Big banks are using AI to keep out of trouble

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Doing business with the wrong kind of client can be extremely costly for banks.

HSBC (HBCYF) had to pay $1.9 billion in 2012 to settle allegations that it allowed international drug cartels to launder billions of dollars across borders. ING (ING) took a $900 million hit in September after admitting criminals had moved money through its accounts. And Danske Bank has in recent months found itself at the center of a scandal involving suspicious Russian funds.

A Singapore-based startup thinks artificial intelligence could help financial companies avoid that kind of trouble. Silent Eight says its technology uses AI and machine learning to identify and halt illegal transactions before they happen.

The company is the brainchild of Martin Markiewicz. The trained mathematician founded Silent Eight when he moved to Southeast Asia from Poland about five years ago.

Markiewicz claims artificial intelligence is better than the methods banks currently use. They often rely on staff manually checking lists of individuals and companies facing sanctions or under criminal investigation.

“Global banks look at millions of suspicious transactions every year, so it’s a very inefficient way of keeping the bad guys out of the financial system,” he said. With AI, “you can do it much faster and you’re not exposed to human error.”

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