And so when some people start talking, it’s very tempting to say, well, I’ve got the answer to that. And I have over the years always, you know, kind of things as a youngster i was probably a bit of a people pleaser as well, so you kind of go, yes, yes, yes, I know the answer, I know the answer. But actually what you need to do is totally suppress yourself. And one of the jobs as leader is to be a great teacher and telling is not the best way to teach. So letting people work things out for themselves very often is the best technique. And that requires the skill of good questions, but also requires a better skill of listening. And I think that over the years, if there’s one skill set I’ve really, really worked hard to develop is those listening skills. You know, if you listen to your customers, if you listen to your investors, if you listen to the team members, there’s a great chance that you’ll get things much — you have something that’s so much better than if you just relied on.

Russell: [00:29:04] What about the challenges during that time? What what’s been the biggest communications challenge you’ve faced a lot along the journey? Also why would that be?

Martina: [00:29:12] Oh, gosh. Well, I think for me, PR is terrifying, isn’t it? Because if you’re a spokesperson of your organization, there are so many people that you can disappoint that it’s very, um, you’ve got to be quite brave to put yourself out there in the first place. I think that I’ve had lots of experiences in my career where you come up against campaigning journalism, and that can be very terrifying to be on the receiving end of. I was particularly on it when I was at Yahoo! and it was the time when the Internet was being highly, as it still is to this day — I mean, that’s one of the things is so disappointing that it hasn’t hasn’t changed enough — but, you know, a meeting place for paedophiles and for them to be able to groom children. You know, when I was involved with that as a PR campaign, as a leader within Yahoo! UK, the journalists who were campaigning, of course, felt deeply, passionately about this thing. But for those people who were on the Internet at the time, you know, these issues were brand new. There was a huge amount of naivete. And you were also working through layers of technologies, technologies that were built in one country where laws were different to the countries where those technologies were then being promoted. We still see this today. So intellectually challenging, but emotionally incredibly wearing and nobody with the experience really to be able to give you the right advice. And then, of course, journalists who would print things that wouldn’t necessarily be what you said and bosses who would then get completely worked up over things that were said in the media. So you end up thinking, you know, where’s the greatest challenge? Is it the internal one? Or is it the external one? And, you know, you see it again and again with senior business people who are quite rightly held to account. And my personal experience in that environment was to really do something about it. Because once you’ve learned that the Internet has enabled things that really it shouldnt have enabled, you’ve then got to address it.

Russell: [00:31:32] You just touched on actually about getting advice. Actually, that that was our next question was in terms of what was the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten on communications.

Martina: [00:31:41] Yes. So when I worked at Capital Radio, I worked with a brilliant team of people that one gentleman in particular was Richard Eyre, who was the CEO of the company. He had a poster in his office, which was a poster of sheep, and they were all white and one of them was black. And it said, ‘when and when the world zigs, zag.’ So I love that. And there was another piece of advice that he gave which was about trying to be clear in communication. I don’t know whether I lived up to it during the course of this interview today, but particularly when you write press releases, it’s very tempting to try and stuff everything into a press release. You see people doing it again and again. But the adage is, if I throw five balls at you, how many do you think you’ll catch? But if I throw one, there’s a fair chance you’ll actually catch it. So when you’re thinking about your communication, what’s the one message that you want to try and convey?

Russell: [00:32:41] Brilliant.

Brendon: [00:32:42] That’s. Yeah, that’s very good advice. I also think just going about something said earlier, I think when you’re working in a technical area, you’ve got an added layer of complexity. You’re not only trying to communicate something, but you’ve got to try and make sure that the person you’re at, the people you’re speaking to actually grasp what you’re saying as well. Kind of makes the double the challenge.

Martina: [00:33:02] Yeah. I mean, you know, you ask me what does Featurespace, you know, what is it we do? You know, the simple answer is we’re the best at preventing fraud, allowing transactions through in the world, you know. But you can’t really say that, can you?

Brendon: [00:33:19] Well, so coming. So maybe actually using that as a bit of a springboard for the next question.

Russell: [00:33:23] It’s like he worked in radio before. What a beautiful lead into our next question.

