CEO Martina King explains how her AI fraud prevention technology has adapted amid the pandemic


When the pandemic struck and the lockdowns were imposed, consumer behavior changed overnight.

While many fraud prevention systems have struggled to cope with the rapid shift to all online purchases, Featurespace’s self-learning models have shone, quickly embracing these new models.

Martina King, CEO of Featurespace, with Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire Julie Spence during the presentation of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade. Image: Featurespace

It’s this sophistication in the face of change – and, in fact, the ever-increasing efforts of cybercriminals to break through defenses – that has helped Featurespace’s spiral of success this year.

The Cambridge-based company Science Park has secured 68 clients and is now generating more revenue in the United States than the company as a whole in 2018.

No wonder he won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade earlier this year, an award which was finally presented in person last Thursday by the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Julie Spence.

“It was a great day,” Featurespace CEO Martina King told the Cambridge Independent. “We have hosted a lunch for all of our team here in the UK. We moved into our office in Cambridge Science Park, which we took over in March 2020. Today was the first day we were able to have the whole team in the office, for what was such a big event.

The Queen’s Award – the company’s second – recognizes the global growth of Featurespace since leaving the engineering department at Cambridge University in 2008, formed by the late Professor Bill Fitzgerald with his doctoral student, Dave Excell, who is now responsible for the growth and operation of the company across the Americas and oversees overall product strategy.

Interview with Martina King, Broers Building, Hauser Forum, 21 JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge.  Photo: Keith Heppell
Interview with Martina King, Broers Building, Hauser Forum, 21 JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge. Photo: Keith Heppell

“Our head office is in Cambridge and we have offices in London, Atlanta in the United States, Singapore and Israel,” said Martina.

“We have team members who work in several states in the United States and we have team members in Portugal, Spain, Australia and Thailand.

“We have a truly international customer base: 76 percent of this year’s sales were made outside the UK, 46 percent of which was in America.

“Our clients are based in 20 countries and we monitor transactions in over 120 countries. We have doubled the number of countries we serve in three years.

The company’s fraud prevention and anti-money laundering software monitors customer data in real time, using proprietary machine learning technology, adaptive behavioral analytics and networking deep automated behavioral.

Its ARIC Risk Hub provides financial institutions with a single customer view across the entire payment journey, predicting individual behavior in real time and automatically recalculating risk, despite changes in data flows.

It really made sense when the blockades were imposed.

Martina King, CEO of Featurespace, receives the Queen's Award from Lord Lieutenant Julie Spence.  Image: Featurespace
Martina King, CEO of Featurespace, receives the Queen’s Award from Lord Lieutenant Julie Spence. Image: Featurespace

“Ours has proven to be the only technology in the world that adapts and learns to a new data stream without anyone having to intervene,” said Martina. “A good example of this would be in card scoring, where all the data changed on March 23, 2020 from a mix of card present and card not present, to all cards not present, as everyone was performing home transactions.

“All the other companies had to retrain their machine learning models on the new dataset, but because ours are self-taught, our technology was really put through stress tests and in a very short time it was. recycled and has been able to provide protection to the level we offer.

“Our consumers and businesses have been protected faster than anyone else. “

And that’s good, because Covid-19 has also triggered a cybercrime epidemic.

“Scams have increased dramatically during the pandemic,” notes Martina. “Criminals took advantage of fear during the Covid pandemic. Having technology that works behind the scenes to try and protect consumers from financial crime has been essential. “

He helped Featurespace secure new customers this year, such as eftpos, the Australian debit card payment system, a major Irish financial services company, a major Nigerian payment and switching service provider, and several banks in Australia. United States and Europe.

“We have two different routes and customer bases – indirect, where companies white label our technology and have a fraud system enhanced by their own customers and data. A good example of this would be WorldPay or TESSIS, on the merchant and card issuers side. And then the banks use our systems directly to protect payments throughout the banking transaction process, ”explains Martina.

Cybercrime has increased during the pandemic
Cybercrime has increased during the pandemic

“The installation depends on the complexity of the customer. If it’s an organization with very modern technology, they can take our software and install it themselves and be up and running in a matter of days.

“Depending on the complexity of their data environment, this could take weeks, but if it’s a large company that wants our software to protect, for example, all of a bank’s payments, these installations could take months. “

Featurespace now employs 400 people, half of them in Cambridge, where it also has room for expansion in its new headquarters. It continues to recruit software engineers and data scientists, as well as support workers, project managers and others.

“We are bringing back our internship program and also reintroducing our graduate recruitment program,” notes Martina.

The company has just appointed British Army veteran Will Anderson as director of communications and marketing.

He is a former senior vice president of corporate and brand affairs at Careem, the ‘super app’ for the wider Middle East region, and a former partner of Brunswick Group, the global consulting firm. strategic communication.

“Will brings experience of managing a brand in a rapidly growing multinational technology company and his qualities of strategic thinking, rigorous planning, cultural empathy and thoughtful and creative execution will prove to be essential in helping us. to reach more customers around the world and to strengthen Featurespace’s reputation as a technology leader and a force for good, ”said Martina.

Featurespace technology detects fraud in real time
Featurespace technology detects fraud in real time

The company is firmly in favor of a wider education of the risks for consumers.

“Criminals feed off fear and make people react very quickly and prevent them from pausing and thinking,” says Martina. “We want to be at the forefront of helping our customers and consumers learn about the tactics criminals would use to cheat them out of their money.

“The more people are aware, the better they are protected. Today a lot of people are aware of this and if they see a certain type of email they delete it and do not respond at all. It is the easiest way to stop crime in many ways.

“But it’s really difficult, especially for banks, to make sure that their business customers as well as consumers are always alert to these types of criminal activity. This is why they spend so much time using technology to protect their customers and their own organization.

For the coming year, Martina says Featurespace’s primary goal is to “continue to delight our customers.”

“When we made the promise to our industry, we said we would always try to make sure we bring them the best technology to solve fraud and financial crime and we stay on track with our innovation and heritage at Cambridge. to keep doing it, ”she says.

“The other part of the promise was to make sure that we give exemplary service and that we are always by their side and that we understand their challenges.

“As we evolve, as long as we continue to do these two things to the best of our ability, Featurespace will continue to grow. “

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