Participating in a banking industry debate about communications surveillance, I saw a business function that is acutely aware of its need to adapt but hampered by legacy technology and old ways of thinking.
The discussion took place at 1LoD’s Surveillance Summit in London. Amidst hand-wringing about the difficulty of detecting the “smoking guns” of misconduct and market abuse amidst growing and ever-shifting communications channels and data volumes, some remarks stood out.
We heard that surveillance is encumbered with siloed structures and a lack of data integration, that the industry continues to be held back by the “noise” and inefficiency of lexicon analytics, that despite (or perhaps because of) looking at ever more data the signals of risk remain hard to discern, and – most pointedly of all – that this debate has been running for more than a decade and a paradigm shift is needed.
My comment that the e-comms analytics challenge has effectively been resolved triggered a fair amount of consternation. Digital Reasoning customers, by definition, are leaders in advanced analytics of unstructured data. However, it’s not surprising that surveillance leaders struggling to adapt lexicons to more comms channels and an ever more demanding regulatory landscape would volubly disagree. The problems voiced by the group are precisely why a paradigm shift is needed.
Moving to Integrated Surveillance
To be fair, there was universal recognition that lexicons are a blunt tools unsuited to the dynamics and complexity of surveillance today. As one participant commented: “You have competing demands about what has to be in the lexicons from regulators and from the business. Like a laptop being overloaded with software and data, the system gets messy and increasingly ineffective.”
Meaningful progress with the e-comms surveillance challenge will not be delivered simply with revisions to existing approaches and technology. Part of the solution lies in next generation technology, which analyses language contextually and over time. The first outcome from this approach is better quality alerts with significantly less noise. The future benefit is the ability to move on from lists of alerts and towards a human-centric insights that reveal emerging risks, based on an integrated analysis of multiple sources of comms (both text and audio) and structured data.
Grasp the Nettle
We heard several debate participants highlight the growing calls for surveillance to go beyond monitoring of regulated risks as banks focus on company culture, not least due to movements such as #metoo driving greater awareness of the language of prejudice and discrimination. The debate recognised that these demands will only increase and add further weight to the argument for technology, process and even structural change.
Driving this change will not be easy, but many of the old capability gaps have been answered. It’s now time for surveillance leaders to grasp the nettle. In a world where conduct failures of any kind are judged harshly, those who shape the future will rightly be lauded for their efforts.