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Cross-Sector Data Platform Hopes to Revolutionise the Fight Against Financial Crime

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Last week, a consortium of businesses, banks and the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced a pioneering new AI-driven data access platform set to launch in 2021, led by RegTech firm RegulAItion.

The AIR Platform promises to transform the way in which data is accessed by regulated industries, providing a digital infrastructure for scalable, automated and responsible data access and offering a brand new way to tackle financial fraud – a timely announcement, given the  recent decision by the European Court of Justice to overturn the Data Transfer Agreement Privacy Shield between the United States and EU.

Backed by Government funding from Innovate UK and private investment totalling £1.67 million, the AIR Platform is being developed in conjunction with project collaborators including the FCA, two international banks, legal firm Ashurst, Oasis Loss Modelling Framework, Wilson Wright Accounting and Tax Practice, University College London (UCL) and Loughborough University.

“We’re facing the perfect storm; there is simply more data in the world than we can handle, it is suffocating businesses, industries and regulators. Equally, data silos mean organisations are unable to develop meaningful solutions, and privacy concerns such as GDPR and commercial interests stand in the way of delivering collaborative efforts to share knowledge from data,” explains RegulAItion CEO Sally Sfeir-Tait.

“Tackling these challenges as individual businesses or sectors is not only prohibitive but also limiting in terms of what can be achieved that is of real value. However, a collaborative, sector-agnostic approach driven by artificial intelligence, machine learning and other analytical technologies can work. The AIR Platform will be that generational breakthrough.”

The goal of the project is to create a data platform that is completely sector agnostic. But its selling point, especially when it comes to financial crime, is that firms do not have to share their own data. “The key thing to remember is that the algorithm goes to the data, not the data to the algorithm,” Sfeir-Tait explains to RegTech Insight. “When you join the platform you don’t submit your own data, your data stays exactly where it is. You just run our system on that data, on your own servers. Your data never moves.

“For example, in terms of AML, every bank will have its own perspective because they can only see as far as the transactions that have gone through their system. To detect a global network, you’ve got to have access to every bank’s different transactions and that’s how you detect the pattern. The Holy Grail is that every bank and financial institution in the world would run the algorithm, so that the pattern of the fraud can be revealed, without revealing the actual transactions themselves.”

That might be a long game, but Sfeir-Tait believes that the platform can offer immediate commercial benefits as well as the longer-term potential to effectively fight financial crime.

“Once you’re a member of the platform, you can choose to join multiple channels. There is nothing that gets accessed in terms of your data that you do not approve, through an automated dashboard, and you can use the same platform for pretty much every AI use case that you might have.

”The AIR platform was developed out of a government innovation funding service competition held at the end of 2019 through Innovate UK, and is currently working on the development of commercial and collaborator use cases to establish real-world return on investment, with full project delivery scheduled for June 2021. It will be available both on an infrastructure-as-a-service basis, and on a pay-per-click model.

“The AIR Platform has the potential of doing for data what the Internet did for communication. We are creating ‘The DataNet’ and doing so from the bottom-up in partnership with the regulators and service industries,” stresses Professor Philip Treleaven, Director UK Centre for Financial Computing, UCL.

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