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MONEY LAUNDERING AND THE GRAPH-POWERED FIGHTBACK

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Amy Hodler is Director, Analytics and AI Program at Neo4j

 

Conventional anti-money laundering (AML) analytics fail to detect the hidden relationships that reveal criminal networks, says Neo4j’s Amy Hodler

Catching money launderers is a huge and growing challenge. Criminal money laundering activities are often hidden in plain sight, within legitimate transactions. Money laundering now comprises up to 5% of global GDP or US$2 trillion per year. Financial criminals have a lot to play for and are getting better at creating an intricate network of identities and accounts to obscure their activities.

Conventional anti-money laundering (AML) measures typically look to identify deviation from standard patterns within discrete data and transactions, and are based on a relational database model where data is stored in predefined tables and columns. This approach is ideal for many business applications. When it is applied to large, unstructured data sets though, it slows to a crawl. Crucially, this approach fails to pick up the relationships between data that would identify money laundering networks.

While AML systems can analyze networked data, they can’t scale up efficiently, leading to long lead times to investigate and resolve complex alerts. Focusing on discrete data alone tends to generate a lot of false positives, leading to fruitless investigations which may harm customer relationships.

 

Contextual insight

Using a relational database for a complex AML investigation frequently leads to slow response times and a failure to identify fraud. The problem is that relational database AML solutions struggle to detect money laundering because they lack broader contextual insight. What is needed is the ability to follow a trail from one account to another. A 360-degree view of complex money laundering networks is necessary to flag up relationships between assets and individuals. For this reason, some of the world’s leading banks have turned to graph database technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to help them tackle the money laundering issue.

The underlying architecture of graph technology lends itself well to AML work. With graph database technology, any number of qualitative or quantitative properties can be assigned to data, describing complex relationships coherently and descriptively. Graph databases use individual data such as ‘person’, ‘account’, ‘company’, ‘address’ – and their relationships with one another, like ‘registered at’, or ‘transacted with’, uncovering complex connections.

This way, money laundering teams benefit from a detailed picture of assets and the relationships between people. Graph databases expose patterns and relationships very quickly, providing financial institutions with real-time insight into their assets and relationships. Compliance experts Kerberos use graph-based AML: “Instead of taking a superficial look at relationships, [our] legal experts can also uncover relationships only apparent at the second or third level.”

 

Machine learning graph algorithm 

PageRank is one of the best-known graph algorithms for tackling money laundering. This machine learning algorithm measures connectivity between nodes or objects. It can uncover objects based on their additive relationships and rank nodes with a relative score. Graph technology can identify important or influential customers who drive a high number of transactions. Then, nodes with a high PageRank score can be flagged up using a visualisation tool to make them appear larger.

Another key graph algorithm is ‘Weakly Connected Components’, designed to reveal the hidden networks that show a money laundering trail. This uncovers data connections such as multiple companies that appear to be registered at the same address. Analysts can then focus on these companies to check for any suspicious activity.

 

Real world graph-powered investigations

 The world’s biggest investigations of the offshore financial industry, the FinCEN Files, Panama and Paradise Papers, put graph databases to work to uncover hidden relationships that led to the investigators recouping more than $1.2 billion in resulting fines and back taxes. The International Consortium of Journalists (ICIJ), the group behind the graph-powered investigations, has just been nominated for a Nobel peace prize for its work.

 In Iceland, AML start-up Lucinity uses what it describes as a ‘human AI’ approach to help its AML clients create 360-degree views of the transaction networks that banks need to monitor. With AI, investigators are not only seeing exactly why the algorithm flagged a case of money laundering—in addition, the system can tell them exactly how the criminal is doing the money laundering. The algorithm is constantly fine-tuned and improved with human feedback from the AML investigators.

Graph database software and AI technology are moving AML investigations to another level. Real-time analysis that uncovers data relationships is the only way to keep one step ahead of the criminal networks and their dirty money. Armed with graph database software and AI, the banking and finance sector is taking on the money launderers and winning.

 

Business

A new beginning for financial services B2B marketing

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Financial services B2B marketing is dead. A bold statement with B2B ad spend set to pass $30bn next year in the US alone. But it is dead, or at least, it’s dead boring.

