Pittsburgh and AI Go Together Like French Fries on a Primanti’s Sandwich

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Over the last couple of years, Pittsburgh has become known as the Silicon Valley of the east—and not just for its steel. Amazon, Uber, Google, Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh, The National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, The National White Collar Crime Center and many more organizations are embracing technology and moving into the future. Artificial intelligence (AI) in Pittsburgh has become as common as french fries on your Primanti’s sandwich.

On May 16, the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) hosted its second event of 2019. During the event, Sarah Purcell and Lesley Park from Thomson Reuters and Joel Borsh from FinScan discussed key trends happening in anti-money laundering (AML) and Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) departments of all sizes. The speakers covered automation, AI and technology. This event was sponsored by Thomson Reuters and held at PNC Firstside Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

About the Speakers

Sarah Purcell is a highly experienced public records investigative researcher with over 15 years of professional experience in the legal industry. Since joining Thomson Reuters in 2005, she has assisted customers ranging from small law firms to large corporations with investigative and research needs. In her current role as a public records product specialist, Purcell works closely with know your customer (KYC), fraud, customer identification program (CIP) and compliance departments across many industries. She also works alongside the Thomson Reuters’ new Product Development team to identify and create innovative due diligence solutions. Purcell earned a B.A. from St. Norbert College and a J.D. from Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Lesley Park is a senior client manager for Thomson Reuters Strategic Accounts Team, working with new and existing investigative clients in the areas of Regulatory Compliance, AML, KYC, CIP, third-party risk, fraud, due diligence, and insurance investigations. Park works closely with her customers to understand their needs, develop training programs and ensure overall customer success. Before joining Thomson Reuters, she had experience in consulting, event planning, public relations, sales account management and customer service. In 2018, Park completed her Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist certification and became an event/speaker director on the ACAMS Greater Twin Cities Chapter executive board.

Joel Borsh is vice president of North America at FinScan, a leading provider of advanced AML solutions trusted by some of the largest organizations in the world. With over 20 years in the financial and banking industry, Borsh is responsible for the delivery of AML software solutions in the risk and compliance space. At FinScan, he oversees financial services, insurance and gaming verticals. He has served on the American Gaming Association compliance advisory group and has been a speaker at their conferences. Prior to joining FinScan, Borsh held management positions at Pitney Bowes Banking Solutions and Messaging Technologies where he worked with multiregional and national banks, providing client core systems integration solutions. He holds a degree in marketing administration from Saint Vincent College.

What are the regulators saying?

To start the conversation, the presenters discussed a joint statement that was released on AI and technology. The Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, National Credit Union Administration and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a joint statement encouraging financial institutions to explore and implement innovative approaches to meet their BSA and AML compliance obligations that are designed to further protect the financial system against unlawful financial activity.

The agencies recognized that innovation has the potential to augment or enhance the Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) aspects of a bank’s compliance programs regarding, but not limited to, risk identification, transaction monitoring and suspicious activity reporting.

Which innovations by institutions will not be criticized?

  • Pilot programs in and of themselves should not subject banks to supervisory criticism even if the pilot programs ultimately prove unsuccessful.
  • Pilot programs that expose gaps in a bank’s current BSA/AML compliance program will not necessarily result in supervisory action with respect to that program.
  • When banks test or implement AI-based transaction monitoring systems and identify suspicious activity that would not otherwise have been identified under existing processes, the agencies will not automatically assume that the banks’ existing processes are deficient.
  • The implementation of innovative approaches in banks’ BSA/AML compliance programs will not result in additional regulatory expectations.

What does this mean for the financial institutions?

Financial institutions would see three areas of growth: automation, AI and machine learning. The presenters explained how each one of these areas would directly impact how AML investigations are completed in the future. All of these areas will be used as tools to assist the frontline employee.

Are the machines taking over?

No. AI, robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning cannot replace compliance professionals and their investigative instinct. It can assist with time-consuming tasks in order to allocate more time for account analysis and the deeper investigative aspects.

What do the polls say?

To engage the audience, the presenters posed a few questions regarding technology and how it is being used in financial institutions.

  1. How many solutions are individuals currently using for sanctions/watchlists, CIP/onboarding, risk scoring, enhanced due diligence and transaction monitoring?
    For this answer, almost the entire audience indicated that they are using four or more solutions for these areas.
  2. How many individuals have an active project for RPA, AI and machine learning?
    Again the majority of the audience indicated that they have at least one project that encompasses these options.

Key Takeaways From The Event

  • Technology is only as good as the data you are putting into it
  • There needs to be a testing environment with the technology being used
  • There is a need to explain regulators what the technology does in simple terms
    • Internal controls for ongoing compliance
    • Independent testing
    • Training with the technology
  • Robots are not taking over—no one should fear that their job is going to be gone

This event would not have been possible without the support and enthusiasm of sponsors PNC, WesBanco, Oxford Solutions Inc, Gannon University and Thomson Reuters. The chapters would like to thank them for their continued support moving forward.

For a more in-depth overview of Pittsburgh Chapter events and membership details, as well as information about upcoming events, please visit the chapter’s ACAMS webpage, LinkedIn or Twitter. Questions for the chapter can be sent via email to pghacams@gmail.com.