the interview: Laura Spiekerman

Brittany Walker
May 18 · 4 min read

Laura Spiekerman, recognized by Crain’s New York in 2021 as a Notable Woman on Wall Street, is a cofounder and CRO at Alloy. Prior to Alloy, Laura led Business Development & Partnerships at an ACH payments startup and was on the Research & Investment team at Imprint Capital Advisors (acquired by Goldman Sachs). Laura is a proud Barnard College alumna and lives in Oakland, California.

You’ve had a number of roles in different spaces in and around fintech over the years. What drew you to fintech in the first place?

In 2007, I was introduced to microfinance while studying abroad in Senegal. I saw the transformational power of responsible financial services. Several years later, with the ubiquity of mobile phones on the rise, I decided I wanted to work on financial services for the underbanked and became the first employee at Kopo Kopo, a fintech startup in Kenya leveraging M-Pesa to facilitate small business payments and loans.

In 2015 you started Alloy, which is focused on building APIs for financial services (primarily in the KYC / AML space today). What problems did you see with the way that customer identity was handled when you were starting out?

My co-founders and I had seen the KYC, AML and fraud challenges that fintech entrepreneurs, product managers and developers faced first-hand while working at an ACH payments startup. We saw that lack of real-time, robust identity data resulted in an abysmal customer experience as well as high back-office costs and conversion issues for those fintech startups. In 2015, APIs were finally emerging for financial services (Plaid, Stripe, etc.) and we realized there should be an API for identity so that each new fintech startup didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

As an Alloy co-founder, how has your role evolved over time, relative to the roles of your other co-founders and the broader team?

Over the last 6+ years, I’ve worn many different hats. In the beginning, it was anything and everything that wasn’t the actual product itself, whether that was fundraising, ordering Alloy swag, reading contracts, or selling software to our first few customers. I’ve always been more external/customer-facing, and my co-founders both have technical chops so spend far more time on the product itself. As we grew the team, my role evolved and continues to evolve every few months. I now work on Business Development & Sales, Marketing, and Client Success & Solutions, and am fortunate to have brought on folks who are much more talented than me at all of those things!

Fintech is a space where compliance is very important, and startups can’t necessarily move fast and break things. What are the most common mistakes you see fintech founders make when thinking about compliance?

I think most fintech founders these days are very aware that compliance is a burden, but one they need to take seriously. Where I think they go wrong, however, is treating it as a “check the box” task, rather than a practice that depending on how they treat it, can significantly impact conversion, fraud, user experience, and more.

API-driven approaches to fintech products and services seem increasingly common. What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks of an API-first strategy in fintech specifically?

Benefits: Real-time access. Seamless integration. Scalable across products, lines of business, etc. Better user experience.

Drawbacks: Financial institutions are still used to technologies deployed on-premise, and APIs are new for them so it can be harder to gain adoption.

Alloy enables everyone from credit unions to neobanks to BaaS providers to better run their KYC / AML processes. How did you build the go-to-market strategy to serve each of these different customer bases?

We started with the buyers we knew best: fintech developers & product managers. We interviewed and initially deployed with a bunch of fintech startups to get feedback and initial traction. From there, we worked with fintech-friendly banks like Radius Bank and others. We also worked closely with channel partners like MANTL who were also selling into banks.

What trends in fintech are you most excited for in the next five years?

Like everyone else, I’m excited about embedded fintech — incorporating financial services into all sorts of other services & applications where consumers already are, and might have their needs better met than in a traditional bank. I’m also excited about the future of lending where we have more types of data available, so the 3 big credit bureaus won’t be the only gateway to credit in the US.

What is your favorite company in / around fintech (besides Alloy)?

I’m a big fan of Unit Finance and what they’re doing in banking-as-a-service. Super smart, talented, dedicated team that’s tackling an enormous market!

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