B2B marketing has long carried a reputation for being dull, lacking emotion, heart or guts. Indeed, the same could be said for financial services, with its technical jargon, long-winded T&Cs and an array of complex services and products to promote. Put the two together and you have a considerable marketing challenge on your hands.

Michael Richards

But there are green shoots of change springing up on the beige horizon, as financial services businesses begin to recognise that they deserve better and start to see the lessons to be learned from their B2C peers. For example, many financial services B2B brands moved to digital to refine client experiences and grow relationships during the pandemic, meaning they could connect with businesses in a more accessible way through tailored and creative solutions. But it’s not enough to just convince a business to buy a product or service with a smattering of data and a selection of charts. There needs to be a focus on provoking the truth about these progressive brands; giving them what they deserve: intelligence, imagination and emotion to provoke their truths and tell their stories in ways that just can’t be ignored.

There are so many financial services B2B brands that are missing the mark on creating provocative work and telling their stirring stories. The industry is full of inspiring stories but needs to adopt the techniques of B2C (and fast) to avoid being left behind.

Below, I’ve outlined three approaches B2B financial services marketing should take from B2C:

 

Be 100% brand and 0% product

Let’s look at the lessons we can learn from one of the biggest brands in the world. Coca Cola used to advertise on a single poster with simple descriptive messaging that didn’t make a lot of sense … but that was in the early decades of the 20th century. Coke is now one of the most instantly recognisable brands in the world. It has evolved so much from that early uninspiring product messaging that some Coke ads today feature nothing more than a red background, a white glass bottle silhouette and the message ‘Open Happiness’. 0% product, 100% brand.

Financial services business brands can learn a lot from this. Very few are tapping into the vocabulary of emotional marketing. They sell their product in line with industry jargon, expecting their ever-changing audience to understand what they mean. When really their product or service should be learning to speak a new language. One that showcases the brand over the product, communicating to their audience with a personality and values of their own.

No company can rely solely on their product features because no product is unique anymore. The power of a brand can generate that differentiating value that will set it apart from the competition.

 

Use data to personalise your offer

Data is the beating heart to personalisation. It gives businesses the foundation to build a product that is bigger and better than its competitor. One that entices new audiences while maintaining loyalty.

Consumer brands are obsessed with collecting data to better their product and reach audiences far and wide. In fact, nearly 90% of UK shoppers will hand over their personal information for improved online customer experiences.

B2B businesses also use data, but on a much narrower scale. In a survey of B2B companies, only 25% of B2B businesses use data weekly to understand customer needs, while 9% admitted they never use data at all. This is evident given that 47% of B2B buyers who need a new financial service go straight to their existing bank, and 75% of those who claim to shop around also end up with their current bank. Most buyers don’t even consider more than two brands. Meaning lots get left behind.

This is where B2B marketing shouldn’t just rest on its laurels of tedious white papers and limited data. It should inject its own personal touch and emotion by undertaking its own research and data collection to produce insightful pieces of research and showcase its unique findings. This can include specific consumer trends and behaviours in the financial services space, so they can really understand their audience and further improve their product.

 

Be audience aware

Audience Blindness is a condition that hinders B2B brands from seeing that business decision-makers have changed. They have become younger; they’re millennials. The content they consume is worlds apart from what their predecessors consumed and is constantly evolving – particularly as we enter Web 3.0 and the metaverse.

Even in the finance sector, B2B marketing is still about appealing to ‘people’ and their needs. B2B isn’t a machine and shouldn’t just cater for a computer. It needs to connect to real life audiences – those with feelings, thoughts and emotions. Because behind every business partnership is a room full of people interacting, debating and sparking ideas.

The B2C financial services sector has progressed significantly, understanding changes in audiences and catering to new needs and desires. The rise in neo-banking, investment made easy and services specifically for young adults and children looking to save is testament to this. They’ve introduced digital-first approaches, influencer techniques and new ways of improving the shopping experience through buy now, pay later (BNPL).

We’ve seen glimpses of B2B’s new beginning, but its future is to live in the present, and inject it with the power of B2C. Only then can B2B see the new audience, hear the new market and feel the new world.

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Business

Need a business broadband package? Here’s what you need to know

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Author: Kerry Fawcett, Digital Director at Radius Payment Solutions

 

Does your business have a broadband supply that is speedy, cost effective, and most importantly, reliable? If not, now is the time to put that right. Online is king in this day and age, and no matter the size of your company, a good business broadband supply is vital to allowing staff to work as they need to. Here are some tips to find your organisation a business broadband package that fits it like a glove.