Brendon: [00:33:29] What a great bridge.

Martina: [00:33:31] Isn’t it called a segway.

Brendon: [00:33:33] Thinking about the current climate and your focus on helping to address fraud. Is it the case that times like this are actually very opportune times for sort out criminals and malicious actors? And are you actually seeing like threats from fraud increase in any areas as a result of what’s going on in the world?

Martina: [00:33:55] Yeah, very much so. So the modus operandi is identical in as much as the criminals. What they’re doing is they are using fear as a motivator. And the difference at the moment is the world is fearful. So that the modus operandi is the same, but they have a great playing field at the moment, which is we’re all terrified and we’re worried about our finances. And so it’s very easy for them to prey on that and that natural human instinct of fear. And when we’re scared, we sometimes don’t think as clearly or as logically as we might do normally. And particularly if we are applying for loans, for instance, or we receive emails from somebody saying, oh, look, here I am and I’m here to help you. So, you know, that vulnerability and just needs to be really clearly understood. And again, we just need to pause and think before we respond to these these criminals. And they are, they are operating in, you know, effectively nine to five environments where you’ve got people who are professionally sitting there campaigning. They use exactly the kind of techniques that we would use in our marketing. You know, they are experts at being able to manipulate us. And we’ve got to get really we’ve got to be on the watch out right now, because the the best way to stop them is not to be caught. The second way then is, you know, until a particularly large banks would have modern technology, it would be in more throated analysts who’d be sitting writing rules. A customer would phone up and say, this type of attack has occurred. They’d write a rule. You’d then get all the blocks, lots of transactions, cards, all stopped. Much better if you’ve got a smarter technology that’s sitting there doing all that. So if the first line of defense, which is the individual’s been had, which we all have been. Then the second line of defense has got to be smart technology against it. And what we do is we we monitor the patterns of behavior of individuals. We don’t know who they are. We just monitor the patterns. And then we’re able to say this individual would normally never behave in this way. We can send a real time alert. So even watching transaction flows out of bank accounts, that would be a very typical example of where we’d be able to spot that in real time and know that that account would never normally behave in that way.

Brendon: [00:36:31] Interesting. And I think another kind of like subject that may be very relevant this time is that we’re seeing of a lot of businesses going through tough times. And even if they’re not going through tough times, they’re dealing with a lot of uncertainty. And they’re kind of like thinking not quite sure what the future is gonna look like. I read that back in 2016. One of the things you said is that that recessions. Well, I want to use your exact words. People who attack a recession or invest in a downturn tend to prosper when growth growth returns. Could you elaborate on that? And do you kind of still have the same view today? And, you know, is that with that? Is that the view you take into what looks like being another recession?

Martina: [00:37:19] Well, that sounded quite wise. Did I really say that? Look, we’re living through something that, you know, none of us have ever lived through before. I’ve had a long career. I’ve lived through loads of ups and downs. But this one’s unique. I but I do still believe that if we can concentrate, if we’ve got the luxury of a company that’s continuing to exist and teams of people that are still employed and customers that are willing to pay us, that’s an incredibly privileged position to be in. And I think then it’s our duty to ensure that we double down and that we use our imaginations to build stronger and better technology on the back end of it. The great again privilege for us is that our board and our investors have exactly the same point of view. And the great thing about most investors is that they do take the long term if you choose your investors correctly. They are looking at the long term. So therefore, they certainly see this as a period that we need to get through. But they still want to make sure that they’ve backed the right companies for the long term return on their investment. And so this period of time, if there is a slight hiatus in new deals coming through, for instance, that we double down and make sure that our technology comes out stronger and better. And, you know, there’s an opportunity here, isn’t there, which is while some companies may be distracted just by having to deal with a crisis on a day to day basis, those who can do things that are really smart and clever and really service that customer during this period of time should be able to come out stronger.

Russell: [00:39:06] Some good advice there. Martina, we have one final question for you. There’s something we’re asking of all the leaders. This series of interviews, if you were to go back in time and speak to your old self, what guidance would you give about communications and what steps would you encourage yourself to take in order for you and your business to excel in communications?

Martina: [00:39:27] Well, obviously, hire the right agency.

