Here's how one startup is gearing up to beat money laundering with its AI platform, thanks to support from IMDA's Accreditation@SGD programme.
By MCI Singapore
While working as a quantitative analyst in New York, Abhishek Chatterjee discovered an opportunity to digitally transform the banking industry.
Traditionally, banks carry out regulatory compliance by using legacy systems and a heavy reliance on manpower to screen millions of transactions a month. With the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential benefits, Abhishek thought that it could perhaps perform some of these tasks more efficiently and effectively.
In 2014, he started Tookitaki and began developing AI-enabled software solutions that can better detect money laundering and rogue trading. However, when he brought them to market, Abhishek realised banks were resistant to engage his startup.
“Banks are apprehensive about (working with) startups as they have the risk of going under in 18 months,” says the 34-year-old who relocated his business to Singapore in 2016 because of funding from SPRING Singapore and local technology investment firm, Jungle Ventures. “As these anti-money laundering applications have to be submitted to regulators, banks won’t use your service if they think your company will belly up (before the application is successful).”
Since getting accredited in November 2017, Abhishek says it has become “easier to do business”. The Accreditation@SG Digital (Accreditation@SGD) programme accredits promising Singapore-based high-growth infocomm media companies to establish their credentials, and position them as qualified contenders to government and large enterprise buyers to secure contracts.
Besides assuring potential clients and venture capitalists, being accredited by an independent third-party evaluator such as IMDA has also helped opened up new doors for Tookitaki. Abhishek says they are now in talks to work on several government projects, and the company’s application for becoming a qualified vendor with financial institutions has also been accelerated.
“When we told clients that we are being accredited, they said it might help to quicken the review process by almost 50 per cent,” says Abhishek. Banks typically have to review a vendor’s finances and technology capability before deciding whether to work with them. This process usually takes up to six months but can be accelerated when part of the evaluations is already covered by Accreditation@SGD.
With this added assurance, Abhishek can now focus on selling Tookitaki’s innovative product.
Compliance versus money laundering
What sets it apart from existing compliance technology, is its machine learning capabilities.
Unlike the existing rule-based system that acts upon a set of anticipated scenarios, Tookitaki’s software uses big data analytics to automatically uncover even relatively unknown modus operandi employed in financial crimes. This increases efficiency of banking supervision and reduces manpower reliance and costs. Better compliance also means banks avoid hefty fines resulting from a failure to monitor or report irregularities to authorities.
“The biggest problem in rule-based systems is that it assumes you know everything,” explains Abhishek who holds a computer science engineering degree from India and a master in applied mathematics from the United States.
“But money laundering methods are changing all the time.”
Since launching its products in 2016, Tookitaki has worked with six banks in Singapore. Abhishek is convinced being accredited will help bring in more business because of the city’s growing reputation as a fintech hub.
“A lot of banks have their innovation centres here, which has allowed us to get clients very quickly in one single location,” he says.
“It allows us to quickly grow and reach out to (more) potential customers.”
(This story was originally published by Ministry of Communications & Information (MCI Singapore) on its Medium page.)
About Accreditation@SGD: As a key contributor to the Digital Economy strategy, the Accreditation@SGD programme plays a vital role in growing and nurturing Singapore’s ICM technology ecosystem.
For more information, visit: https://www.imda.gov.sg/accreditation