Tag Archives: FinCEN

To 314(b) or not to 314(b)?

Posted by Douglas Wood, Editor.  http://www.linkedin.com/in/dougwood

FinCEN today (November 1, 2013) released a fact sheet regarding data sharing between financial institutions under the Section 314(b) of the US Patriot Act.

314(b) provides financial institutions with the ability to share information with one another, under a safe harbor that offers protections from liability, in order to better identify and report potential money laundering or terrorist activities.  314(b) information sharing is a voluntary program, and FinCEN has always encouraged its use.

A few years ago, I spent considerable time looking at the overall 314(b) program. I interviewed dozens of Chief Compliance Officers (CCO) and AML/Fraud experts. I found that, despite the benefits to financial institutions – reduction of fraud loss, more complete SARs filings, shedding light on financial trails, etc – the program was not particularly well-utilized. The system, for all it’s good intentions, is very manual.

Imagine you are a 314(b) officer at a financial institution. Your job is to facilitate the data sharing amongst the community. So, much of your time is spent interacting with your CCO on which specific cases should be shared, and with whom. When you get that information, you open up you financial crimes investigation tools, and begin contacting your counterparts across the U.S. and asking them “Hey, do you know anything about Douglas Wood?” You’re calling the other officers completely blind with no idea whatsoever if they know Doug. In the meantime, your voicemail inbox is being flooded with other calls from other institutions asking if you know a bunch of other people (or entities).

Finding the institutions that know Douglas Wood is a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack… except you don’t know which haystacks to look in. The system too often grinds to a halt, despite some excellent work being done by 314(b) officers across the country. There has to be a better way, and some have proposed a data contribution system where financial institutions upload their bad guy data into one large third-party haystack, making the needle a little easier to find. As an advocate for the use of technology in the fight against financial crimes, I hope that model finds some success. The problem, of course, is that banks are LOATHED to put their data in the hands of a third party. Also, it’s typically up to each individual bank to decide if and when they choose to upload their data to be inter-mingled with other institutions. Far too often, it is not entirely reliable and not particularly current.

There is a better way. Several years ago, working with some tech-savvy employees, I envisioned a member-based 314(b) program where each institution maintained total control of their data. The model does not require individual banks to contribute their data for inter-mingling.  All ‘bad guy’ data sits and remains securely behind the banks’ respective firewalls. When an individual bank sends out a request to find out who, if anyone, may have information about a suspicious entity, the request is systematically sent out to all members using a secure network such as SWIFT, for example. That electronic search returns to the querying bank only a risk score which indicates the likelihood that another member is investigating the same entity.

No personally identifiable information (PII) is ever shared, yet the search is productive. The enquiring bank now knows that the person of interest was found in the bad guy data from other participating institutions. With this information in hand, the respective 314(b) officers can move their voicemail exchanges from “Have you ever heard of Douglas Wood” to “We’re both investigating Douglas Wood… let’s do it together.” The time-consuming, manual efforts are dramatically reduced and more bad guys are put away.

So if the question is to 314(b) or not to 314(b), perhaps the answer lies in data privacy compliant technology.

Financial Crimes and Technology

Posted by Douglas Wood, Editor. 

In the midst of preparing for a presentation last week, I entered the term “financial crimes” into my internet search engine. I’ve probably done this same search a hundred times, but seemingly never took notice of the staggering number of results. Over two million of them!

Among those results are a stunning number of definitions, news reports, and general articles. But with so many links to seemingly unconnected terms such as check fraud, credit card fraud, medical fraud, insider trading, bank fraud, health care fraud, tax evasion, bribery, identity theft, counterfeiting, and money laundering – it must appear to the uninitiated that an understanding of ‘financial crimes’ requires an Einstein-like intelligence pedigree.

To those involved in the daily prevention / detection / and investigation of financial crimes, however, the term can be effectively boiled down to:

1) Intentional deception made for personal gain, and

2) The illegal process of concealing the source of those gains.

Everything else – all that other noise – simply falls underneath that definition, and only a cohesive combination of human intelligence and technology can take a bite out of those crimes.

Of course, most companies that are targets of these crimes invest heavily in different forms of technology for enterprise fraud management and anti-money laundering systems.  There are dozens of vendors in this market with varying levels of functionality and service offerings.

The problem with too many of those offerings, however, is that they do not account for organizational truths such as functional  (and data) silos, data quality issues, changing criminal tactics, human limitations, and big data.

A complete enterprise solution for financial crimes management must include automated processes for:

Customer Onboarding – Knowing the customer is the first step an organization can take to prevent financial crimes. A holistic view of an entity – customers, partners, employees – provides a very clear view of what is already known about the entity including their past interactions and relationships with other entities.

Flexible Rules-Based Alert Detection – A robust rules-based alert detection process must provide out-of-box functionality for the types of crimes outlined at the beginning of this article. At the same time, it should be flexible enough for an organization to modify or create rules as criminal activities evolve.

Predictive Analytics – Expected by analysts to become a 5.25B industry by 2018, predictive analytics ensures that big data is scrutinized and correlated with present and past historical trends. Predictive analytics utilizes a variety of statistics and modeling techniques and also uses machine information, data mining, and Business Intelligence (BI) tools to make predictions about the future behaviors including risk and fraud.

Social Network Analysis – Also known as Fraud Network Analysis, this emerging technology helps organizations detect and prevent fraud by going beyond rules and predictive analytics to analyze all related activities and relationships within a network. Knowing about shared telephone numbers, addresses or employment histories  allows companies to effectively ‘cluster’ groups of suspected financial crime perpetrators. The key here, however, is context. Many technologies can build these networks and clusters for review, but precious few can provide the key “what does this mean” element that business users require.

Investigation Management and Adjudication – Incorporating key elements of enterprise case management, collaboration, link visualization, information dissemination and knowledge discovery, this layer of functionality is designed to uncover insights which aid in investigating complex incidents. The result ought to be actionable visualization of critical entities, and documented results for potential litigation and regulatory compliance.

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Regulatory Compliance – With record fines being assessed to financial institutions globally, AML compliance is very clearly a major requirement within a financial crimes management solution. The oversight requirements grow almost daily, but at a minimum include out of box functionality for suspicious activity monitoring, regulatory reporting, watch list filtering, customer due diligence, Currency Transaction Report (CTR) processing, and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) compliance.

Now, there are clearly many more dynamics than can be summarized here but hopefully the point is made. The only way that organizations can continue to drive fraud and money laundering out is via a happy marriage between skilled financial crimes professionals and the flexible/adaptable technology that empowers them.

Posted by Douglas G. Wood. Click on ABOUT for more information.