TDA 2022 Technology: Regulatory & Compliance winner: Ontra
by Alice Murray
The judging panel was won over by Ontra’s impressive growth on several fronts, including client number gains, increased headcount and international expansion. Ontra also set itself apart from its peers with new product launches during 2021.
According to Bridget Deiters, managing director at Ontra, “The number one thing we did in 2021 to address regulatory and compliance through tech was the launch of our Insight product, which we developed side by side with our asset manager clients.”
Ontra’s core focus on continuous improvement has led the firm to develop an embedded feedback loop between prospective clients, existing clients and its internal product team. “From speaking with prospective and existing clients, we were hearing that they could really benefit from something to help them manage their obligations to LPs. We took that feedback and developed our Insight tool alongside our clients,” explains Deiters. “As a tech company, we interface everything with our product team to make sure they know what would be useful from a tech perspective. That constant feedback loop from prospects, clients and product team allows us to keep up with market needs and wants.”
Another of Ontra’s core values is delivering results for customers. “We’re always looking at ways to do things smarter, faster, more accurately; that’s what fuels us. I’m on the committee that decides the objectives of the company every year and quarter, and everything we do is put through the lens of continuous improvement and results for customers,” says Deiters.
In 2021, Ontra received $200m in a series B funding round, led by Blackstone alongside existing investor Battery Ventures. The cash injection means the company is now ‘blitzscaling’. “That means we are focused on expanding our offering to our clients as much as we can by building our infrastructure to meet and exceed their needs, so we are always ahead of the game. Basically, we’re not taking our foot off the gas when it comes to growth,” explains Deiters.
Ontra is using the fresh capital to invest in people and tech. “We’re really growing the engineering team, which is so important as all the tech we offer is built by the engineering team. We’re also expanding the account management and business development functions, which support everything we do,” says Deiters.
According to Deiters, the investment has acted as a major catalyst for future growth. “It has provided a lot of momentum, and that Blackstone was a customer that has become an investor – that’s a huge endorsement.”
Beyond its impressive developments when it comes to new products and overall growth, during the judging period, Ontra launched its Dollar a Document initiative, which sees the firm donate one dollar for every document processed on its platform to support non-profit legal aid organisations. These organisations, chosen by the private asset management firms Ontra services, work with members of underserved communities to address issues such as domestic violence, employment discrimination, opioid addiction, veterans justice and disaster recovery.
“It’s really exciting because we’re at a stage where we can do something like this, on a sustainable basis,” says Deiters. “A lot of the team at Ontra are former or existing lawyers, and part of our responsibility as legal professionals is to continue to promote legal provisions for people who can’t afford it – whether that’s via pro bono or schemes like this – it’s incumbent on us to close the legal gap. This is something we can do as a company to support closing that justice gap in some small way.”
Looking at 2022, Ontra is doubling down on its investment in AI. “We want to do things in the most efficient way for customers; sometimes that means using lawyers, sometimes it’s tech, and sometimes human-in-the-loop. With that, we’re always looking to leverage things like AI and ML when it benefits customers,” says Deiters.
The company will also continue its global expansion. “A lot of our customers are global, so we want to be where our customers need us to be,” says Deiters. “And we will use the series B to fund structural growth; for maintaining and improving our best-in-class security. It’s of the foremost importance to us and we will continue to maintain and exceed that.”