Vantage: Apiax

Turning complex regulations into binary, yes-or-no answers

Tell us more about Apiax, including what makes the company and its vision unique!

We’re a (growing!) group of digital-first compliance geeks and our mission is to make compliance easy, lean and efficient again. Our goal is to empower financial institutions to master regulatory complexity and to finally focus on business development again.

What makes us unique is our team. We have an exceptionally talented and experienced team of professionals with a wide network and complementary skills in technology, legal & compliance, product management, marketing and sales. We are techies at heart with a legal and compliance DNA seeking to change the ways in which regulatory challenges are met.

We believe in trust, transparency, and focus. These core values steer us in our interactions with customers, partners and each other. They are the guiding lights of our start-up journey, keeping us on course towards making Apiax its best for everyone. And we apply new organisational approaches which are flat and transparent – created to empower people to take responsibility and authority for their own projects and tasks.

While RegTech is a recent phenomenon, there is now a multitude of start-ups operating in this space. How does Apiax stand out?

We’re re-writing the rules of how compliance information is distributed and consumed within organisations. Replacing conventional tools such as inch-thick, paper-based manuals and training in a classroom setting – all based on endless hypothetical scenarios – our technology provides clear, to-the-point answers to the relevant regulatory requirements to you.

By turning complex regulations into binary, yes-or-no answers we help financial institutions to gain clarity and control over rules in action, to make their compliance knowledge accessible and to make sure that their digital products, services and processes are in line with financial market regulation.

Today, RegTech is predominantly understood in a “vertical” manner. Here, RegTech is about a specific topic, such as anti-money laundering or onboarding. In our view, RegTech should be understood in a “horizontal” way. It should be about how to transform regulations into machine-readable, binary rules, and how to manage and distribute these rules across organizations.

In our view, RegTech is about how we approach compliance in the digital age, not about how we solve particular headaches.

Where is Apiax currently on its journey and what have been the key challenges in getting there?

It’s exciting times at Apiax! We’re seeing great success among our growing number of platform and app users. It is evident that our compliance approach really resonates with the industry. Our teams are growing too, both here in Zurich as well as in Lisbon and London.

Being first at something, it’s always challenging to question existing frameworks, old methods and opening up to new conversations. By being transparent, humble and devoted to the industry, we have gained trust among its professionals and invaluable partnerships.

What’s key for us is to develop our solution together with our clients. Although we have a very clear idea of where we want to go, we listen carefully to our clients. We want to make sure that we produce the best possible product for our community.

Regulation is top of mind in most industries, perhaps none more so than financial services. What challenges do financial institutions face when it comes to compliance? How do you feel these challenges will change in the next 2-5 years?

Like most industries, the regulatory environment for financial institutions is ever-changing. Politics, market turmoil and new technology are triggers for new pieces of legislation coming into force. Since 2008, more than 50,000 new pieces of financial market regulation have come into force. And this development continues. Take Brexit, for example, or GDPR.

With growing and complex rule sets, we see legislation ambiguity being a huge problem for organisations, holding back professionals fearing misconduct. Navigating through this landscape also puts pressure on timeframes as procedures for compliance checking become lengthy. You can read an industry example here.

We feel that these challenges will stay with us over the coming years. That’s why we find it so important to think about new ways of doing compliance. Our approach focuses on three elements: increasing transparency and control over rules in action, providing easy access to compliance knowledge, and installing digital compliance layers where needed.

What are the current capabilities of RegTech to automate compliance processes in financial services? How do you see this evolve in the near future?

There’s a number of really good players out there working hard to make compliance catch up with the rest of the organisational departments. As for us, we take the essence of world-leading compliance sources and turn it into case-specific, binary yes-or-no answers delivered through interactive and responsive technology.

At Apiax, we believe that RegTech allows fixing the broken link between where compliance knowledge is needed and where it is abundant. We want to empower financial institutions to transform regulatory knowledge into clear yes or no answers that everyone has easy access to and that can be integrated directly into digital products and processes.

In the future, we envision that legal & compliance experts will work on a digital workbench that allows them to make their expertise accessible across complex organizations and even to work directly into digital processes.

Regulatory discrepancies amongst jurisdictions (across and within regions) are seen as a major obstacle for FinTech start-ups looking to expand internationally. How does Apiax help to overcome this?

You are absolutely right to point out the topic of regulatory divergence. According to a report from the OECD and the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), the cost of regulatory divergence was significant or very significant to the financial performance of 75 per cent of the institutions surveyed. 71 per cent of respondents indicated that these developments were an obstacle to expanding their business to new jurisdictions.

In fact, this is at the very core of what we do. Think of it like this. If you have an open regulatory question that involves multiple jurisdictions, you need to consult global, regional and national rules to come to an answer. We’ve basically done this already, for a number of key use cases in financial services. We’ve collected and structured all the necessary information in a way that allows us to always come to yes-or-no answers. A comprehensive legal taxonomy and our sophisticated approach to aggregating information allow us to generate dependable results for any scenario.

The short answer is: our approach is at its best when the complexity of regulation and the divergence of regulation are greatest. At Apiax, we combine exceptional legal and compliance expertise with outstanding technological capabilities to deliver real value to our clients. This is never more apparent than in complex situations that involve multiple jurisdictions.

The European FinTech movement has so far been largely focused into a few large hubs such as the U.K. and Germany. How would you characterise the Swiss FinTech scene? What are its main strengths and most innovative solutions we should be aware of?

Well known for its high quality of life and modern infrastructures, Zurich is now one of the world’s most attractive locations for ICT companies and start-ups, packed with talent, funding and cutting-edge technology. And having a well-established scene of financial institutions, Switzerland is a natural hub for introducing technology into its ecosystem.

In recent years, FinTech has been booming! We have noticed a growing appetite for innovation among big players wanting to explore the best practices of tomorrow. The local scene is open and lively and produces great technology in investment management, payments, or lending – to give just a few examples.

Finally, what is the one pearl of wisdom you would share with financial institutions who are sceptical about the potential of RegTech?

Short but sweet: If the way in which you do business digitalises step by step, why wouldn’t compliance procedures follow?

Thomas Schäubli
Head of Marketing at Apiax

Thomas is the Head of Marketing at Apiax. Before joining the RegTech start-up, he was responsible for the marketing and communication efforts of a Zurich-based boutique investment consultancy. Thomas is passionate about creating relevant brand identities and effective marketing strategies in the current digital age.