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Nov 11, 2014

IR platform among innovative tech finalists

Closir makes it to last six in 3D FinTech Challenge

It was the high-tech surroundings of Canary Wharf’s Level 39, traditionally a hub for pioneering financial tech start-up companies, that played host to the final stage of Dassault Système’s 3D FinTech Challenge, a program designed to identify the most innovative firms and services within the investment management industry.

The event marked the summation of a seven-week program that picked several start-up companies that would, in Dassault Système’s opinion, ‘transform and shape the investment management industry’. Throughout the competition, companies were given expert master classes, commercial mentoring, and technical and legal support. They were eventually whittled down to six start-ups that would compete for the chance to network with the project’s US team, and become part of Fried Frank’s Coming to America program.

On the final day, the six finalists had to get through a round of quick-fire pitches to convince a panel of expert judges – and the audience – that theirs was the best solution to change investment for the better. After each gave a five-minute breeze through the headline advantages of its platform, the crowd was divided into groups to receive a 10-minute demo of the software in question, as well as a brief opportunity to ask any questions of the presenting teams.

First up was Prophis, a London-based consulting company championing its Proteus software, which picks apart financial data to allow institutions to gain new insights into risk, communication and wider analysis. Shortly afterwards came PrairieSmarts, an American firm whose team talked us through a program that calculates, simplifies and explains the financial risk attached to companies. Supply chains and portfolios are laid out in a web of dependencies, allowing users to track the ripple effects of any changes without the need for jargon or complicated calculations.

PensionMandate was next to present: its program processes data from pension funds and institutions and turns it into an understandable form, allowing users to keep track of everything from current mandates, asset allocation and in-house personnel.

A quick coffee, and it was the turn of Heckyl, a firm based between London and India, which unveiled a platform that looks like a trader’s control deck. It takes millions of data points from social media, open data sources and exchange feeds to produce visual representations of the factors influencing and changing the markets at any given time.

Zurich outfit DATANEXT, meanwhile, showed off a B2B platform that allows asset managers to analyze financial data in the cloud, allowing it to be viewed from a wide range of devices.

Finally, our group sat in front of Closir, an online investor relations platform for both companies and investors. Headed up by two ex-BNY Mellon vice presidents – Michael Chojnacki, now CEO and founder of the Middle East IR Society, and Tim Greer, now Closir’s chief marketing officer – the program calls itself ‘LinkedIn for IR’. Companies can build profiles and use them to push through all their usual disclosure to registered investors and other entities, while targeting and analytics tools help users find new opportunities to explore.

‘We view technology as playing a key role in helping companies and investors discover, connect and engage with each other,’ says Chojnacki. A growing number of funds with international mandates, he adds, means there’s a growing appetite for global diversification and an ever-improving regulatory environment for direct company-investor access. ‘Technology can be a power tool to bring the two closer together,’ he concludes.

Closir was mentored by BNY Mellon’s Jamie Green throughout the process, though the firm made several other contacts, including large institutional investors. ‘The system was invaluable,’ notes Chojnacki. ‘This kind of face-to-face exposure is simply not possible outside of a program like this. The experience, range and seniority of the mentors meant the sessions covered a huge amount of high-level, relevant ground. Each meeting started with two questions: How can I help you? and Who can I introduce you to? For a fast-growing company like Closir, this is exactly what we needed.’

Other aspects of Dassault Système’s program were also very beneficial, according to Chojnacki, including what he calls the best part: the Level 39 start-up environment, which meant Closir was always among other young fintech companies, sharing contacts, advice and experience.

On the day, Prophis was crowned winner, with Heckyl a close second. The judges commended the all-round ‘high caliber’ of all the companies on show, however, and expressed their confidence that each platform would ‘be a driving force in revolutionizing the investment management industry’.

For Closir, the FinTech Challenge marks a strong starting-off point for scaling up the platform across a number of markets. ‘Throughout the accelerator program, we received a lot of useful advice – we’ve tried to take it on board where possible as we continue to build out the functionality and user experience of the platform,’ Chojnacki concludes. ‘Overall the feedback was excellent across the board so we’re definitely on the right track. We just need to continue to work hard and do what we’re doing.’