Arnaud Doly speaks to GTR about Nabu, the company he built from scratch, why nobody should spend time checking documents manually, and why trade needs solutions to help it digitalise in a realistic way.



Name: Arnaud Doly

Company: Nabu (formerly Verifeasy)

Title: Founder and CEO

Country: France

Sector: Fintech


GTR: Tell us about Nabu; how did it start and what do you do?

Doly: I dropped out of school at about 15 years old and made websites until I was 18. I then moved to Manchester where some of my friends were at uni. I was still developing websites and that’s when I became passionate about commodities trading.

I went to interviews for jobs in commodities trading but I didn’t get them because everyone was talking about documentary credits, which I didn’t know about. I then went to London where I studied CDCS [Certificate for Documentary Credit Specialists] at the London Institute of Banking and Finance, and when I finished it, I thought: ‘Okay, this is a painful instrument, I need to find a way to execute it so I can do commodities trading without touching it.’

We began development in mid-2018 before starting to test our prototypes with banks. Our idea was to develop a platform to automate document checking, starting with documentary credits. We are now in talks with banks, insurers and customs services here in France, as well as Luxembourg. The aim is to follow documents in a transaction and to check them at each stage.

We started testing a prototype at the end of last year and the results were good, but not good enough. We’re beginning a new beta programme with four banks, three in France and one in Luxembourg, and we have a large industrial group that is also taking part. The aim is to release the first complete version later this year and start working with the other stakeholders in transactions.


GTR: Why is it important for those who check documents to use a digital solution?

Doly: It takes one-and-a-half hours on average to check a set of documents manually. You can make quite a lot of mistakes as well; you have to be very meticulous.

Documents, like most digital platforms, are just ways of transmitting data. Nobody should be checking documents with their eyes, it is not secure. We want banks to focus on financing and exporters to focus on doing business: checking documents is not their core business.


GTR: Talk us through the technology you use. Does it work with virtual and paper documents?

Doly: Everything’s developed in-house. We built an artificial intelligence (AI)-native optical character recognition (OCR), based on natural language processing and deep learning. It uses neural networks for document identification, extracting relevant unstructured data and making it structured. We identify what data points are important with regards to business rules. So, in terms of banks for example, it’s almost all the data points. We have data analysis algorithms that check this data and then we show the results to the user – it works a bit like a virtual assistant. It works the same if it is physical documents or digital data.

We’re already in talks with several blockchain platforms to add an application programming interface (API) of our solution directly to their systems. The existing blockchain platforms work more or less like a digital DHL, sending a digital version of a document between parties and making it available to everyone securely. Adding APIs would mean that when someone adds documents into the blockchain platform or an input of data – let’s say, for example, the insurance before they put it on the platform – it could go through a check that says, ‘this data is not compliant with the transaction and you’ll have a problem later, correct it now’, or, ‘the data is compliant, you can proceed’.

We must also integrate the digital checking of physical paper as much as digital documents, because I don’t see paper disappearing in the next 10 years. It is very important to bring solutions that can be adopted today and not say to people, ‘join a blockchain platform, but you need to change everything to use it’. That is not realistic.

We’re removing all the physical checking of documents, so you can just scan them in and continue doing business the same way as before.


GTR: What is the plan going forward?

Doly: The plan is to reach out to more fintechs in trade finance, because in almost every industry that has been disrupted by innovative startups, where it worked really well was where there was a lot of interoperability between solutions, and everyone was working with implementation.

We will focus on APIs because, given our experience on extracting and structuring documents, we can add as many checks on data as we want.