Russell: [00:39:31] I can see Brendon’s eyes just light up there.

Martina: [00:39:36] Yeah, but you can’t do this on your own. You’ve got to learn. And it’s a bit like anything in business. You know, if you’re going to be a good general manager, then you’ve got to be able to identify great teams of people and rely on them to to excel at the areas that they are experts in. So, you know, nobody is born a natural communicator. You have to learn it as as a skill set. And I’ve been very lucky in my career. I’ve worked with some terrific people who, as I said earlier, I was really able to listen to and then rehearse. You know, there’s lots of great opportunities for you to practice before you go out onto that stage. So, yeah, I would say make sure you’ve got the best people you can possibly surround yourself with. Learn from them, take their advice and practice.

Russell: [00:40:28] Martina, thank you so much for taking the time to join us online and recording this today. I don’t know if you wanted to finish the podcast and sing us out with a version of ‘Close To You.’ You’re more than welcome to call your daughter. Maybe the licensing and royalties won’t allow us to do that. And you’re off the hook.

Martina: [00:40:52] Yeah. I think we’ll leave the Carpenters to it. Perhaps we can play play out with the Carps instead of me.

Russell: [00:40:58] Tremendous. Thank you so much. And make sure you stay safe. Thank you.

Martina: [00:41:02] Thank you. Thanks, guys.

Brendon: [00:41:03] Thank you.

Russell: [00:41:07] So, Brendon, that’s the third interview in our unicorn series completed. So obviously we know Featurespace isn’t quite a unicorn yet, but they’re certainly heading in that direction. What’s your thoughts off the back of that chat with Martina?

Brendon: [00:41:22] Well, I as we know, obviously, this is a very unprecedented, most over used word at the moment, time, you know, that we’re all going through. And I think what’s quite interesting about having this conversation at this time is that it really throws up the sort of the bits of advice and wisdom that people apply to the current environment are actually also the bits of advice and wisdom that I think are relevant in normal times as well. So so I think the extreme environment we’re in kind of really highlights the most important things from a communication standpoint. So there are a couple of things I think came out for me was one. One of the values that Martina talks about was, you know, tell the truth nicely. And if you can’t tell the truth nicely, just just tell the truth. And I think that was a really great piece of advice. And then I think the other thing that she spoke quite a lot about different stages in the conversation was just kind of really focusing on the audiences that mattered for your business. And although sometimes in communications, it’s tempting to get involved in discussions and debates that are maybe slightly outside of your immediate focus that you should kind of steer clear of than just focus on your team, your customers and your ambassadors. And if you use those that kind of sort of they use that as the guardrails for everything you do. Then you won’t go wrong.

Russell: [00:42:49] I agree. Once again, a really excellent interview. Really, really appreciated Martina taking the time to char us this morning. And that actually wraps it up for this third episode in this special series, that I’m recording alongside Brendon. And if you want to find out more about Featurespace. Their website is simply Featurespace dot com. And we’d love any comments that you may have on todays conversation, which you can do on our Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter feeds. And those are all linked from the top of the website at cssuite podcast dot com, where you’ll also find all our previous shows and supporting show notes plus links to where you can subscribe for automatic downloads of each episode via the links of Spotify or iTunes. And if you’ve liked what you’ve heard, please do give us a positive rating and review. We’re also on all of your favourite podcast apps. Just search for the csuite podcast and hit subscribe. You can also subscribe to the Without Borders podcast from our partners at Tyto, and all the details for that are on their website. Just head to Tyto PR dot com and click on the podcast link in the top of the navbar. Tyto are also running a series of live webinars during lockdown with some fantastic guests that are absolutely free to join. The series is called New Horizons and you can find out all the info by following them on Twitter, which is simply at Tyto PR. And finally, if you’d like to get in touch with the show, you can do that via our contact form at csuite podcast dot com or you can reach me on Twitter using @RussGoldsmith or find me on LinkedIn, we’re particularly keen to hear from unicorn leaders listening to the series because if you feel we should be interviewing you, then we’d love to hear from you. But for now, thanks for listening and goodbye.

Without Borders PR Podcast by Tyto

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