Charles Poon’s Interview on 10 May 2023
In case you missed the CNA938 Tech Talk radio interview with Handshakes Co-Founder and Chief Products Officer Charles Poon, here are some snippets of the discussion with Daniel Martin as they talked about data AI tech and corporate intelligence solutions that could help empower organisations to do business safely.
Story behind the name Handshakes and its business model
Handshakes is a data-tech company that understand corporate networks to make better decisions. The inspiration came from actual handshakes that people make when greeting each other as an analogy for the connections between people and companies in a corporate network.
Handshakes is about combining both data and technology to make life better for clients. Using the analogy of flour as a raw ingredient, data by itself requires processing, to be sliced and diced, in order to be easily understood. Visualisation tools like maps help their clients understand the network and relationship faster. As the saying goes ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, there is so much more value conveyed visually than trying to piece textual information together through reams of tables and reports.
Co-Founders’ History as SGX Regulators
Both Charles and Daryl knew each other when both were regulators at SGX, sharing the same passion and frustrations at work and they chatted a lot about such topics during their breaks.
At that time, they were surprised by the lack of technological capabilities for them to understand underlying questions like which parties were related, the parties behind M&A deals, where there conflicts of interest, collusion or fraud behind those transactions; all they could do was rely on traditional methods which were manual processes. After many sessions of them hashing out how technology can help solve their pain points, they eventually quit their jobs to set up the company.
Handshakes’ Use Cases
During the early years where the company focused on Capital Markets, there was a regulation change that encouraged listed companies to have more independent directors on the board. Listed companies had to find more independent directors and some took the route of converting existing non-executive directors to independent directors. In one such case, the Handshakes APP was able to flag out that the director was also related to the founder of the company. The disclosure of the familial relationship was in the IPO prospectus issued many years prior to the re-designation announcement. This showed that the solution is able to stitch fragmented but relevant information together to provide a more holistic picture. This enables clients to ask the right questions and make the right decisions.
There was also a period of time where the markets in the region had several scandals and blow ups. Several S-Chips (Chinese companies listed on the Singapore Exchange) went into trouble. The initial analysis that was done to find commonalities in those cases showed how corporate network analysis was useful in helping clients manage risks and avoid losses. This led to the development of the Handshakes APP
Another interesting example was the Penny Stock Saga. Months before the crash happened, a client came forward with one or two companies that the client was worried about. Through the Handshakes APP, it was later discovered that the network turned out to be a web of 20 to 30 entities. That discovery gave the client a more complete picture to make the right decisions before the market crashed.
How are clients interacting with Handshakes
The Handshakes APP is a web-based application that allows easy adoption by clients without the need for installation on desktops. This side-stepped the usual roadblocks that would be encountered if the product was built as a native application that needed to be installed on clients’ computers.
Apart from advanced analytics and visualisation tools, more conventional reports are also available for users who may be more conservative in terms of technology adoption. Once familiarity is built, these clients often moved on to the proprietary Handshakes maps.
For clients with existing systems, Handshakes’ solutions complement and strengthen their existing infrastructure. Some high-end clients have requested for the same technology to be installed into their internal eco-systems. This allows these clients to combine both public and private data to perform an even more comprehensive analysis.
Security is an area of key focus. As Handshakes deals a lot with the more sensitive departments within organisations as well as regulators and government agencies, Handshakes is familiar with the needs of clients in this area and have fulfilled numerous due diligence checks on its processes and data protection policies.
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