Covering Disruptive Technology Powering Business in The Digital Age

The Cat-and-Mouse Game of Detecting Financial Crimes


When we look at the profound influence of technology on industries, the financial services sector stands out as a paramount example. Just over a decade ago, banks, for example, relied on physical branches and paper-based systems, making transactions slow and limiting accessibility. Today, technology has completely reshaped the industry, rendering it almost unrecognisable.

Digital platforms allow transactions from anywhere, contactless payments are prevalent, and cryptocurrencies have challenged traditional models. The most remarkable aspect is how technology integration has not only accelerated banking but also heightened convenience and security to unprecedented levels.

Yet, therein lies a dilemma: The very power and capabilities technology offers are also wielded by nefarious individuals and groups, aiding them in utilising the forefront of technology to obscure laundered money, illicit transactions, or pilfered assets and accounts, thus amplifying the difficulty in their detection, mitigation, and recovery.  It becomes an ever-evolving cat-and-mouse game as banks and agencies strive to adapt their technological defences, while cybercriminals continually repurpose and innovate, reshaping their methods to elude detection by evolving the footprints and patterns they leave behind.

Financial Institutions (FIs) not swiftly adapting to evolving technologies or constrained by outdated infrastructures find themselves prime targets, leaving them vulnerable to various financial crimes, including targeted attacks for ransomware, money laundering and other illicit activities.

In a recent interview, Ahmed Drissi, SAS Global Fraud & Security Intelligence Practice, emphasised the potency of “intelligence” as a formidable tool that enables FIs to proactively tackle rapidly evolving threats. Ahmed first highlighted the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularly machine learning, in enhancing detection capabilities, stressing its role in continual improvement. Equally vital was his emphasis on aligning internal and external intelligence—leveraging and interconnecting the data within FIs with external sources—to yield comprehensive insights that enhance and complement internal information.

This offers the benefit of enriching the overall intelligence that is so vital for FIs to remain adaptive, resilient and compliant. For instance, in fraud detection, this combined intelligence might reveal intricate networks of seemingly unrelated transactions, uncovering a sophisticated money laundering operation that traditional, rules-based methods might overlook due to their limited scope.

Companies such as SAS, renowned for their analytics solutions translating data into actionable intelligence, play a pivotal role in empowering financial institutions to combat financial crimes more effectively and efficiently. Leveraging the potency of AI, machine learning, extensive anti-financial crime expertise, and a wealth of global field experience, SAS aids in enhancing financial crime detection capabilities.

According to Ahmed, what sets SAS apart is its capacity to complement an organisation’s existing data and tools, enabling a comprehensive view of financial crime risk. Through advanced techniques like entity resolution, pattern matching, and network detection, SAS enables uncovering hidden risks and relationships, bolstering an institution’s ability to mitigate potential threats.

Nevertheless, Ahmed also shared a word of caution for financial institutions, highlighting that any technology deployed, especially AI and machine learning, should not be viewed as a “magic box.” First and foremost, he stressed the fundamental necessity for FIs to “get the basics right” and establish a strong foundation. Otherwise, neglecting these foundational pillars could result in adverse outcomes, encompassing an abundance of false positives, inaccuracies in risk assessments, operational inefficiencies, and a host of other potential pitfalls.

The crucial point to bear in mind is that the battle against financial crime is incessantly dynamic, constantly evolving and demanding perpetual vigilance and adaptation. For financial institutions lacking resources or expertise to combat compliance or fraud issues, SAS stands ready to provide valuable assistance.

For more insights into how SAS can support in this regard, click here.