Sprinting Against the Criminals

From the 22nd to 24th May, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for the United Kingdom held their 5th TechSprint at Canary Wharf. The theme of the TechSprint was Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Financial Crime and following an emotive launch, the event kicked off with gusto and excitement.

The event sought to increase understanding surrounding the challenges of financial crime and to deepen international and cross industry dialogue around the role of modern technology in tackling these issues. Amongst the 220 participants, including developers, subject matter experts, senior executives, and international regulators from around the world, were two Neotas familiar faces, myself and Kunal Aggarwal. We were not alone in our quest however as we were fortunate enough to join an amazing team with specialists from Octopus Labs, Lysis, and Idemia.

With the latest UN estimates suggesting that criminal activities, including drug trafficking, smuggling, human trafficking, and corruption, generate proceeds exceeding $1.6 trillion annually and that less than 1% of these illicit financial flows are ever detected, seized and frozen, it is time for the financial industry to respond. The problem is that it cannot and should not seek to do it alone. Indeed, the phrase “it takes a network to defeat a network” was mentioned in the open speeches and continued to ring true across the 3 days as new ideas were formulated, prototypes developed, and pitches practiced. Ideas and solutions covered blockchain, bitcoin, network analysis, digital identity, company due diligence and open source intelligence and while some solutions sought to solve age old problems with new technology others attempted to create solutions that would seek to get ahead of the criminals before they have a chance to exploit a weakness or failing.

In total, 16 ideas were pitched, potentially ground-breaking initiatives were developed, and countless business connections were made.

Given our background and expertise, we were able to enrich the information picture using open source information in conjunction with traditional data sources. Working with both our own team and others, including a number of the members of the RegTech team from the FCA, we were able to show how open sources both supports and enhances data and how it can create networks and insights previously uncovered.

Although it was a long and hectic few days, we absolutely loved the experience and cannot wait to continue our efforts with our team members and others, and to develop those conversations and relationships that were initiated over the 3 days. We strongly believe that this event triggered the start of great things to come and provided the perfect platform from which to launch a fight against some of the biggest challenges facing our society both now and in the future. On to the next challenge!

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