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Singapore's OCBC Bank works with fintech startups to enhance its anti-money laundering capabilities

Nurdianah Md Nur | July 20, 2017
The startups leverage artificial intelligence to shorten the time taken and reduce the complexities in the bank's suspicious transaction monitoring process.

money on clothesline
Credit: GraphicStock

Singapore's OCBC Bank has piloted solutions from two fintech startups to improve its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing capabilities.

Solutions from BlackSwan Technologies and Silent Eight leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to conduct research on individuals and entities suspected of illegal financing, which helps increase analysts' overall productivity.

Suspicious transaction monitoring is currently done manually in two parts.

When suspicious transactions are flagged to the compliance team, analysts will first conduct desktop research on the individuals involved to see if the highlighted transaction is typical of the individual's usual banking behaviour. The analyst will scan social media accounts, newspapers, search engines and databases to create a "dossier" of the individual, to get a comprehensive understanding of banking patterns, associates and behaviours. This process can take at least one hour.

The suspicious transactions will then be mapped and analysed to find possible patterns of connections, including connections to past transactions or other transactions that may have been flagged as suspicious. Since this process is more complicated and time-consuming, analysts usually take two to three days to complete, according to OCBC Bank.

To counter these challenges, Silent Eight's solution automates the desktop research process to provide analysts with the suspicious individual's "dossier" within one minute.

As for BlackSwan Technologies' solution, it uses AI for the analysing and mapping process to simplify the task of the analyst and provide useful leads to follow up on.

According to Alex Ng, head of OCBC Bank's Group Transaction Surveillance, the two solutions "help automate [the back office process of transaction monitoring] and make its investigative research more timely and effective."


Helping startups test their products in the real world

BlackSwan Technologies and Silent Eight were participants of the second Fintech Accelerator Programme hosted by OCBC Bank's fintech unit, The Open Vault at OCBC.

Four other fintech startups also had the opportunity to test their solutions during the bank's 12-week accelerator programme.

Strands and 9Spokes collaborated with OCBC Bank to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) better manage their cash flow. The solutions provide digital tools and dashboards to simplify the process of managing working capital and financial performance.

Meanwhile, Boundlss piloted its mobile app with Great Eastern. The app uses data collected from wearables to provide customers personalised health and wellness recommendations through an AI-powered chatbot and human experts. Customers can claim rewards on the app for achieving health and well-being milestones, encouraging customers to live a healthier and more productive life.

The other fintech startup is SQREEM, which uses AI to mine data from customers' public social media channels and internet search engines to create micro segments of customers that can be leveraged for targeted marketing. For instance, if a customer has indicated publicly on their social media channel that they are looking for travel insurance for an upcoming holiday, the platform can intelligently capture this information and steer an upcoming travel insurance deal or promotion the customer's way if relevant and timely.


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