DSS hopes to establish Turks and Caicos as new technology hub
E. Jay Saunders discusses his ambitions for his financial technology company and homeland
Domus Semo Sancus – DSS for short – is a financial technology company headquartered in Turks and Caicos. From this home – little-known for its fintech or start-up culture – its chairman and CEO E. Jay Saunders has developed SafetyNet, a technological solution to international Know Your Customer regulations and associated de-risking. He explains what inspired him to create SafetyNet, why building DSS in Turks and Caicos was important, and what he hopes establishing an internationally respected fintech brand can achieve for the country. This is the second half of European CEO’s interview with E. Jay Saunders – in the first half he explains how SafetyNet deploys artificial intelligence and darkweb searches to create a best-in-class KYC solution.
European CEO: DSS is headquartered in Turks and Caicos, which is well known for its financial services industry, but less so for its start-up culture and fintech.
E. Jay Saunders: This is true; one of the other things it’s known for is having the best beach in the world. It’s also a British Overseas Territory. We’re well aware that it’s not known for any type of technology or start-ups. But we’re hoping that if we’re successful, other persons who want to get involved in technology, who want to create their own companies, will then see that they could be a success.
But then in addition to that, we’re hoping that VCs will then see that if one successful company can come out of Turks and Caicos, then maybe there are other companies that they could invest in. And hopefully a pool of capital, that we can then reinvest into tech start-ups, to help them through angel financing, or becoming VCs ourselves.
European CEO: What inspired you to create DSS and SafetyNet?
E. Jay Saunders: Well I used to be the CEO for Digicel Turks and Caicos. And while I was at Digicel, I wanted to create a digital wallet. So after being CEO for almost 10 years, I stepped down, and we attempted to start building a global wallet – mainly to cater to the unbanked and underbanked, particularly around remittances. And one of the challenges that we faced pretty quickly was that, in order to have a global wallet, you needed to be able to do KYC at a global level. Because you need some way to give the regulator the assurance that you know who your customers are.
And being able to do that – particularly for the unbanked, and the international migrants around the world – we couldn’t find a tool that could meet our requirements. So we started building our own tool!
At the same time we started thinking about it, IBM came out with IBM Watson in a manner that you could utilise it through APIs. And so we started building it on top of IBM Watson. And as we started getting more and more familiar with artificial intelligence, we were able to then utilise tools from other companies, and that allowed us to achieve our objectives.
European CEO: Has Turks and Caicos been impacted by the de-risking that we were talking about earlier?
E. Jay Saunders: Yes, Turks and Caicos is very small, as a country. So the impact hasn’t been as big as a place like Bermuda, or the Cayman Islands, that’s well known for financial services. But you can clearly see where banks are starting to pull out. So just the other day, Scotiabank pulled out of the capital of Grand Turk. Banking services have been reduced. Available capital for small and medium enterprises have been reduced. It’s very hard to borrow money now, as pools of capital have been soaked up. And it’s no longer a customer-centric sector.
You know, most times you go in there, you feel like the bank doesn’t want you as a client. It makes it very difficult, it takes days to open up a personal bank account. It takes weeks to open up a corporate bank account, while they’re doing their due diligence. So they generally make it very, very difficult for you to be able to engage in banking services.
European CEO: Now obviously you want DSS to be successful as a businessperson, but do you have a personal ambition for the company?
E. Jay Saunders: Well of course we want to help bank the unbanked. It’s a huge issue.
If we were able to solve financial inclusion, we could make lives better for more than a billion persons around the world. It makes their life better, it takes them out of poverty. So on the human side of things, we definitely want to help contribute to solving that problem.
And also I mean, one of the things that I carry on my shoulders, that the Caribbean, particularly the Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas, we’re not known as technologists. We’re not known in that sector. We’re not known for creating international brands. And I’m hoping if DSS is successful as a technology company, then VCs will then see that there are other ideas in the Caribbean that they can invest in. And then that would open up doors for other entrepreneurs, tech entrepreneurs, to be successful.
European CEO: E. Jay, thank you very much.
E. Jay Saunders: Thank you for having me here.