Abe Smith – the man behind Dealflo’s e-contracting revolution

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Every year some $15trillion of financial agreements are signed globally, using fragmented or manual processes that are inefficient and carry risk. Abe Smith is a digital innovator who saw how technology could automate the entire process end-to-end, lowering costs, tightening compliance and delivering better conversion and customer experience, and his company Dealflo is growing at a compound annual rate of 95% year-on-year.

A 20-year financial services industry veteran, with a background in digital start-ups, Smith set up Dealflo in 2012. The company is now processing more than $20bn transactions a year for organisations such as Barclays, Ford, BMW, John Lewis, Prudential, MotoNovo, FCA, Hitachi Capital, DSG Financial Services, HSBC, and BNP Paribas.

Holistic approach

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Dealflo was the direct result of spending many years in the identification, verification and e-sign sectors. I saw there was a big problem which was not being addressed, because companies were using individual components of technology. Those separate elements were good at what they did, but there was no end-to-end approach to agreement automation. It really is the case that the sum is greater than the parts,” Smith explains.

While an identification verification system can confirm an applicant is who they claim to be, it does not follow that the same person is the one who signed an agreement. An e-signature solution will speed up the process of closing an agreement, but does not guarantee a legally watertight contract.

Smith’s view was that companies were looking for an approach to financial transaction management which would work across the enterprise as a whole, rather than focusing on a specific part of the sales process. The “Frankenstein” solutions which tried to integrate and combine a range of different pieces of software and manual processes failed to tackle the two key challenges, which he sums up as “reducing risk and removing friction”.

“The risk is that the company will mis-handle some part of the financial transaction, which can cause significant compliance issues – you only have to look at the size of regulatory fines in the financial services sector since 2008, plus the reams of new regulations. There’s also the danger of lost sales, particularly if manual processes fail to deliver the sort of service consumers expect.” Smith pointed out.

Manual and semi-automated processes are inefficient, and prone to human error. Compliance is hard to track, and because it is not possible to prove identity, or what the customer saw of the paperwork, the agreement could be legally unenforceable. As many financial institutions found during the recent PPI mis-selling scandal, this can prove expensive.

Strategic solution

Dealflo offers a digital platform as a service which supports companies to design, action, execute and evidence a financial transaction end-to-end. Dealflo digitises and automates financial agreements, using technology to verify the identity of the customer, and to prove what they saw and did during the agreement signing. It can connect a customer beyond doubt to their identity, and prove that it was the customer who signed the agreement and that it was not subsequently amended. This takes the risk out of the process for organisations, and protects both the business and the consumer.

Smith characterises this approach as “providing a strategic platform rather than offering a tactical product – it gives clients flexibility, but it also ensures compliance and security.”

“The platform captures and cleanses the customer application data. Dealflo verifies the customer, be they a business or an individual, using multiple checks with multiple credit bureaux. Then the solution generates all the necessary documents and ensures they cannot be tampered with before storing them securely in an electronic vault,” Smith explained.

Legal vs enforceable

Prior to launching Dealflo, Smith spent a considerable amount of time on what he identifies as one of the critical issues in financial agreement automation. This is whether an electronically signed contract is actually enforceable, rather than theoretically legal.

Smith points out that a number of high profile financial services companies have run into difficulties because they cannot connect the identity of the signatory on a contract to the paperwork beyond all doubt. When tested in court, costly shortcomings have been identified.

Dealflo’s end-to-end process ensures that the contract cannot be repudiated. Its approach is built on six key principles of enforceability which were drawn up by independent legal advisers from Osborne and Clarke. These are a full audit trail; a record of what the customer saw on the screen at the time; a record of what the customer did as they viewed and interacted with documents; a true copy of the contract which cannot be changed without that change being recorded; an evidence pack which is held independently of any in-house IT department; and a unified, integrated document and suite of processes which cannot be changed in a tamperproof vault.

Looking ahead

Smith reports Dealflo has seen aggressive performance over the past three years, with a growing number of high street names signing up for its service.

“Our goal is to define and own our part of the market space which is financial transaction management. We have come far beyond the world of just e-signing and ID-verification. What we are about is combining the execution and the optimization of clients’ financial agreement processes. We are already pan-European in our approach and the aim now is to lead a push into the global market as the number one provider,” Smith declared.



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