Domus Semo Sancus (DSS) is a FinTech start-up headquartered in the small nation of the Turks and Caicos Islands with big plans to revolutionise the global banking sector. With aims to boost financial inclusion and bridge the e-commerce divide, it has developed an award-winning enhanced due diligence (EDD) product called SafetyNet.ai, along with soon-to-be-released digital wallet, Wowlet. Built on artificial intelligence platforms such as IBM’s Watson, SafetyNet.ai is a best-in-class solution for conducting “deep” background checks that helps organizations become compliant with international KYC/AML rules and regulations, while Wowlet is being developed to help bank the unbanked and under-banked. Led by E. Jay Saunders, former CEO of Digicel TCI (part of leading regional telecommunications provider Digicel Group), DSS has won awards including “International Company of the Year (Fintech)”, while Saunders picked up the “International Game Changer of the Year” award at the 2017 ACQ5 Global Awards. Here, Saunders explains how his products work and how both users and investors stand to benefit from his innovative ideas
DSS is a financial technology company that is building tools to encourage financial inclusion and bridge the e-commerce divide. What niches is DSS seeking to fill?
At DSS, one of our products is a soon to be released digital wallet, called Wowlet, that’s being designed to help bank the unbanked and under-banked. There are over two billion unbanked and under-banked persons around the world. As the world becomes increasingly digital, a divide is growing between the unbanked and the banked. For example, there are some items that cannot be purchased with cash anymore. Many major airlines don’t accept cash for ticket purchases anymore. And it’s the same for inflight purchases – including meals. These things may seem minor, but for two billion people around the world, it’s a major problem. So, our goal is to bring those persons into the banking system, and that’s why we’re creating a digital wallet platform, Wowlet, that we’re rolling out in early 2020. However, before we can rollout Wowlet, we need to be able to meet the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) requirements around Knowing Your Client (KYC), Anti-Money Laundering (AML), and Combating the Financing of terrorism (CFT). Unfortunately, when it comes to the unbanked, meeting the KYC requirement is a huge problem, and success or failure is directly tied to us solving it. So, we built a tool called SafetyNet.ai, primarily on top of IBM Watson, along with other artificial intelligence solutions from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, that can conduct EDD checks on a subject-of-interest at a global level. As SafetyNet utilizes machine learning, it is learning how to autonomously detect KYC, money laundering, terrorist financing, and other risks and threats to the integrity of the international financial system. Building Wowlet on top of SafetyNet.ai, will help it become the first truly global digital wallet solution.
What would that look like in terms of accessibility?
Globally smartphone usage is growing rapidly. The world is at the point where today two out of every three persons owns a smartphone, and very soon, they will be universal. Anyone with a smartphone will be able to use Wowlet, and they will be able to load funds onto it as easily as topping up a pre-paid phone. And when the ecosystem is built-out, a Wowlet customer won’t have to walk more than five minutes to put cash in or take it out. Wowlet is going to be hugely convenient and user friendly for customers to use. As for SafetyNet, it is a web-based application, that can be utilized with any modern browser.
What does the competition look like in this market?
M-Pesa, available mainly in Africa and a few other countries, is the gold standard. No other solution comes close. However, it’s not the “WhatsApp” of digital wallets, and for a product to become that, it will need to be able to perform KYC checks on customers, with a high degree of accuracy, across the globe. SafetyNet, our award-winning enhanced due diligence cognitive search and crime prevention tool is designed to solve this problem better than any competing product, and Wowlet is being built on top of SafetyNet. Wowlet + SafetyNet is built from the ground up to meet the FATF recommendations, and we’re confident that this will give Wowlet an edge in becoming the first global digital wallet.
How do you balance that with user privacy?
The FATF recommendations, endorsed by over 200 countries, requires a specific set of companies (e.g. financial institutions, accountants, solicitors, casinos, estate agents, and others) to conduct KYC checks. We only allow companies that fall within one of the FATF defined categories of companies, regulators, government, and law enforcement, to use SafetyNet. It doesn’t scan through financial records or conduct credit checks. SafetyNet only scans information that’s already in the public domain – albeit some maybe found in the deep web – or (on select plans) within the network of the company conducting the search.
