A single intelligent system that can boost productivity, enable remote working, reduce costs, improve customer service and provide unprecedented management insights. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Far from it, says Liza Russell, who, as CEO of Inbotiqa, is leading the business through a period of incredible growth and towards a multi-million-pound turnover.
The fintech firm provides a workflow-management tool for large-volume shared email inboxes, predominantly in banks and large financial service providers. And, with 124 billion business emails sent worldwide every day, we’re talking serious numbers.
“The level of emails that arrive in some shared inboxes is staggering,” says Liza, “and this can mean it’s all too easy to miss an important communication; the consequences of which can be extremely significant.”
Think millions of pounds significant. Co-founders Ludre Stevens and Vishal Shanbhag were working in financial services when they saw exactly this happen at another firm. A single email was overlooked, and the critical instruction was missed, resulting in a large regulatory fine. They were instantly convinced that there must be a better way.
Intelligent business email
Cue YUDOmail, a workflow tool applied on top of email, to help improve management and ultimately performance. Aimed largely at enterprise clients, it can track which employee emails have been allocated to whom, what the priorities are, and when a task has been completed. Crucially, it logs every piece of communication in one place for audit purposes.
Not content with these benefits, the development of YUDOsmart will take things up a notch, further improving efficiency by using machine learning (ML) to automatically allocate emails based on their content. It identifies which task the emails relate to and assigns them accordingly, also taking individual capacities into account and distributing workloads evenly within a team to prevent bottlenecks.
It’s clever stuff.
Fit for purpose
“The thing with email,” says Liza, “is that while it’s incredibly useful, it was never designed to be used in such great volumes and it’s very difficult and time-consuming to track every action or task that comes through.
“Our tools make email fit for purpose in today’s business world. Communication is optimised and processes are streamlined – as a result, email volumes can be reduced by 40%. This, in turn, reduces operational risk and costs.”
Liza explains: “The technology links email, chat and voice together, ensuring that all communications about a particular case can be managed in one thread. Internal approvals and external discussions, changes to priorities, written memos, telephone calls, attachments, required actions and deadlines… everything is contained in one place. This means every element can be managed, tracked and actioned to the specified timescales.
“This is especially important in regulatory environments. Missed critical instructions can incur consequential losses and regulatory fines – as Ludre and Vishal witnessed back in 2011. So, we have made a commitment to be RegTech ready which means that our products stand up to the robust regulatory requirements, providing a high level of data and a comprehensive audit trail.
“Nothing is deleted. At any point, it is possible to look back at what decisions were made when, why, and by whom. Every single touchpoint is captured.”
A more productive workforce
“Besides the regulatory benefits this system is also great for driving accountability. Managers have access to an analytical dashboard and can view in real time exactly what has and hasn’t been completed and by whom. It is possible to see right down to the smallest detail such as how long an email remains unopened and whether the content has been actioned or just opened, looked at and/or forwarded on to someone else.
“This obviously monitors productivity, but there’s also a duty of care element. Why hasn’t that person delivered, when they’re usually highly efficient? A call can soon be made and a problem fixed, before it turns into a bigger issue. And, with a rise in remote working, it will become increasingly important to keep track of employees in this way.
“If you think about it, we’re potentially going from six or so large corporate offices to 600 or more personal offices. And if people aren’t sitting down for face-to-face meetings, a different way of working is needed to make sure that nothing slips through the net.
“By allocating emails to individuals, our tools create that personal queue of work, collating information together so no matter where an employee is working from, they’ll always have everything they need at their fingertips.”
A new challenge
This attention to detail is one of the things which blew Liza away when she first came across Inbotiqa. Wanting out of the corporate world, she was looking for a smaller team and a new challenge. With experience in building teams and scaling up and with a background in banking and financial services (she previously spent time in operations in retail banking and wealth management at RBS, Coutts and PwC), the product really resonated.
She says: “I’ve managed these large multinational teams where every instruction is critical and cannot be missed. I know, from experience, just how important it is.”
Liza joined as part of a management restructure in 2018 and she hasn’t looked back. Not one to do things by halves, one of her first achievements was taking Inbotiqa through the application process for the Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars, recognised as one of the most selective fintech programmes in the world. After five gruelling interviews and a tough Dragon’s Den-style pitch, the firm was chosen as one of just ten companies to join the 2019 programme – narrowed down from an initial shortlist of more than 700.
“It was a really intense period,” she says. “We had three months of business development courses, mentoring sessions and networking with some amazing industry experts and investors; all culminating in a Demo Day. That’s when you present your business, essentially pitching for investment and mentors.
“We were actually the only company in that year’s cohort to already be generating revenue. At that point we already had clients, so we were looking for the next step up.”
And boy did they get it.
Along with one other company, Inbotiqa was the quickest firm to agree a Proof of Concept with Barclays.
Tools that speak for themselves
“As with many large corporates, change can be a slow process and it can take time to get decisions made and agreements in place,” she said. “But we’ve found that once we do get over the line and the trial period starts, the product demonstrates its value extremely quickly. We have evidence that our tools really work and that’s powerful.
“Now we’re focused on growing our internal footprint within the companies with which we’re already working. The more people who are using the platform, the more essential it becomes for additional users to sign up – and there’s a tipping point at which it makes sense to roll it out across the whole business. In one instance, we have over 1,100+ users in one division, another about to sign up and more progressing through the demo stage. So, we’re making good progress.
“Looking further ahead, the aim is to sign up multiple major banks, giving them the capability to talk to each other through the platforms and have all their communications logged in the same way. There is so much potential. It’s incredibly exciting.”
A business going places
Liza lists a string of other new opportunities, from additional major banks to more BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) clients. She’s currently going through an investment round and says securing additional funding would provide a real platform for further growth. The ambition is to double the number of employees from 16 to 32 within 12-18 months – and it’s likely this would turn Inbotiqa into a multi-million-pound company overnight.
“And we’ve not even touched on the other sectors that we could work with,” she added.
“We’ve always targeted financial services because that’s our combined background. We understand the processes and we could clearly see the potential for growth. But any sector that uses high-volume shared email inboxes could reap the productivity, customer service and cost benefits from ML – the NHS, legal sector, utilities companies, ecommerce and Government – to name but a few.”
With a list like that, something tells us we’ll be hearing a lot more about Inbotiqa in the not too distant future.