FNB ramps up forensic processes with crime-fighting AI

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FNB has strengthened its artificial intelligence (AI) strategy in efforts to redefine its forensic and risk management processes to fend off fraudsters, while transforming the customer banking experience.

The big-four bank has for years been at the forefront of innovation, harnessing the power of AI, machine learning and data analytics across its banking platforms to improve customer experience, regulatory reporting and running customer identification checks to detect and prevent fraud.

More banks across the globe are deploying emerging technologies to shake up their historically change-resistant industry, reduce costs and better position themselves for competition with new digital-only entrants and agile fintech start-ups.

AI deployment in the global banking industry is expected to deliver an estimated $416 billion in savings by 2023, according to the “AI in Banking” research report from Business Insider Intelligence.

As part of its ongoing efforts to constantly innovate, the big-four bank has rolled out an in-house-developed AI technology to monitor regulatory and financial risks, including tax evasion, money laundering, fraud and insider trading.

After six months of running a proof of concept, the algorithm, called Manila, has gone live, serving a number of other functions, including analysing customer profiles to provide a more holistic view, producing written reports on assignments, ensuring regulatory compliance and freeing up to 70% of the time taken for forensic analysis.

In an interview with ITWeb, Dr Mark Nasila, chief analytics officer at FNB’s risk division, said in order to keep up with evolving customer requirements and changing regulations,the bank is always exploring smarter ways to redesign use cases across its products and services.

“The AI strategy forms part of our platform strategy which allows us to provide cutting-edge products, services and solutions to our customers and ecosystem partners, while ensuring the highest level of security.

“Manila enables us to implement a more robust forensic due diligence process, review profiles for various financial crimes holistically, more rapidly and more consistently, and free up the time of analysts to perform the functions that they remain better suited to than AI.”

The traditionally time-consuming and laborious process of sifting through mountains of data for fraud-related anomalies, reviewing red-flagged behavioural patterns, generating insights from them and ultimately making decisions about potential risks, has been cut down from several days to a few minutes, notes Nasila.

Digital banking crimes in SA increased by 75.3% across mobile banking, online banking and banking apps combined, according a report released by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre in 2019.

Nasila emphasised the importance of deploying sophisticated tools and technologies and employing the right talent needed to counter criminal activity: “Cyber criminals are always transforming their method and approach; to stay a step ahead, we need to identify those threats before they happen.”

Dr Mark Nasila, chief analytics officer at FNB’s risk division.
Dr Mark Nasila, chief analytics officer at FNB’s risk division.

Pockets of AI

Earlier this year, FNB told ITWeb it had aggressively embarked on a data-driven, platform-based future. The journey saw the bank integrate its ecosystems and value propositions in transacting, lending, investing and insuring into its enterprise digital platform to allow customers across retail and commercial segments to experience various helpful tailored financial solutions.

“In order for a platform to be successful, you need to create an all-rounded digital experience through innovative use of data. AI is a continuous journey, and we have various pockets of AI projects that support our platform, which seeks to automate all our processes and services,” explains Nasila.

Manila undergoes consistent training and upgrades to learn new functions for wider adoption across various applications.

As a proof-of concept, Manila has recently been deployed in other use cases, outside the risk management space, to redefine processes and drive digitisation of the platform strategy across FNB’s customer engagement channels, adds Nasila.

The bank is also exploring language translation via AI, in order to cater for customers in all of SA’s ethnic languages across its products and solutions.

“Our strategy is premised on the pillar: redefine and redesign using technology.

“Technology is culture that requires a certain way of thinking, and if companies don’t think about it the right way, they are likely to become what we call a ‘colony of technology’, where companies are just caught up in the hype and throw finances at projects without seeing meaningful value,” concludes Dr Nasila.

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