 

  1. You need to choose the right business broadband package

There are a number of reasons why your business might need a business broadband deal. Such reasons can include email which helps you stay in touch with customers and suppliers, social media access so that you can communicate with your customers and provide support, research and web browsing that your employees may need to do as part of their jobs, and general marketing tools which are nowadays more often than not web-based and require an Internet connection.

Also, let’s not forget that the people who want your products and services are online too—they use the Internet and search engines to find what they need. If this is your product or service and you do not have an online presence, their business will go to your competition.

That said, the decision on which broadband package to opt for is far more complex than simply choosing the deal with the fastest speed, or the cheapest price. Depending on the business, things to account for include data management, other services like email, and backup options.

With any package, however, it is important to look closely at the services being offered and whether they match up with what you are looking for. Also, check to make sure that they are built with business use in mind and have not been designed solely for consumer-grade activity.

To ensure your business chooses the right broadband package for its needs, make sure that you account for these three things. By doing so, you end up in a much better position to begin comparing options:

  1. Before choosing a broadband package, be sure to look at and understand how your business uses the data it is creating and storing. This will ensure that your broadband package can handle the data loads your business produces.
  2. Make sure to read and study service level agreements (SLAs). Every single half-decent business broadband package will have one of these—if they don’t, avoid the supplier—and looking closely at the clauses helps you avoid nasty surprises.
  3. Look for a broadband provider that has a bandwidth utilisation of below 50%. This will avoid bottlenecks and make your website and general broadband services a lot faster, enabling more data to be processed more quickly.

Price is certainly a factor, though. Whether comparing the price of business broadband, business mobile phone tariffs, or anything else, it makes solid business sense to make sure you are getting the best deal possible for your ideal product.

 

  1. Be aware – business broadband is not the same as home broadband

It is wrong to assume that business broadband is the same as the broadband that the vast majority of us have at home—it’s not. Business broadband packages include features that are specifically designed for business customers.

Generally speaking, a business broadband connection is set up and optimised to meet the increased demands of a business. Therefore, the features that are often found in a business broadband deal include prioritised customer support on-hand to provide immediate relief should something go wrong, faster upload and download speeds that can cope the bandwidth demands of a commercial office, better security features that protect your assets and data, and static IP addresses that allow you to run CCTV, host your own website, and authenticate intranet users.

What’s more, business broadband packages will usually come with generous—often unlimited—usage limits and competitive price points that aren’t too dissimilar to home broadband packages and plans.

 

  1. Explained: Business Broadband vs Home Broadband

For any readers still wondering about the most important differences between home and business broadband, here are four things that you don’t tend to get with a home broadband deal.

  1. Guaranteed service levels
    Returning to the point made about SLAs, business broadband providers will offer customers a guarantee to keep the broadband service up and running, and to do all they can to bring it back online should things go wrong. If a situation occurs where a provider is unable to do this in a pre-agreed timeframe, your business will often be compensated.

It is rare for home broadband packages to come with such a guarantee.

  1. Prioritised traffic
    Some of the best-known business broadband providers such as TalkTalk and BT prioritise traffic for their business customers over non-commercial home broadband customers.

This of course means that the speed and quality of your Internet connection will not be negatively affected by other customers’ usage patterns during peak times, such as when HD media and games are being streamed and played.

  1. Business-centric customer support
    As a business, it is vital that your broadband connection is restored as soon as possible should it go offline. If you don’t, you run the risk of losing revenue and having your reputation harmed. Business broadband providers know this all too well, and for that reason they typically offer around-the-clock, UK-based customer support.

This is in contrast to home broadband where customer support operatives are only available at select times, usually during business hours.

  1. A static IP address
    Most business broadband deals provide you with a static IP address. This type of IP address enables you to use your business broadband for some very useful business-critical operations, such as:
  • The hosting of your own server (vital for CCTV, file transfers, client services);
  • The hosting of your own website and domain name servers;
  • Enabling remote connections by your employees to their work desktops; and
  • Making available systems that require authentication, such as intranets.

Instead of a static IP address, home broadband packages include a dynamic IP address which changes each time a new connection to the Internet is established.

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