How SymphonyAI fights financial fraud with AI

Sanjay Dhawan, SymphonyAI’s CEO on the company’s acquisition of NetReveal, how it fights financial fraud and its plans for the future

You came to SymphonyAI from Cerence, which is involved in AI for the auto industry. Can you tell us about what experiences you’ve brought from Cerence to SymphonyAI?

It’s simple. AI is adopted in consumer markets in ways we don’t even think about anymore. Search, recommendations, and driving assist are good examples of that. It just works and helps us. I want to bring that same pervasive usefulness to the business world

The fun part for me is that SymphonyAI doesn’t start with AI and then try to find problems to solve. We begin with business challenges where AI can be used to solve big enterprise problems like detecting financial crimes.

Tell me about the recent acquisition of NetReveal? What do you hope to get out of this new merger? 

This is an industry-changing moment. We see a huge opportunity to dramatically transform financial crime and fraud detection for banks struggling to keep up using their traditional crime detection systems.

The fundamental challenge banks face is that they have been fighting financial crime using traditional rules-based systems that run against banking transactions and customer/account data to identify potential financial crime or fraud

AI changes this operational process dramatically by looking for new and evolving patterns and behaviours for which rules don’t yet exist. In other words, AI is looking for fraud and crime we can’t yet see. Our AI product for banking is called Sensa, and it is very good at that. So our advanced AI working together with the NetReveal system is a potent combination—dramatically improved financial crime detection and case management for banks. The result is much more efficient operations and a fundamental transformation in financial crime fighting.

Tell me about the Sensa platform. How does it help your customers, and how will the acquisition improve the platform further?

NetReveal is one of the top three financial crime and anti-fraud product companies. NetReveal has an end-to-end, industry-leading product portfolio with a fantastic customer list of 200+ leading banks worldwide. 

Sensa is our internal AI-based platform we have been building for the last few years that aims to address the limitations and incredible pressures the banks face today—not only the growth of banking crime worldwide but new forms—crypto, cybercrime, etc. Sensa combines supervised, semi-supervised, and unsupervised machine learning to detect changes in behaviour, anomalies, hotspots, and risk in a way that uncovers much more potential financial crime and reduces false positives. Sensa is also unlike previous generations of AI because it is explainable and visual—investigators can understand why Sensa flagged something and quickly drill into the details. 

We already have customers who have been using NetReveal and are also adding Sensa to get the combined improvements I mentioned. The results have been very impressive.  

What impact will this acquisition have on enterprise AI in financial crime? 

Other than what I have already discussed, there are two critical areas. First, explainability in AI is critical. If you don’t know why the AI is flagging something as worth investigating, it’s both inefficient and hard to trust. Explainability is vital. We have a strong history in this area—the government of Singapore recognised our technology in 2020 at Davos as part of its work in AI governance. AI “should be repeatable, auditable, traceable, explainable, reproducible, and robust,” and our AI was recognised as fulfilling all those principles.

Second, AI is not yet well understood or addressed by banking regulators. This gap means the benefits of AI discovery and detection aren’t broadly used yet, so the benefits aren’t captured either.

These two things—AI transparency and explainability, and regulator familiarity and comfort—are connected. We believe that the apprehension will dissipate as more banks see the advantages of NetReveal and Sensa and deploy Sensa in combination with NetReveal.

What else do you hope to come out of this acquisition? 

SymphonyAI aims to be the largest enterprise AI company with specialised AI applications that meet specific vertical needs. This acquisition helps us in that and, more importantly, will provide a massive boost to financial customers.

Looking at the vertical industries we serve, we already have large businesses in AI applications in retail, consumer packaged goods, and supply chain. We also have growing AI application businesses in manufacturing, media, IT service management, and the public sector.  We are different from other enterprise AI companies because we only sell vertical-specific solutions, not a general-purpose AI platform.

While we’re well known to leaders in individual industries as the best place to go to solve your particular industry-specific problem, I don’t think a lot of folks realise it all comes from the same place, and we’ve quietly become a leader.

The other point is that there is a flywheel aspect to specific problem-solving across each industry that we bring back to our central technology and AI platform team. It helps us scale and accelerate innovation. So we see this acquisition, like previous ones, adding to that phenomenon. 

What's next for SymphonyAI? 

Our objective is for that flywheel to continue to fuel our innovation and speed. We also look at where adding AI to business processes can unlock new efficiency and productivity gains, whether through internal innovation or acquisition. 

In other words, we are focused on the same things we always focus on: growth, innovation, and bringing value to customers. The golden age of enterprise AI is bringing real value to companies.

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