Charlie Kroll is the CEO and founder of Andera Inc., a Providence-based Web development firm focusing on solutions for the financial services sector.
Andera, which just earned a spot on American Banker’s list of 10 Tech Companies to Watch thanks to its account and loan origination software, was founded in 2001 in Kroll’s Brown University dorm room.
Kroll talks to Providence Business News about his company’s success, its future and its new focus on mobile solutions.
PBN: Andera just earned a spot on American Banker’s list of 10 Tech Companies to Watch, how do you feel about that news?
KROLL: We are thrilled to be recognized by one of the industry’s leading authorities on banking technology and innovation. By combining the latest technology with a relentless focus on creating a superior user experience, we’ve made the account opening and lending process simpler for banks and credit unions and for the customers and members they serve. Receiving four “Best of Show” awards from Finovate and receiving this latest recognition from Bank Technology News further validates our strategy, though nothing means quite as much as the positive reviews we’ve received from our customers.
PBN: The company has certainly grown a lot since its 2001 inception in a Brown University dorm room, what do you think has led to your success?
KROLL: We’ve been in business for over 10 years so we’re not exactly a start-up company, though we’ve never stopped thinking like one. With nearly 100 employees, over 500 customers, and three offices, we still adapt and pivot a lot faster than other companies. This was evidenced early on when we shifted from a web development to an online account opening software company. And just last year, we made a big pivot when we acquired oFlows and expanded to an enterprise origination company that helps banks and credit unions originate deposit accounts and loans across all delivery channels (not just online).
With all of these changes comes the need to think differently – not just about the way that we apply technology, but also about the ways in which we hire talent. The people who work at Andera are driven by the enormous opportunities to use technology to solve legacy problems in the enterprise environment, and nowhere is that need greater than the paper-based processes of the financial services industry. Remember the last time you applied for a loan or a checking account? Imagine if it was quick, painless, and paperless. Every day, we think about new ways to achieve this vision and we want to attract people who are motivated to do the same. To that end, Andera is amongst the few local technology companies that is hiring!
PBN: Andera started by focusing on Web-based platforms for financial institutions, why did you make the decision to start focusing more on mobile solutions?
KROLL: Andera began with a simple premise: That opening accounts online shouldn’t be so hard – for institutions or for applicants. We pioneered online account opening in 2004 and now, with our oFlows platform, we’re optimizing the account opening and lending process across all channels – online, in branches, out in the field, and over the phone.
In terms of mobile technology, we were the first to recognize that native mobile device capabilities can make the application process even easier. For example, by leveraging built-in camera and signature capabilities, our oFlows platform dramatically improves the applicant and staff experience, reduces application completion times, and reduces the effort that it takes to capture and store supporting documents (such as copies of driver licenses and paystubs) and signatures.
Additionally, we’re seeing a growing number of applicants accessing our customers’ applications via mobile devices. In fact, access via mobile devices has nearly tripled since 2010. This trend further highlights the importance of designing a platform that takes advantage of native mobile capabilities.
PBN: How has the acquisition of oFlows helped shift the focus of your company?
KROLL:With the oFlows acquisition, we’re now able to help financial institutions originate accounts and loans in every channel – online, in branches, out in the field, and over the phone.
Separately, prior to the acquisition we were focused solely on deposit account opening. The oFlows platform enables our customer institutions to originate accounts and loans with a single application, resulting in a better applicant experience and increased cross-sell rates.
PBN: What do you see for the company in the next five years?
KROLL:We’ll continue looking for ways to leverage leading-edge technology to further simplify the account opening and lending process for financial institutions and for the people they serve.
Bank and credit union branches, in particular, are undergoing a radical transformation and so we’ll be particularly focused on ways that our technology can improve the in-person sales experience and its connection to self-service channels such as the web.
Here are just some of the ways that oFlows has already transformed the account opening and lending process in the branch:
Branch representatives can get out from behind their desks, and closer to those they serve. oFlows lets representatives easily capture supporting documents by using built-in iPad cameras instead of traditional scanners.
Applicants can sign their applications by just signing the iPad screen instead of using separate signature pads.
When the process is complete, applicants’ data, signatures and supporting documents are captured in a single, locked PDF file that’s automatically uploaded into the right file at the financial institution – without any human effort required.
These are all ways that we’ve increased application throughput, decreased application times and improved cross-sell rates while delivering a superior experience for applicants and staff.
As mobile adoption grows, as device capabilities evolve and as consumers get more and more comfortable moving across delivery channels to conduct their banking business, we’ll continue to look for ways that technology can further improve the experience and our customers’ business results.