Financial Crime 360: How the industry came together to combat fraud

by George Iddenden

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The Payments Association’s annual Financial Crime 360 conference took place at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London on Tuesday, 21 November. Hundreds of industry professionals from across the payments industry heard from some of the sector’s most important voices on the ever-present issue of financial crime and its solutions.

Financial Crime 360 helps the full finance ecosystem address and tackle the key challenges in fraud and money laundering through industry collaboration and the adaption of new technology to safeguard their customers and organisations from these crimes.

More must be done…

An opening address made by Lord Mayor, Michael Mainelli, warned listeners that sticking a plaster over the issue wasn’t sufficient and the payments industry will ignore failsafe solutions at their own peril.

The significant shift towards digital fraud and rise of artificial intelligence (AI) being used to both protect and increase the risk of crime was pointed out by headline sponsor Visa’s chief risk officer Natalie Kelly.

In order to combat the growing rise of fraud online, Visa has spent over $10million on cyber security measures.

Highlighting the significant difficulty in addressing fraud, Kelly says “That’s a tonne of money. And I say that because anybody getting into the payment space is going to have to spend that type of money to fight fraud.”

The event was attended by hundreds of industry insiders

Technology, however, is firmly making a valiant effort in at least halting the efforts of fraudsters, with Kelly claiming that Visa stopped $41 billion being defrauded from both consumers’ pockets and financial institutions in 2022.

“Operational resiliency is very important, especially to our regulators here in Europe, and especially to our consumers, because they have expectations of our brand to work. We have to invest, we have to protect the consumers and we have to drive operational resiliency for the economy,” adds Kelly.

It’s not only tech that is making a difference however, with panels discussing the role of regulators being widely attended.

The collective plan to reduce the levels of financial crime being seen in the industry was one of the key themes of the event, with a focus on the regulatory actions expected in the next 12 months as well as updates on the well documented work being carried out by the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) on authorised push payment (APP) scams.

Data is key

Jane Jee, project financial crime lead at The Payments Association, did not play down the scale of the hurdles in front of the industry and expresses that “a whole ecosystem approach is necessary, but achieving it is the real challenge.”

The comments were made during a discussion with panellists from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the PSR, Ofcom and Which?.

Speakers agreed that data sharing is crucial in consumer protection across payment systems, however the industry must do better at sharing the data quicker.

Kate Fitzgerald, head of policy at the PSR, emphasised the need for more data sharing by saying: “If you’re a firm that needs to protect itself and its customers from fraud, then sharing data with whoever you’re doing business with makes absolute sense in terms of helping you to mitigate fraudulent transactions.”

Smaller tech firms were also called on to help join the fight to combat fraud, despite the currently regulatory challenges.

Most in attendance agreed that any possible data sharing solution must rely on real-time technology in order to be an effective method in halting criminal transactions.

Jee called for the right systems to be put in place to “stop things that are happening as they’re happening.

Seamless fraud: is education enough?

The conversation around consumer awareness dominated the halls of the event, with some suggesting the time for education has been and gone.

Helen Fairfax-Wall, head of digital and fraud policy at Which?, calls for the end of the conversation around consumers not being educated enough on the subject as technology grows smarter.

Fairfax-Wall says “I hope this conversation starts to put to bed this idea of consumer awareness as a prevention technique, because we already know that fraudsters still manage to get through.

Most in attendance agreed that any possible data sharing solution must rely on real-time technology

“Previously you would see spelling mistakes, errors in the brand’s logo or things like that, but now with the advances in technology, we’re going to see seamless fraud.”

“We need to stop saying, well, it’s about education. Because unless anyone’s got something really compelling, that’s done now and I think we need to put it to bed”.

Leveraging collective intelligence

Industry professionals agreed that one of the best methods for fighting financial crime moving forward is leveraging collective intelligence and further data sharing.

Ed Towers, head of regtech and advanced analytics at the FCA, called on the industry to engage with more data sharing initiatives.

He adds: “We do recognise that smaller firms obviously have to consider the cost of taking part in these initiatives, but the number of schemes is increasing.

“We’ve set a good precedent for this and I think some of the sort of legislative changes coming through hopefully start to create more incentives and make some of these things slightly easier.

“We want to see real engagement from industry and the industry bodies around this topic because it’s such an important issue.”

Moving forward

The conference offered the chance for industry insiders to listen to important voices on an issue which impacts the payments industry on a detrimental scale.

As a result, a myriad of solutions to help combat fraud moving forward were discussed, debated and pondered upon.

Financial Crime 360 laid bare the complexity of the challenge of combatting financial crime, however it also proved that industry collaboration is the only way to fight it effectively.

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