Combatting financial crime

September 1, 2019 | By Hayden Harrison

In 2019, we embarked on a project to explore the future of payments and financial services. Having put the question to senior leaders of our business, we outlined a vision of a frictionless future of payments — comprised of five sub-themes.

Among these sub-themes: combatting financial crime

/ˈkɒmbat/ • verb
  1. take action to reduce or prevent (something bad or undesirable)
    "an effort to combat organised crime"

  2. engage in a fight with. oppose

Our hope and expectation for the frictionless future of financial crime prevention is that:

  • Artificially intelligent ‘guardian angels’ will preserve the safety and integrity of payment systems, helping us stay one step ahead
  • See-everything networks will trace illicitly-obtained funds beyond boundaries, allowing for the repatriation of stolen funds
  • It’ll be impossible to steal or imitate someone else’s identity — our money and our credit will be an intrinsic part of who we are

The advent of faster computing and the introduction of non-traditional players into the payments space is opening up more avenues and opportunities for criminals to perpetrate financial crime.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has proven itself critical in managing the complexities of today’s evolving world. Bringing together card and account-to-account data to provide a network-level view of activity across payments networks, and overlaying machine learning techniques, can provide substantial lift in fraud detection compared to legacy rules-based systems.

David Rich, EVP for Real-time Payment Services 
“We want to accelerate ahead of the curve… with the use of AI both at the network level so across an entire banking market as well as between markets.”


Our analysis today looks at multiple factors, such as behaviours, environments and relationships with suspect or known mule accounts. The massive volumes of data in our set allows us to differentiate normal behaviour from strange behaviour, such as sending money to a new account or splitting money into small equal payments.

The more patterns we analyse, the better our solutions become, and that bodes well for the future: Once we see the motif forming, we’ll be able to make predictions based on previous findings that allow us to suffocate fund dispersion routes before the pattern is completed.

In the future, financial crime solutions will advance to the forefront of the payment experience, helping to prevent payment fraud before it occurs. We’re already making good progress, and these solutions are complemented by parallel advances in personal identification and authentication technologies.

David Rich, EVP for Real-time Payment Services  
“We link the two and we have an even better mousetrap.”

Of course, these technologies aren’t restricted to the world of payments: The future is driving towards a point where each person has a single, internationally recognised form of identification that proves who they are and what entitlement — or credit — they have rights to; where the individual has complete ownership of their assets and identities.

In the frictionless future, fraudsters have nowhere to hide. See-everything networks get to the root of financial crime quicker, and digital identity systems bestow individual autonomy. You’re in control, what will you do with it?

Join the conversation: #FrictionlessFutureofPayments

Hayden Harrison, marketing and communications, Mastercard