Fighting Wildlife and Human Trafficking with Jonny Bell

Fighting Wildlife and Human Trafficking with Jonny Bell

In this latest podcast, “Fighting Wildlife and Human Trafficking with Jonny Bell”, Darren Franks chats with Jonny Bell,  at LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

Welcome back to Talking Success, one of the Best FinTech podcasts globally! In this episode, we uncover a striking revelation from Bell’s discussion about LexisNexis’s involvement in combating wildlife trafficking. This is not an area typically associated with financial crime, but Bell emphasizes that crimes such as wildlife trafficking are often financially motivated. Through their data solutions, LexisNexis has significantly impacted curbing these illegal activities. Bell recounts a recent fireside chat in Johannesburg where he discussed the role of data in preventing wildlife trafficking, an effort that has left many, including himself, “gobsmacked.”

The Intricate World of Wildlife Trafficking

Wildlife trafficking, a lesser-known but significant form of financial crime, is intricately linked to organized crime. Financial institutions unwittingly facilitating these activities can find themselves indirectly supporting these crimes. Bell explains that financial institutions, when onboarding new customers, must ensure they are not inadvertently supporting wildlife traffickers. LexisNexis Risk Solutions provides data that helps prevent these illicit activities by flagging suspicious entities.

The conversation also delves into public-private partnerships (PPPs) as a key strategy in dismantling organized crime networks. By sharing information across financial institutions, enforcement agencies, regulators, and nonprofits, these partnerships have led to numerous convictions and enforcement actions, showcasing the real-world impact of LexisNexis’s data solutions.

The Data Behind the Fight: Species and Trade Routes

Bell highlights the pangolin, elephants, and big cats like lions and tigers as the most trafficked species, according to LexisNexis data. These animals are trafficked for their scales, ivory, and medicinal purposes, respectively. Rich biodiversity in a country often correlates with higher wildlife trafficking risks. LexisNexis’s data, validated by experts, plays a crucial role in identifying and addressing these hotspots.

Human Trafficking: A Heart-Wrenching Reality

Human trafficking, another poignant topic, underscores the broader impact of financial crime solutions. LexisNexis collaborates with various entities to tackle human trafficking, aiming to turn this heinous crime into a historical issue. Bell points out that the convergence of fraud and anti-money laundering (AML) is essential in this fight. Criminals involved in human trafficking often use fraudulent methods to access financial services, making it crucial for financial institutions to be vigilant and innovative in their compliance strategies.

Challenges and Innovations in Fighting Financial Crime

The conversation touches on the ever-evolving nature of financial crime, likened to a game of “whack-a-mole.” As criminals devise new methods, organizations like LexisNexis must continuously adapt and innovate. Bell finds this constant evolution challenging yet vital, as it drives the development of advanced products and services to combat these illicit activities.

Gray Listing and Regulatory Compliance: The African Perspective

Discussing the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) gray listing, Bell emphasizes the importance of robust regulatory frameworks for designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs) and non-banking financial institutions (NBFIs). Countries on the FATF gray list often lack sufficient controls to prevent money laundering. Firms, even small SMEs, must proactively engage with compliance solutions to meet regulatory requirements. LexisNexis offers streamlined services to help these firms remain compliant without significant operational overhead.

The Reality of Money Laundering Tactics

A real-life example of how criminals exploit legal services for money laundering underscores the need for comprehensive compliance measures. Bell explains that while larger firms have rigorous checks, smaller firms must adopt holistic compliance strategies, including enhanced due diligence and understanding the ultimate beneficial owners of entities. This approach helps uncover potential links to predicate crimes and ensures thorough investigative due diligence..

Insider Trading: The Complex World of Detection

Insider trading remains a major focus within financial crime compliance. Bell explained how investment banks, brokerage firms, and hedge funds are under intense scrutiny for illicit trading activities. Although LexisNexis Risk Solutions does not directly offer a product to detect insider trading, the industry has developed various solutions. These include monitoring phone activity, trading platforms, and even voice and language patterns to identify suspicious behavior. While these tools are essential, Bell pointed out that LexisNexis focuses on solutions further down the value chain, such as transaction monitoring and compliance automation.

The Rise of AI in Compliance: Transformative Potential

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming the compliance landscape. Bell highlighted the growing adoption of AI, robotic process automation (RPA), and machine learning within the industry. Unlike a few years ago, when compliance departments were hesitant to adopt these technologies, there is now a top-down push from executive levels to integrate AI-based tools for operational efficiency. This shift is evident in procurement processes where AI and machine learning are becoming key criteria. A significant portion of compliance budgets is spent on operational overheads, including labor costs and third-party providers. Bell discussed a study conducted in South Africa, revealing that over half of a firm’s compliance budget is allocated to people. This highlights the potential for AI to streamline processes, reduce costs, and maintain regulatory compliance. By automating routine tasks, AI can significantly cut down on the operational overhead, making compliance more efficient and cost-effective.

The Human Touch: Balancing AI and Human Oversight

Despite the advancements in AI, human oversight remains crucial. Bell explained that while AI can handle many aspects of compliance, exceptionally difficult decisions still require human intervention. For instance, during onboarding or transaction monitoring, AI might flag certain activities for further investigation, which a human would then review. This hybrid approach ensures that while AI enhances efficiency, human expertise is leveraged for critical decisions.

As Bell wrapped up the podcast, he reflected on the transformative impact of AI and the importance of human oversight in financial crime compliance. The conversation highlighted the ongoing efforts of LexisNexis Risk Solutions to provide innovative tools and solutions that help institutions navigate the complex world of compliance. With the regulatory landscape continuously evolving and the rise of AI, the future of financial crime compliance promises to be both challenging and exciting.

For those interested in learning more about LexisNexis Risk Solutions and their offerings, Bell suggested reaching out to their local representatives or visiting their website. The company has a strong presence in Africa, with teams based in South Africa and Ghana, ready to assist institutions in enhancing their compliance frameworks.