In this series, we share light on our employees and find out how they began working in RegTech, what they do at Apiax, among other fun insights. This time, we put Alan Blanchard, our Head of Business Development UK, in the Spotlight:
Could you tell me a bit about your role at Apiax?
As Head of Business Development here in the UK, I work closely with our local clients and support them in optimising their compliance practices. Since Apiax is headquartered in Zurich, it is important to have a local presence wherever we have clients, especially those undergoing a lot of regulatory turbulence.
Why did you decide to join a RegTech startup?
Having worked in the legal publishing space for nearly 20 years, my ambition has always been to provide the right answer in the best way possible. I became interested in RegTech whilst working at the Financial Conduct Authority (the UK financial services regulator). On a number of occasions, we looked into the possibility of digitising FCA rules to make them easier to implement.
Back then it still seemed like a utopia. Digital rules are an ambitious project for a regulator to undertake — and one that will probably take some time to put into practice. The fact that Apiax was one step ahead really appealed to me and allowed me to start putting my ambitions into practice. At Apiax, RegTech is happening right now.
You sound like a RegTech guru! How would you define the term more precisely?
My biggest issue with the term RegTech is its strong association with FinTech. In my opinion, RegTech is a subset of GovTech, which refers to accessing the law in a useful, actionable way. It just so happens to have taken hold in the financial services industry with its high regulatory scrutiny and undergoing a wave of technological innovation. But I can definitely see a broader application of its capabilities in other industries as well.
How does RegTech work in practice?
In practice, sourcing compliance knowledge works much like a Google search, but smarter. You ask a question, but instead of showing page after page with results to review, the technology curates your query to help identify the precise answer. This is a step-change as the most lawyerly answer of all still remains “it depends”. What RegTech can do is identify all the dependencies, account for them and guide the enquirer to their answer.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
‘Why won’t it tell me the answer?’, is a problem I have been trying to solve ever since I first published a legal textbook on the web. It is therefore extremely satisfying to now be able to deliver on that request.
The more complicated the business scenario, the harder the job in transforming the regulation, the better the reaction from the Apiax community who get the answer at the click of a button — as opposed to spending hours on legal research.
Tell me about some of your ongoing projects.
I’m particularly excited about the work we are doing with law firms and advisory firms. We can take their bespoke content, usually meaning client confidential legal advice, securely digitise it and then allow the firm to distribute that advice using our WebApps or APIs.
For the firm, they have a very nice state-of-the-art digital offering, branded, hosted and sold by them. For us, we can support their content creation, content management and user journeys to make sure the clients find the right answers as quickly as possible.
What is exactly that digitisation?
Typically it centres around moving away from Excel towards a more content-centred approach.
So what is so bad about Excel?
Excel is great if you are an accountant, but it will not do the job of managing your compliance knowledge. It is a static format which does not take into account individual case variables and requires a lot of labour-intensive maintenance.
Heading up Apiax in the UK, what are the main Brexit-related challenges you have seen — both locally and with your international clients?
The first challenge was knowing the extent of the UK’s relationship with the EU and the rest of the world. Now that we have passed that point we can begin adjusting the content to reflect the built-in regulatory requirements as well as readying the content for future divergence. Many of our clients understand that and are acting now to save time and effort later. Acting now is a smart decision.
Do you have a favourite Apiax function?
I am always looking ahead, so my favourite functions are always the ones we are currently working on.
It is Apiax standard procedure to keep a supply of snacks in the office. What is your local, go-to snack?
Pork scratchings. Preferably consumed in the pub with a pint.