Leveraging Chicago's Thriving Tech Community




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From a regulatory standpoint, the world has historically viewed the tasks of spurring business and protecting consumers as diametrically opposed. Under-regulation is required to give businesses the freedom necessary to generate real value and profit.

But this all too often comes at the expense of the consumer, who often relies on the shield of regulation to be protected — thus leading to an environment of over-regulation.

As a capital markets regulator, Ascent Founder and CEO Brian Clark witnessed this problematic dichotomy firsthand. He saw how under-regulation spurred risk-taking and lax compliance practices that helped inflate the bubble, leading to the 2008 global financial meltdown. And then, in the ensuing fallout, he watched the pendulum swing too far the other way, drowning businesses in complex regulation that it couldn’t afford to follow.

What if there was a way to make it easier for businesses to comply with the law, unlocking both opportunity and wealth without compromising consumer protection? What if it were possible to create a world that’s not constricted, but instead empowered by the rule of law?

This is the mission of Ascent. Part of the growing Regulatory Technology — or RegTech industry, Ascent leverages emerging technology to create AI-driven solutions that help customers automate regulatory compliance.

Half a decade ago, Brian Clark brought his idea — to use the power of artificial intelligence to revolutionize regulatory compliance — to University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Through the New Venture Challenge accelerator program, he started building the framework of what would become the business. When he asked if there was office space he could use to start bringing his concept to life, he was given a windowless “study room” in the basement of Booth’s Gleacher Center.

This less-than-illustrious location soon became the central hub for a small team of data scientists, engineers, and attorneys as they took on an imposing but deeply important challenge: building an AI-powered platform that would be able to automate the burdensome and time-consuming work that bogged down Risk and Compliance teams and exposed their businesses to risk.

The team began to seed the market with their concept and to draw interest both from customers and investors. Nourished by the blossoming tech and entrepreneurial communities in Chicago, the technology began to develop and the team started to grow.

Now, tens of millions in funding later, Ascent is starting to catch fire. We’ve graduated from a windowless basement to a high-rise in Chicago’s Loop and have grown to a team of over fifty employees — led by experts across tech, compliance, and regulation. With customers including global banks and other Tier 1 and Tier 2 financial firms across the globe and with relationships with regulators worldwide, Ascent is now able to provide real, meaningful change for its customers.

Now positioned as a market leader and armed with powerful, innovative technological solutions, Ascent is realizing its mission of revolutionizing the world of regulatory compliance.

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