With the increased incidents of online threats and financial crimes, the right protective
measures and technologies have to come together to help safeguard users and
businesses; Matthew Leaney, Chief Revenue Officer of Silent Eight dives deeper in
Hi Matthew, welcome to V3 Media! Can you talk a little about the Silent Eight
platform and the story behind it…?
The story behind our platform is a desire to solve a problem. In our case, that problem is
the fact that terrorists, drug runners and other negative society elements win far too
often and at the expense of those most vulnerable. Worse, we are spending more and
more money globally, but still losing this battle. We’re not getting the results, despite
increasing costs and manpower being used to try to solve for it.
So, we identified the key blockages to that progress: cost and the inefficiencies of hiring
a million people around the world to do what is reasonably manual work, but has to be
precise and consistent and actually is perfectly suited for an AI-created model.
What would you like to say about financial crimes in today’s time: what are the areas
where financial institutions and banks should be investing in more (for user
In terms of financial crime today, we have to remember that the enemy is disciplined,
creative, and wily. And they have almost unlimited resources in a system where crime
does pay. And worse, they can afford to throw away an awful lot of their proceeds to get
even just some money laundered.
So the challenge is, you’re facing an enemy with nearly unlimited resources, creativity
and motivation. If they are not successful at laundering their money, then they can’t use
or access their illicit funds. So they have an intrinsic, self-serving motivation to be
successful. On the other hand, on our side, you have governments and political leaders
(and less so regulators) that don’t always fully appreciate where technology can help.
As a result, we are seeing more institutions move towards advanced technology. If you
consider mobile apps for example: Five or ten years ago, these were not the main way
people interacted with their financial institutions. Now, for many people, it’s the only way
they interact. So financial firms can be nimble. They can innovate. They can pivot to
meet changing customer demand. We believe that they can demonstrate those same
qualities when it comes to financial crimes compliance. You no longer need 5000 people
anymore to do your customer and payment checks. Instead, you can reassign them into
roles that capitalize on their human intuition, pair them with best in class technology,
and as a result move faster while providing solutions that use the best of technology and
the best of people.
How do you see the growing impact of AI in financial crime management today?
I think if you look at the last 10 years, AI has gotten a bad reputation, principally because
it’s been over-promised and under delivered on consistently at a global scale. People
have dressed up automation as AI. There’s been a lot of miscategorization and definitely
a lot of overselling. But now, the technology and the capabilities have actually caught up
to the sales promises. So while the messaging hasn’t changed, the reality and the ability
to deliver on that messaging has fundamentally changed. And you are seeing that
people understand the relationship between technology and regulatory requirements
and controls an awful lot better.
Whereas once AI was maybe thought of as a change agent, as a disruptive force, now
it’s grown up as a technology and we’ve grown up in how we present it. Today it’s just
another tool to hit business goals. And the tools that an enterprise or business deploys
should always be the appropriate one to accomplish the task and hit the respective goal.
What this means is that AI will not be the appropriate tool in all use cases, nor should it
be. But it is the exact appropriate tool in some. And that’s the evolution, I think, the
recabilatring of the message to actually reflect reality and not talk about AI as a catchall
panacea. Rather, we should talk about the specific examples and use cases where AI is
the perfect complement to existing processes and solutions.
How according to you will financial and online crimes evolve this year (as there was
big rise in crimes through 2020); can you suggest some ways with which users can
also ensure their own security?
I think one of the main ways, and this is a tired comment, is to make your passwords
more complicated. People do not because they don’t want to have to memorize them.
They don’t want to go to a website and have google chrome not auto-fill their password.
And when it doesn’t, most of us don’t want to go through the hassle of remembering a
unique and complex one. It’s only 30 seconds, but resetting is perceived as a hassle in a
world where we expect everything instantaneously. So the number 1 thing I think people
could do is adopt proper complicated passwords.
And the second is really think before you click or when you take a call from unknown
numbers. Really think before you get a text message or a call from an FI. Has your bank
ever texted you before? If no, this probably isn’t your bank. If they have, does this
message look like their other messages? Has your bank ever emailed you before asking
you to fill in a survey? If it hasn’t, this probably isn’t your bank. So I think criminals play
on trust. We trust our financial institutions, and that’s evident because we give them our
money and access to our transactions. So, then they communicate with us that trust is
maintained. And when someone is impersonating them, that trust is the avenue through
which they can conduct their crimes.
So I think, pause, think about anything before you click or take any action and ask “is
this consistent with my previous actions with my firm?” The biggest challenge is going to
be around the capabilities around faking out people. Deepfake videos probably aren’t
that relevant for these sorts of crimes, but when you look at the ability of firms to hoover
up so much data about individuals, they can tailor and tailor their attack until people will
think “this has to be real. because if it wasn’t real how would they know all these things”
and that i think it the biggest trend we will see going forward: The ability to tailor phishing
scams and other types of crimes.
Global FinTech trends are changing and the market is shifting due to business
environments (and also because of Covid-19), what can you comments on the state
of FinTech in 2021?
For any Fintech or small business, I think you have to be solving a problem. Covid-19
might mean a major change in the way we all operate forever, but it also might not. I
don’t know whether I would change strategy based on the current pandemic. However, I
think the current pandemic has accelerated global trends that were already in motion.
For instance, there was already a trend for people to relocate from cities to suburbs,
that’s been sped up; there was already a trend towards remote working, that’s also been
sped up. There was a trend toward internet and mobile access to financial institutions,
that’s rapidly become the norm. So I think there’s an acceleration of trends already in
play, but I’m not sure I would be confident saying there are new paradigms or paradigm
shifts just related to covid-19.
We’d love to hear a little about some of Silent Eight’s upcoming plans and
innovations in 2021?
As far as upcoming plans, we view this across two levels:
The first is simply maintain BAU (business as usual). For us this means continuing to
delight our existing customers and new customers in resolving their alerts. And to do so
with precision and speed, solving more alerts, while of course explaining how every time.
The second, in terms of the future, is to do what our customers ask us to do. We are a
customer-obsessed organization. Once we solve the problem of bandwidth in customer
and payment alert resolutions, our customers will have other problems for us to solve.
And we already have ideas around what those are, and of course our own strategies,
but there’s no harm in having big customer input into our strategies — that can only
help. So, which direction will we go in? That will be decided together with our major
customers, the Tier 1 banks who tell us about their next big challenges.
Before wrapping up, can you talk about some of the biggest learnings and tips that
you’d like to share with FinTech innovators and leaders?
I have 2 tips that I’d share:
Always remember why you got into this business: what problem are you
solving? Stay on track and stay true to solving this problem. Chasing short
term cash will always have an opportunity cost. If it doesn’t adhere to your
strategy then maybe it isn’t worth it. Maybe it is. But I think temporary
deviations from visions are one thing, but oscillating and chasing dollars and
potentially losing sight of vision are another. so the #1 thing i would say is
“as much as you can, manage toward your original vision.”
And the second one is work out where you are on the “go fast and break
things” or “Better done than perfect” spectrum. In other words, what is your
pace of innovation? What is your willingness to accept mistakes and
address them and move on. One of the benefits of being a small org or
start-up is probably the ability to recognize mistakes faster, change them,
and keep moving, whereas a larger org might have more inertia and less
ability to pivot quickly. I would say work out the culture around
mistakes/learnings/development/growth. Is it too fast? Is it too slow? Are
you forgoing innovation for stability. What is the middle ground that makes
sense in how you want to lead your org? I think these factors will permeate
throughout the organization and determine success.
Thank you Matthew for answering all our questions!