5 innovative Belgian fintech companies to watch

Belgium’s fintech superstars are offering innovative new applications using automation, AI, mobile, and cloud-based technologies to provide valuable insights and more efficient transaction systems for businesses.

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AI, automation and big data analytics are key themes for Belgian fintech, as innovative companies look to solve common problems in the financial services sector.

Fintech is, broadly, technology that is applied to financial services or the management of transaction operations within businesses. Cloud-based applications that cut costs, streamline work-flow, and visualise data for users are in high demand, says Dave Remue, head of fintech at KPMG Belgium.

“The Belgian fintech market has never been more buoyant,” Remue says. "Banks actively seek collaboration with innovative fintechs to help them accelerate their digital transformation."

Belgium’s friendly regulatory environment for financial service companies has made it a regional hub for fintech start-ups and companies, and the government’s 'superfund' for tech scale-ups helps to ensure that great ideas are able to take off.

“Fintechs find a nurturing environment in Belgium with the presence of decision centres of key market players such as Euroclear, KBC, Mastercard Europe, Worldline, and SWIFT that see fintechs as partners and that have mobilised highly-popular start-up programmes,” Remue says. “Motivated by home-grown unicorns such as Collibra, fintech funding has become less challenging."

In 2021, a record amount of almost €1.4 billion (US$1.6 billion) went to tech start-ups in Belgium, Remue noted, adding that well-known US investment firms such as Sequoia, Bessemer, and Lightspeed have set up local offices in Europe and found fertile ground in the country.

Here are five of the most innovative fintech companies based in Belgium right now:

InvestSuite

Founded: 2018

Headquarters: Louvain

CEO: Bart Vanhaeren

InvestSuite offers AI-based investment management applications to retail banks, online brokers, wealth managers, private banks and other financial organisations, which can customize the software for their end-clients.

The company's cloud-based products, including StoryTeller and Robo Advisor, are designed to process financial data and present insights in an engaging and easy-to-digest way.

Financial organisations can use StoryTeller to generate reports on how client investment portfolios are doing.  “Leveraging storytelling techniques is a core product principle. StoryTeller's automatically-generated stories on the how and the why of financial and sustainable performance from an individual investment portfolio drive financial understanding, trust, and engagement,” says Laurent Sorber, InvestSuite co-founder and CTO. "We use advanced quantitative and natural language processing (NLP) algorithms behind the scenes, which we combine with strong visuals, human insights and effective communication techniques to build the portfolio's story.”

The company’s Robo Advisor tool helps users convert their dormant savings into investment assets, providing cost reporting, transaction history, and portfolio gains and losses, all visualised in a user-friendly interface. "Robo Advisors are already giving people access to personalised, low-cost, and risk-return optimised investment portfolios," Sorber says.

Silverfin

Founded: 2013

Headquarters: Ghent

CEO: Joris Van Der Gucht and Tim Vandecasteele

Silverfin aims to eliminate the complex nest of legacy software tools, spreadsheets, documents, and applications used by financial professionals and their customers by offering a user-friendly, interconnected central data reconciliation platform. Designed to serve finance professionals, the software connects to customer bookkeeping and financial systems to standardise and consolidate data and offer an in-depth view of a company’s finances, generate reports, and automate everyday tasks.

“Our customers use Silverfin to automate common, and often repetitive, work that takes up the majority of accountants’ time, like annual accounts production and tax and management reporting. We make it easy for firms to do this more accurately and much faster with the help of automation,” says  Silverfin CEO and co-founder Joris Van Der Gucht. “With our help, this core accounting work is done more efficiently, and that enables firms to redeploy saved staff time for advising clients which is what they want to be spending more time on."

Because the platform is cloud-based, users can get insights in real time, collaborate with ease, and discover new ways to generate profits with detailed advisory tools, according to Van Der Gucht. “In addition to cloud technology, we also see a lot of potential for machine learning and AI," Van Der Gucht says. The company recently acquired a Belgian AI business, Boltzmann. "We have a number of customers already using their AI data mapping and review functionality developed specifically for Silverfin,” Van Der Gucht says.

Cashforce

Founded: 2013

Headquarters: Antwerp

CEO: Nicolas Christiaen

To help treasurers and financial leaders meet the challenge of cash forecasting,  Cashforce created a cash forecasting and working capital analytics platform that uses automation, analytics, and integration with ERP and banking systems.

“Machine learning and AI will continue to play a significant role in Cashforce’s ability to improve accuracy in forecasting,” says Cashforce CEO Nicolas Christiaen. “We are developing algorithms across two axes: the extrapolation of historical data using an ensemble of machine learning and statistical models, and assessing payment behaviour of customers using a feature-based machine learning model. Based on the enormous volume of data we are processing daily, we see even more sophisticated possibilities.”

Users can combine different sources of financial data like ERP, bank statements, sales projections, and CRM data to get deeper insights from their forecasts and create simulations of different scenarios.

“API connectivity and cross-platform data aggregation will continue to be a focus for Cashforce, as it is vitally important to connect and compile data across our customer’s ecosystem," Christiaen says. "In order to reduce latency in data analytics, real-time processing of big data will become increasingly important. Additionally, synthetic data will improve implementing AI, yielding access to high-quality data sets to train machine learning systems."

Pom

Founded: 2014

Headquarters: Antwerp

CEO: Johannes Vermeire

Invoicing can be costly, inconvenient, and time-consuming for billers and customers, so Pom (which stands for “peace of mind”) created a streamlined e-payment service designed to reduce late payments and processing time. Paper and digital invoices can be managed completely from the company's mobile app, which can handle a wide range of payment types such as salaries, membership fees, donations, and fines. The app is used by clients in industries like energy (EDF), banking (ING), and governmental social insurance funds (Xerius). Transactions are completely free for the payer.

For business users, late payments can hinder business growth, and collection costs grow with every follow-up and reminder to the user. Pom uses QR codes to obtain payments faster, with 40% of users paying within 24 hours, and their one-to-one payment model ensures that businesses receive the correct amount every time.

Ngrave

Founded: 2018

Headquarters: Brussels

CEO: Ruben Merre

As cryptocurrency continues to gain momentum, hackers are discovering security exploits in cryptowallets, with $3.2 billion stolen in 2021 alone, according to blockchain researcher Chainalysis. Ngrave created a three-part cryptosecurity solution designed to prevent hackers from accessing users’ private keys or wallet device: the Zero hardware wallet; the Graphene backup key plate solution; and the Liquid app for managing over 1,000 types of crypto coins.

To create their nanochips and cryptographic algorithms, Ngrave worked with Imec, a nano-electronics research and development hub, and COSIC, an applied cryptography research firm known for creating the encryption protocols used by the US National Security Administration.

Unlike many hardware wallets, the Ngrave Zero wallet is completely air-gapped, preventing hackers from infiltrating by blocking off potential access through, for example, Bluetooth, NFC, or Wi-Fi. Its “cold wallet” design operates completely off-line, and pairs with the Liquid mobile app only through one-way QR codes. The USB port is sandboxed from the rest of the wallet, allowing users to charge the device and receive firmware updates securely.

The Graphene backup keys are a cryptographic puzzle in the form of two stainless steel plates with hexadecimal characters.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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