Thursday, 28 May 2009

Increased focus on AML as banks look to recoup losses

Financial crime is likely to dominate banks' IT spending in the months to come, experts say, as banks look to recoup millions lost to fraud every year.

I was at an event recently held by business process management vendor, Pegasystems, on the topic of financial crime and the message from most speakers at the event was that financial crime and anti-money laundering (AML) had moved up the banking agenda. According to Daniel Mayo of analyst firm, Datamonitor, 37% of banks expect anti-money laundering (AML) will drive IT project spending in 2009.

Yet, questions remain about the effectiveness of AML in detecting terrorist financing and the quality of Suspicious Activity Reports generated by banks pertaining to proceeds from crime, including fraud, AML and terror financing.

Like it or not, banks are at the coalface of fighting fraud and while the Serious Fraud Office in the UK says it is going to rely more on market intelligence and whistle blowers to unearth fraud, a lot of the onus for detection of fraud is still on the banks.
Reetu Khosla, director of financial crime solutions at Pegasystems, says the regulators want to see banks take a more enterprise-wide, multiple-siloed view of fraud across all lines of business. "Regulators are saying not only should firms be looking at fraud, anti-money laundering and KYC, they should also be looking at these aspects across all lines of business," says Khosla. Banks will also need to be able to gather information from disparate systems and analyse it in such a way that links can be made between seemingly unrelated events.
Banks attending Pega's breakfast briefing on financial crime were interested in learning whether banks could follow the example of the insurance industry which has collaborated on setting up a database enabling insurers to share claim information. The database has helped insurers successfully reduce fraud. However, banks sharing customer information may open up a can of worms in terms of data privacy issues, and banks still see financial crime as a competitive issue, particularly in terms of how long it takes them to resolve alerts and transactions held up by false positives.

False positives remains a major issue for banks, given that banks are required to demonstrate sufficient due diligence around investigating alerts. "When it comes to financial crime alerts, most firms are faced with a high volume of false positives and a low volume of true hits," says Khosla. "However, the regulators point out that the risk of not evaluating each alert at some level is extremely high.

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