We talked to Aaron Lazor of Finscend on how the firm helps focus dispute processing on what is needed, and when it is needed.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Aaron Lazor: So far, everyone in our Finscend community is safe and healthy, thanks to God.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Finscend?
Aaron Lazor: Before co-founding Finscend, I worked for fifteen years in financial services, which gave me an ample opportunity to study the credit and debit card ecosystem. First, as a banker and then as a CFO, I was involved in merchant-side dispute processing. My next step was starting my own consumer-focused credit card transaction dispute consulting business in 2016.
That was the springboard to Finscend. We focused on what we later understood was a huge, underserviced substratum of cardholders whose service-related card-not-present (or CNP for short) transactions were never provided by merchants as contracted. In the beginning, we didn’t realize how widespread that phenomenon was. But because we knew the rules and knew how to speak to bankers in the language they speak, we were able to provide our clients with valuable insight and assistance into the chargeback process. We engaged clients who raised credit card transaction disputes at over 800 banks worldwide for over three years. We found the advice we provided significantly reduced processing time while increasing cardholder satisfaction. That was because we provided value to the bank by clarifying the right dispute reasons and assisting the client in providing the necessary information to verify the claim.
Claims that previously had been rejected based on misinformation or misinterpretation were now being accepted. That experience validated our assumptions regarding key problems that banks face in the dispute resolution business – the chargeback process for card-not-present transactions is far too complicated, misunderstood, subjective, and unnecessarily lengthy. Due to their justifiable frustration, cardholders are increasingly gravitating to other credit card companies as a result. Therefore, our logical next step was to develop a solution that would enable banks and other financial institutions to simplify, clarify, objectify, and expedite the process. Finscend was born!
How does Finscend innovate?
Aaron Lazor: Banks are being bled dry with unnecessary expenses, especially concerning credit card dispute processing. A couple of years ago, for example, McKinsey estimated that the top 15 U.S. banks alone were then spending approximately $3 billion each year combined on processing credit card disputes.
This problem is only getting worse because the number of credit card disputes is growing year-to-year while payments by check and cash are dropping substantially. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the matter by significantly increasing online commerce, which significantly increased disputes since consumers now have no opportunity to inspect what they are buying in advance with their own hands. In addition, amendments are made to Visa and Mastercard rules and regulations quarterly. Their thousand-page handbooks are constantly being updated. But it’s hard for banks to assimilate these changes immediately and universally. As a result, they are not processing disputes in the same way. Two identical but separate disputes filed on the same day at the same bank can be handled differently if assigned to different customer service representatives.
Finscend innovation is a state-of-the-art technological solution to this unsustainable quandary. Our Bank Dispute Platform (BDP) automates what has been a manual process until now and reduces onboarding time from an agonizing three hours to just a few minutes. Using BDP, banks can now process up to 80% of all CNP transaction disputes digitally, accurately, quickly, and painlessly.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Aaron Lazor: The Covid-19 pandemic has not hampered Finscend’s operations. As a tech company staffed by digital natives, our onsite facility’s transition to a work-from-home environment was seamless. If anything, the Covid-19 pandemic drove increased business activity as demand for chargeback assistance spiked following lockdowns with consumers seeking refunds for everything from airline tickets to college tuition to online scams they got sucked into while stuck at home, including gambling, romance, and cryptocurrency.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Aaron Lazor: Of course. You can’t lead a startup without making difficult choices, especially in the crowded fintech space. The secret is being organized. I always set priorities for the staff when I delegate authority.
This strategy enables Finscend’s operations to function like clockwork so that I’ll have the quality time I need to invest with everyone I have to sit down with, from investors to marketers, developers to journalists. Along the way, what I learned was that you’ve got to be highly motivated and always remain so. Setting up and then running a startup can seem at times like an out-of-control rollercoaster. There are a lot of highs and lows over and over again. It’s not a linear process. Maintaining my motivation is something I learned from athletics, from playing football and baseball while in school.
You’ve got to sustain your highest possible motivation level when you consider those difficult choices you have to make when you make them and long after you’ve made them as well.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Aaron Lazor: When I’m stressed out, I resort to eating pizza and drinking sugary soft drinks. A healthy diet is a great anxiety reducer. And then I go work out on the treadmill. Once a year, I go bowling.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Aaron Lazor: We don’t just plan to stay in the game. In our niche, we are and intend to remain the leader of the pack. From the beginning, I knew we had to define ourselves in what is an extremely crowded market. There’s no shortage of terrific fintech ideas out there, but banks can’t adopt all of them. And even if they could, they can’t adopt all of them simultaneously. So, they must prioritize. The challenge is making your way to the top of their list, and we do that by educating bank managers on how Finscend technology will positively impact their bottom lines.
Your final thoughts?
Aaron Lazor: A word of advice for anyone thinking about setting up a fintech startup: At Finscend, we first researched. Extensive research. So much so that the research we conducted became the industry benchmark. We made sure to canvass those most affected by the problem we identified. We knew we had to hear them out before we did anything else because that’s the key. Only after doing so were we able to refine our solution to fit their real-world experiences. The bottom line is that’s the only surefire way to emerge as an authoritative source on the subject. But you also have to know where your expertise ends. Alone I wouldn’t have been able to bring our idea to life. At that point, you’ve got to meet up with the right person who can balance the scale. My Finscend co-founder, Moshe Teren, is a hi-tech serial entrepreneur with an extensive
enterprise technology background. It was the perfect match because the marriage of our areas of expertise enabled us to realize that artificial intelligence is the key to developing our solution.