What makes Turks and Caicos an ideal base for this product?
When it comes to financial regulations, the Caribbean (including the Turks and Caicos Islands), is held to some of the highest standards in the world. Our financial services sector is highly regulated, and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) investigates every “questionable financial activity”. If SafetyNet can meet the regulatory requirements of companies that operate here, we’re confident that it can do so for companies in other regions. As for our digital wallet, Wowlet, there are approximately 400 million unbanked persons in the CALA (Caribbean and Latin America) region, with many being in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. In addition, there are a lot of transient workers that reside here – particularly from the Philippines. The Turks & Caicos Islands may be a small market, but it gives us a great testbed to prove the viability of Wowlet, which is important for when we start to scale up.
How will Wowlet help solve the problems of the unbanked?
Wowlet uses SafetyNet to identify persons, allowing it to conduct KYC and EDD checks at a level that’s greater than what traditional banks can do. In the time it takes for the average credit card transaction to be processed, Wowlet + SafetyNet will be able to scan an entire financial transaction for risks, taking into consideration, among other things, the risk levels of the initiator and the beneficiary of the transaction, as well as the risk levels of the locations of both parties. By meeting the stringent recommendations of the FATF, Wowlet will make it possible for the unbanked and under-banked to gain access to financial tools that they are currently denied.
How can your technology also be used by banks?
Let’s take the distributing trend of “de-risking”, which is the practice “of financial institutions terminating or restricting business relationships with clients or categories of clients to avoid, rather than manage, risk.” It includes among other things, the termination of correspondent banking relationships with local banks in the region, as well as strategic market repositioning, withdrawal from certain countries, and the closing of the accounts of selected clients and classes of clients. The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon. Gaston Browne stated that de-risking “…runs the risk of excluding the entire Caribbean from the world’s trading and financial system, plunging the region into economic decline…” With SafetyNet, banks can now conduct enhanced due diligence checks at a depth and speed that’s never before seen, which can go a long way in giving correspondent banks in North America and Europe the comfort that they can continue to do business with our regional institutions without bringing risks onto themselves. In addition, the level of enhanced due diligence that a typical bank would take days to complete, can be done within minutes with SafetyNet. It is not just a best-in-class regulatory tool, but it can also help banks become more efficient, allowing them to improve their customer service while cutting costs.
What is your strategy to attract potential investors?
Although DSS is a start-up, we run it as if it’s a “mature” world-class business. Everything we do is well thought out, and we operate to global standards. While we’re proudly Caribbean (being from the Turks and Caicos Islands), and we’re aiming to become a top global brand. In terms of features and capabilities, SafetyNet.ai is the current market leader, and we have a long roadmap that’s designed to keep it there. When DSS decides to open itself up to outside investment, it will give investors a ROI that’s better than what they will be able to get with most other investments. In addition to a great ROI, DSS is also a great “feel good” story, as our products and services are designed, first and foremost, to make lives better, and we’re aiming to do so for millions of persons around the world who are most in need.
What would you like the British audience to understand about DSS?
As I stated previously, DSS is seeking to make lives better, and we’re doing it in a responsible manner that creates a win-win situation for both our customers and shareholders. Most times, businesses must choose between maximizing profits and being good corporate citizens. At DSS, we’re working to change the world for the better, while creating value for our shareholders. Wowlet is being designed to boost financial inclusion and pull people out of poverty. It, along with SafetyNet, will allow DSS to make a positive impact on the lives of those persons who are most in need. On another note, the Caribbean is not known for producing technology start-ups, and as one of the first from the region, we are writing a story that’s never been written before. London is the FinTech capital of the world, and the Turks and Caicos Islands is a British overseas territory. Hopefully, one day DSS will be listed on the London Stock Exchange – where I was recently interviewed – and hopefully that will spawn other success stories from here. As successful local businesses become successful global businesses, and as our citizens become global thought leaders, maybe, just maybe, it will lead to a better relationship with Britain, one that is built on mutual trust and respect for each other. And hopefully, that relationship will lead to the type of political change that’s needed to allow the Turks and Caicos Islands to reach its full potential.