Meet Livia Benisty: financial crime and regulatory intelligence expert.
With previous roles such as Head of AML, EMEA, for Citi’s Trade and Treasury Solutions, Head of Financial Crime at ComplyAdvantage, and Global Risk and Control Manager at BBVA, Livia has worked to redesign the due diligence and ongoing monitoring process for correspondent banking, money service businesses and diplomatic missions.
The financial services industry is the favorite target of fraudsters for obvious reasons. This affects everyone, from customers to businesses to vendors, but banks bear the ultimate responsibility. Bank security is a byword, but banks are being attacked constantly, and a surprising number are successful. Central banks and governments face near-constant attacks. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said earlier this year that the Internal Revenue Service in the U.S. faces millions of attacks per day. In 2016, fraudsters were successful in stealing more than $100 million from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which was holding funds for the central bank of Bangladesh. The move to real-time settlement of payments makes this risk even more pressing.
Tell us more about what you do and how you moved into your space.
I got interested in International Development while studying Economics at university. Fundamental to that topic is the concept of international flows of money, how that system works and the impact on the individual at the end of it, particularly in relation to poverty, financial inclusion and institutional governance. At the end of my graduate degree I saw a job posting for a consulting company mentioning projects regarding the anti-money laundering regulation for a former Soviet state, and counter-terrorism for an African nation, and I thought that could be an interesting fit. Nearly 15 years later…here we are!
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem and why is that role important?
In a financial crime context, technology can be a blessing and a curse. My role in the tech ecosystem is to understand its potential to corrupt the financial system as well as to detect and prevent that corruption. I think people struggle to realize that you can understand technology and its impact without being a programmer; most people in finance right now should have at least a base level of understanding but it’s essential if you’re working in risk management.
Technology enables product which could enable money laundering and terrorist financing through a new channel, and it also enhances the tools we can use to detect and stop the flow. In my various roles, particularly within innovative companies, it is my responsibility to harness the use of technology whilst ensuring all relevant risks are mitigated, and that it becomes a positive force for the financial system.
How has technology impacted your industry and why is this important?
Technology in finance has meant faster transactions, new routing paths, and increased channels, amongst many other things. It can be a huge force for good, for example increasing financial inclusion or enabling transparency. It can simultaneously create anonymity and allow nefarious actors to get access in ways they were previously unable to.
It’s also opened up a new world of tools for detecting suspicious flows, identifying networks, making decisions in real-time etc, allowing compliance officers and investigators to have greater control over what they are looking at and when.
Technology has changed the nature of the risks inherent in financial products, whilst increasing the number of products on offer. It also offers huge potential for mitigating those risks and detecting flows that need to be stopped.
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2019 (as it relates to your industry)?
The push towards network analysis and information sharing.
Who is a person that inspires you? Why?
In AML – Denisse Rudich. Her knowledge is incredible, she’s fierce and dedicated, she always has time for people, and she does work with the Sentry. Using this knowledge and intellect for the exact kind of cause that got me into this work.
Rona Ruthen – not in AML specifically but watching her take on challenges in her career in FinTech, what she’s achieved, how she leads and what I’ve learnt from her.
What advice would you give for someone who wants to get into your space?
Don’t do it unless you’re interested in the wider story around it, by which I mean the impact on wider society etc. Taking on a KYC file, or reading through a piece of regulation can be quite uninspiring unless you’re actually interested in the context and impact this has on finance.