Notes from the Head of FIU: Detective Inspector Christiaan Barnard
What’s currently front of mind for me? Data.
This vitally important subject poses many challenges and opportunities. In the FIU context, data drives deployment, discovery, and investigative support, and we have rich data sources that include suspicious activity reports and prescribed transaction reports.
The FIU has invested in data resources (both human and software), and we are seeing the benefits as the FIU Data Team puts applications into production (which at the time of writing is five). Our IQ platform has enabled us to view the data we receive in ways we were unable to before, however it has also highlighted data quality issues in the prescribed transaction reports.
With 14,000 transactions being ingested every day, data quality issues in the reports we receive can quickly have an impact on our insights. Many reports submitted by reporting entities have issues such as poorly formatted names, missing or incorrect dates of birth, and account numbers containing non-numeric data. This leads to duplication of identities within goAML and results in the FIU expending some effort cleaning the data to ensure our holdings are reliable for operational matters as well as strategic insight.
The FIU has been running a data quality project over the past few months and there has been a multi-pronged attack on “dirty data” to endeavour to clean up what we have. We are also looking to work closely in the near future with reporting entities as we try to achieve our overarching strategy of preventing erroneous data from being ingested. While we work through our options, it will likely result in changes to the acceptance rules for goAML and the introduction of feedback loops.
Our team of four data analysts has been busy developing applications within our new data analytics software IQ (which is comprised of Qlik Sense and Datarobot). This has seen five applications go into production that support a range of business needs. All of the business needs addressed were previously done through manual processes or other applications that don’t provide the high-quality insights that IQ can provide. On the operational front, a search tool has been developed for a broad law enforcement audience which enables basic queries of the financial intelligence held by the FIU. An Intelligence for Investigation tool has also been developed for investigators to visualise and analyse financial intelligence relevant to their investigations.
For the Asset Recovery Units, we have developed a property tool that pulls property data to support their investigations and restraints, and a dashboard that visualises our asset recovery restraints and forfeitures. Finally, we have used IQ to develop a Workforce Manager tool which provides additional insights for our Financial Crime Group supervisors on managing a range of metrics such as training and leave.
We have additional applications in development. The most exciting one is the Discovery application, which is focussed on understanding “unknown unknowns” within the data reported to us. The Discovery application will endeavour to reach across a number of siloed criminal databases and automatically combine it with our financial intelligence. This will inform our prioritisation of operational targets and will support other work groups in managing a range of risks. We are also developing an application which will focus on analysis of the use of cash and cash deposits reported to us. Cash is well recognised as our highest risk money laundering typology, and this will improve our insights into how illicit cash enters the financial system.
Finally, the most critical piece – our people. We are recruiting two further data analysts through our Neurodivergence Pilot which features in a story in this month’s report. We have a small and highly skilled team of data analysts who are working within the IQ environment to develop applications for use by the FIU and the broader FCG. This team is critical in achieving the FIU’s mission and as we look ahead, their role will become central to the ongoing successes of the FIU.
Remember: know the risk, ask the questions, and report your suspicion to the #nzfiu.