An Edinburgh financial technology company has secured an investment of £1.1 million to launch a “groundbreaking” artificial intelligence (AI) platform for speech analytics in business.

Aveni Detect uses the latest advances in AI and natural language processing (NLP) to automate processes direct from the customer voice.

This allows companies to achieve greater efficiencies in quality assurance whilst “significantly improving” client experience, staff training, and the ability to identify vulnerable customers.

The investment, led by the TRICAPITAL – a Scottish angel syndicate – will accelerate Aveni’s growth and see it move beyond financial services into other regulated industries, whilst building a team to support its UK expansion.

Joseph Twigg, chief executive of Aveni, said: “Consumer behaviour and business needs have changed significantly over the past 18 months as the service industry digitised in response to the pandemic.

“This created a new base of consumers comfortable with video conferencing led, digital-first services.  But it also created a major challenge for firms to monitor and assess these calls, especially as an increasing number of them were from vulnerable customers who needed additional attention.

“In the new world, AI can be adopted throughout the customer journey, driving new insight, significant efficiency gains and better protecting the vulnerable. It’s a win-win situation. By using AI to help automate processes like quality assurance and risk monitoring, material cost reductions can be achieved. At the same time, companies gain targeted insights on customer experience and training opportunities for customer-facing staff.”

A team of world-leading NLP scientists and engineers have worked with top businesses in the UK to develop the new software.

Aveni Detect benefits businesses by converting conversations with clients to text before processing it through its unique NLP pipeline to deliver novel insight and automation, whether the chat is face-to-face, via video conference or phone.

According to the Edinburgh tech company, this creates significant opportunities for businesses to build a better-trained workforce and identify opportunities for new products and services.

Additionally, Aveni Detect will “help reduce the cost of compliance”, for example by helping businesses meet the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) recent guidance on the ‘fair treatment of vulnerable customers’.

To implement the changes required, it is expected to cost the financial services industry £700m.

Twigg said: “Aveni Detect automates a significant part of these requirements, driving efficiency into a business, whilst meeting regulatory requirements and protecting the consumer. It is a great example of ‘AI for good’ as the technology is being used to make a positive impact and will help to better protect those that are vulnerable within our society.”

As well as the group of investors at TRICAPITAL, the round was supported by Scottish Enterprise’s Growth Investments, Edinburgh University’s in-house venture investment fund Old College Capital, and Stirling-based Wallace Equity.

Jan Robertson, interim director of Growth Investments at Scottish Enterprise, said: “The evolution of Aveni’s game-changing products will enhance Scotland’s proud association with the development of AI solutions and strengthen the country’s growing reputation as a global leader in fintech innovation.

“Our continued investment in and support for Aveni will help the company grow and scale and underscores Scottish Enterprise’s commitment to nurturing an environment that encourages cutting-edge tech businesses to thrive and flourish.”

Moray Martin, from lead investment syndicate TRICAPITAL, added: “This is the second round of investment in Aveni that we have led on and we are delighted to continue to provide support and guidance to Joseph and the team throughout an unprecedented period.

“We knew that this cutting-edge technology had come at the perfect time to help businesses in a post-pandemic environment and that has proven to be the case. With Aveni Detect the business is taking its tech solutions to the next level.”

Aveni was advised on the funding round by law firm Harper Macleod, while MBM Commercial acted for the investors.

Jo Nisbet, partner at Harper Macleod, said: Aveni is a brilliant example of a potentially world-leading tech business coming out of Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is phenomenal to see the business grow so rapidly and to play a part in helping them negotiate the challenges associated with scaling up.”