50 Smartest Companies of the Year 2020

Featurespace – World-Leaders in Enterprise Financial Crime Prevention


Fraud attacks occur with such overwhelming frequency that banks and merchants can feel as if they’re fighting a winless battle. As soon as one defense is in place, fraudsters aggressively change their methods and begin exploiting other weaknesses in the system. The good news: criminals can be thwarted by fraud detection systems that utilize Adaptive Behavioral Analytics.

Unlike the systems that solely rely on static machine learning, Adaptive Behavioral Analytics technology is capable of detecting known fraud, as well as the new attacks that occur when criminals switch things up. In addition, the system can differentiate between actual fraud and activities that appear suspicious but are actually genuine. As a result, friction in financial services and e-commerce is significantly reduced and customers can maintain confidence that their preferred transaction method will be seamless and secure.

Featurespace invented Adaptive Behavioral Analytics and is the world leader in Enterprise Financial Crime Prevention. Driven by its mission to risk score every transaction on the planet, the company is dedicated to making the world a safer place for its clients and their customers, and its technology and results are recognized as best-in-class. Featurespace’s award-winning ARIC™ Risk Hub leverages machine learning to enable fraud and anti-money laundering analysts to prioritize alerts and detect suspicious activity in real-time, with explainable anomaly detection.

In Conversation with Dave Excell, Founder and President

Q. Can you tell us about your services in brief?

Featurespace is the world leader in Enterprise Financial Crime prevention for fraud and Anti-Money Laundering. We created the ARIC platform, a real-time machine learning software that risk scores events in more than 180 countries to prevent fraud and financial crime. ARIC Risk Hub uses advanced, explainable anomaly detection to enable financial institutions to automatically identify risk, catch new fraud attacks, and identify suspicious activity in real-time. More than 30 major global financial institutions use ARIC to protect their business, and their customers, including five leading banks in the U.K. Some of our publicly announced customers include HSBC, TSYS, Worldpay, RBS NatWest Group, Contis, Danske Bank, ClearBank, Permanent TSB and Betfair.

Q. Where do you think enterprise financial crime systems are lacking, and how is your company filling the void?

Incumbent fraud systems rely on understanding past attacks and spotting similar patterns but cannot detect anomalies and new attacks with the same speed and accuracy as an adaptive machine learning solution. We have a unique position in that we have a truly global perspective of payments, covering issuing, acquiring, non-plastics and financial crime. By combining our proprietary Adaptive Behavioral Analytics and anomaly detection, ARIC’s unique approach continually updates and adapts against discreet subtleties. This allows the platform to target fraudulent and risky activity more precisely based on what it’s learned and automatically identifies risk and catches new and known attacks. ARIC understands the context of normal behavior for each individual. Instead of focusing on ‘bad behavior’, the system looks for anomalies in normal, ‘good behavior’ so that even the slightest anomalies are recognized, highlighting when an individual is acting out of character.

Q. Perception and reality must coincide with financial crime risk management. How do you know if the attack is probable?

While it’s impossible to know where the next threat is going to come from, it’s an undeniable inevitability that every organization should be prepared. We identify fraud in real-time, as the attack occurs, enabling our clients to shift from writing rules in their systems after the attack to blocking threats as they take place. ARIC is innovative in assessing risk from both “in-session” online behavioral data and transactional data, spotting suspicious activity indicators before the point of transaction.

Q. There are other players in this vertical. How do you distinguish yourself from the rest?

ARIC Risk Hub is driven by the best performing models in the industry, which are self-learning and run within the platform, while in production, and do not require retuning with updated training data. This allows our customers to identify new fraud patterns and strategies in real-time, create machine learning models without coding knowledge and test rules against historical data and test rules against live data. Another critical differentiator is our customer service, and we’ve built our reputation in the industry by having strong relationships and maintaining our focus on meeting their needs. We combine our expertise with a people-first approach - innovation and being customer-focused are central to our success and growth. We also actively seek feedback as often as possible to ensure we are surprising and delighting our customers. For example, we recently conducted a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey and received a 67, which is well-above the industry standard of excellence.

Q. How efficient is your expertise? Do you have qualified individuals who can keep your service standards up and running?

Our technology is backed by more than 30 years of academic research, and the performance and results of our models provide our clients with valid proof and confidence that our innovation helps them fight fraud and money laundering faster and more effectively than any other system on the market, while also giving them more control over preventing risk. To maintain this ability, we hire for intellect and values, as well as the contribution our employees can make on behalf of our customers. To ensure our product stays cutting edge and at the forefront of the industry, we actively hire market experts from the field and some of the brightest academics.

Q. What are your future plans for the development of your company?

We’re focused on our mission to risk score every transaction on the planet. We will continue investing in our team to stay ahead of the criminals and protect those most vulnerable to fraudulent attacks. We’re constantly striving for perfection and regularly evaluate and enhance our platform based on customer and partner input. To support Featurespace’s continued commitment to global growth, despite a difficult economic climate, we raised $37.4 million (£30 million) in May 2020. We recently expanded into Singapore, Australia, and the greater Asia Pacific region, while also growing our presence in existing markets by expanding our customer base and partnerships.

Behind the success of Featurespace

Dave Excell is  Founder and President of Featurespace. He is an experienced technology innovator with more than 20 years dedicated to the study of engineering. Excell has received several accolades in his field, including the ITC Enterprise Award for Young Entrepreneur. Under his leadership, Featurespace has progressed from a concept to commercial success and he currently resides in the U.S., where he manages Featurespace’s global expansion from Atlanta, Georgia.

Our ARIC Risk Hub is driven by the best performing models in the industry, which are self-learning and run within the platform, while in production, and do not require retuning with updated training data.