AssuranceLab cleans up at the Annual FinTech Awards
Australian regtech leader AssuranceLab cleaned up at last week’s Annual FinTech Awards, snaring two major awards.
Erika Villanueva, Female FinTech Leader of the Year
At the 7th Annual Fintech Awards, Erika Villanueva, Co-Founder and Chief Compliance Officer of AssuranceLab, won Female FinTech Leader of the Year.
Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Paul Wenham, called it, “A win for the whole AssuranceLab team, and all the other great leaders out there that don’t always get the accolades and recognition they deserve.”
The public recognition of leaders is often skewed towards those that prioritise building their own personal brand, highlighting their own individual achievements, and driving results that can come at the expense of others.
Erika is a well-balanced, values-driven leader that always puts team and company before herself. She has a hand in everything.
Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Nicholas Lew Ton, shared similar sentiment in saying “We know how much value Erika brings to our team. It’s great to see that publicly recognised too.”
AssuranceLab has been faced with some difficult decisions, and Erika is the guiding light that leads the way. She’s brave. She speaks up about things that are important. She sets the example that business success and a balanced lifestyle are not mutually exclusive objectives. She’s always looking out for the team. She comes through with all those “one-percenters” – the little things that combine to get the best outcomes. She’s the epitome of positive culture that creates a great workplace.
Perhaps what’s most telling about why Erika deserved the award, is that she initially asked for the award to not be submitted. That’s the kind of leader she is. She had to be convinced. Paul noted the importance of the team seeing her style of leadership as something to aspire to. To inspire the team, especially the females and introverts that may not feel like they get as much recognition as others that are louder, more visible, or more confident highlighting their own contributions to the company. Also for leaders everywhere, that may lack confidence and feel overshadowed by the more outspoken and bold leaders that are often seen all over the media.
Erika’s leadership transformed AssuranceLab into a Certified Public Practice audit firm. That completes the compliance offering for several global standards, with an award-winning platform that combines with AssuranceLab’s ability to provide the verified compliance outcomes. In the last 15 months with Erika as Co-Founder, AssuranceLab also became a certified B-Corp, won four awards, formed an engineering team, built the new platform, Pillar, and expanded from servicing one to eight compliance standards, with the platform covering 12. AssuranceLab now has customers across 12 countries, with over $4,000,000 annual recurring revenue. It’s grown from a two-person team when Erika joined, to now 12, with three more coming on board in the coming weeks.
According to Paul, “What we’re most proud of is the way we’re doing it with balance. We’ve grown sustainability. We’ve turned down opportunities and short-term wins, in order to stick to doing things the right way, and prioritising trust and long-term success. We’ve stuck true to our values through some challenges like regulatory changes, Human Resources issues, partners turning on us for their own gain, and the usual challenges with scaling a business at a rapid rate. It’s that commitment to doing things right, that Erika can really hang her hat on, and that highlights the positive impact of her leadership.”
Best Innovation in RegTech Award
AssuranceLab also won the Best RegTech Innovation award in the 7th Annual Fintech Awards, following their Best RegTech Platform in the 6th Annual Fintech Awards 9 months earlier.
The compliance problem AssuranceLab are solving used to be limited to the financial services industry. It was the larger companies directly regulated by the likes of APRA, or with public reporting requirements that are subject to compliance, and mandatory audits to verify that compliance.
Compliance has snowballed rapidly in the last several years. Now, most of the technology industry needs to comply with standards, to demonstrate they meet the requirements of their customers and other stakeholders. A single compliance standard like SOC 2, or ISO 27001, is no longer enough for many of those companies. New compliance requirements are emerging including regional privacy regulations, and even environmental and social impact expectations.
If you’re the size of Amazon, you can afford to have dedicated compliance experts to manage those obligations. Amazon has thousands of compliance personnel to manage their 50+ compliance standards. But for a million or so software companies around the world, hiring compliance experts for each standard is not viable. That leaves the CTO, CEO, and other key personnel wearing the compliance hat. It disrupts other business priorities, halts growth until compliance is achieved, and causes a world of pain trying to learn a new complex and confusing subject matter. Complying is the first step. It’s then subject to an audit to verify compliance and provide the certification or “assurance” to their customers, regulators, or other stakeholders that require it.
Australia lags the more mature markets like the USA, U.K. and Singapore where AssuranceLab has active customers on multi-standard audit packages. AssuranceLab’s global focus since day-1 has helped them build ahead of the market, with their trail-blazing platform, Pillar. Pillar enables those companies without compliance experts to achieve up to 12 global standards and seamlessly manage multi-standard audits without all the duplication.
AssuranceLab was initially founded to solve the problem on a small scale. Founder, Paul Wenham, saw Australia’s SMB software companies trying to reach new opportunities and grow, but they were blocked by compliance. When they approached traditional audit firms, they would be quoted $150,000-300,000, an uncertain timeline of approximately several months, and it would come with all sorts of rigid expectations for how they comply that would slow them down.
This side-hustle quickly turned into a full-time gig. In order to keep up with demand and avoid the stress and responsibility of employees, automation was the only way. A data model was developed that translates how a company operates, into data points that are logically connected to the compliance attributes. As summarised by the project manager of AI accounting software, Vic.ai, “The key is in the simplification of the requirements. AssuranceLab speaks the language customers understand”. That data model combined with a self-navigated workflow and algorithm to automate the outputs, has helped over 750 companies get started with their compliance for free.
The data model has worked as the building blocks to quickly adapt in the market, and build ahead of the evolving market need. When new partnerships are formed, the data points easily connect with how those solutions work addressing different aspects of the same market problem, like security platforms and carbon tracking software. New standards can be added in as little as a few hours, simply building for the nuances, and leveraging all the same core fundamentals of how the company operates.
What’s most exciting is what comes next. It’s well positioned to ride the wave of companies continuing to adopt additional standards, in a snowballing compliance landscape. It’s like cloud computing ~5 years ago. It’s in its relatively early stages but already reaching mass adoption. It has a long way to run and is virtually certain to continue with high growth for decades.