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The Five AI Principles that Transformed Our Business

The Five AI Principles that Transformed Our Business

Sanjeev Dheer, CENTRL Founder & CEO

It’s not an exaggeration to say that artificial intelligence is helping transform our business at CENTRL. We’re a third-party risk and diligence technology company for the financial services industry. CENTRL is a comprehensive due diligence questionnaire management system: clients send thousands of questionnaires to tens of thousands of partners around the world, receive information back, review answers, flag risks, ask for clarifications and complete their reporting. On the response side, analysts are filling out hundreds of questionnaires — often the same question asked in different ways.

You can imagine the amount of time devoted to this process, and how much of a game-changer it could be to automate both the review and the population of these questionnaires. We started our AI journey in February 2023 and announced CentrlGPT soon thereafter. Now, 10 months and five product releases later, we’ve completely transformed our platform. CentrlGPT acts as an intelligent analyst for both sides of the diligence process. On the sender side, it will read all the questionnaire answers and automatically flag risks, with precise reasons and traceability within the documents. In populating questionnaires, it will automatically answer questions based on company documents and previous responses and do so with a high degree of accuracy and consistency. What typically used to take hours or days now takes minutes, directly responds to challenges we’ve heard from clients, and greatly helps enhance existing workflows.

But rather than talking about the granular details of the product’s development and the challenges we encountered along the way, I wanted to share the five core principles that drove our AI strategy. These beliefs served as the underpinning of every step we took and continue to guide our work.

AI is transformational.

All of us at CENTRL quickly realized that GenAI was not just another piece of tech but a true seismic shift, a new “Netscape” moment, as some have called it. With that approach as our foundation, we could frame our other principles.

Incorporating AI was not an optional choice, but an existential imperativefor our business.

AI, like any new technology, has its believers and skeptics. We were in the true believer camp. We did not view its adoption as optional. Our view was that the worst thing we could do was to be hesitant and drag our feet. We needed to either go all in, or acknowledge the risk that AI was an existential threat to our business. That realization propelled us forward.

Move fast or don’t bother.

We also viewed the window of opportunity to differentiate ourselves as being short — before it all turns to noise. We needed to get there first, before someone else claimed the space.

Work with what we have.

This principle was arguably the most important for us. In the early days, we were paralyzed by the sense that this technology was complex and we needed outside experts to make progress. However, I quickly realized that trying to hire experts would not only be expensive, but it would also slow everything down. So, we adopted the mantra that we were going to work with what we have: there was no more money to be had, and the talent we have is the talent we need. And one of the things I’m most proud of is how we’ve been able to figure it out by reprioritizing projects, allocating resources, and empowering our product and engineering teams to learn and do what we believe needed to get done.

If we win, the potential upside could be huge. If we lose, we’re no worse off than where we are today.

This principle was my way of being able to sleep at night. I told myself that if we misjudged the opportunities present in AI, I didn’t think we’d be any worse off. I thought we were going to be OK.

We did better than OK. At CENTRL, AI has helped successfully transition our platform from workflow automation to an intelligent risk analyst. The journey has been intense and we are in the early innings. However, our team is energized, our clients are excited, and the potential ahead seems limitless. I truly believe that the above principles helped enable us to move forward quickly and gave us a powerful framework for making decisions. It is my hope that these principles could be useful for other companies in a similar situation confronted by the potential and challenge of GenAI.

Sanjeev Dheer is the founder & CEO of CENTRL and a PSG Senior Advisor. He also founded CashEdge, a financial technology company which was acquired by Fiserv in 2011, and was a partner at McKinsey & Company in New York where he served major financial and technology companies.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in the commentary above are the personal views of Sanjeev Dheer in their individual capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views of PSG Equity L.L.C. or its affiliates (collectively, “PSG”) or any of its or their employees, officers or directors, or the portfolio companies that PSG manages. The views expressed above reflect the personal views of Sanjeev Dheer as of the date of publication of the above commentary and are subject to change without notice. Neither Sanjeev Dheer nor PSG undertake any responsibility to advise any reader of the above commentary of any changes in the views expressed above.

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