Singapore-based OCBC Bank has started a pilot project to test artificial intelligence-based (AI) tools to counter money laundering.

The bank has partnered with BlackSwan Technologies and Silent Eight for the testing of AI solutions. The collaboration is part of the second Fintech Accelerator Programme conducted by OCBC Bank’s Fintech unit, The Open Vault.

The pilot project claims to increase the bank’s competency in countering not only money laundering but also terrorist financing.

The companies use artificial intelligence to conduct research on individuals and artificial entities who are suspected of illegal financing.

The research includes scanning of individual profiles, and mapping how suspicious transactions may be linked to one another to examine if they are fraudulent or illegal.

Presently, this process is conducted manually, but introducing artificial intelligence is expected to enhance an analyst’s productivity by up to 100%. Increase in productivity is achieved by speeding up the process of research on computer, where for example, a research which takes about one hour to complete, can be completed within one minute.

As per the bank, the process begins when a suspicious transaction from an individual’s account shows an unusual activity. The bank’s internal private investigation will look at the individual’s history and will determine whether or not such a transaction is usual or typical of the individual or is it really unusual.

Analysts will also scan the individual’s social media accounts, search engines, databases to create a profile of the individual, to get a comprehensive understanding of banking patterns, associates and behaviours.

Silent Eight's solution, which is one of the fintech solutions piloted, helps to automate the desktop research process by enabling analysts to put together the suspicious individual’s dossier within just a minute.

The solution provided by the second company BlackSwan Technologies uses artificial intelligence to analyse suspicious transactions and map them to a network of related transactions.

OCBC Bank’s Group Transaction Surveillance Head Alex Ng said: “We saw great potential in these two Fintech start-ups. We felt that this ‘back office process’ of transaction monitoring could definitely use an innovative solution to help automate things and make our investigative research more timely and effective.

“The Open Vault at OCBC Fintech Accelerator Programme gave us the opportunity to work closely with the Fintechs during a short burst of three months, to experiment by providing them with anonymised real data to see how the solutions can meet our needs. We were not disappointed.”

Image: OCBC Bank to pilot test AI-based tools to stop money laundering. Photo: Courtesy of Terence Ong/