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OCBC finds way to cut data-retrieval time for criminal probes

OCBC finds way to cut data-retrieval time for criminal probes

Source: Business Times
Article Date: 01 Feb 2020
Author: Angela Tan

Requests for data by law enforcers used to take up to three months to process. The automated system now does it in a day or two.

It can take up to three months for banks to retrieve and provide information required by law enforcement agencies for criminal investigations - and this is provided the information sought is straightforward and does not entail manual sieving of more than 13 months of data.

But OCBC, Singapore's second largest bank after DBS in terms of total assets, has found a way to cut the time and manpower needed to process this kind of data.

The bank calls its automated system POET, short for Production Orders: Electronic Transmission. It digitally receives and responds to investigation requests with minimal human intervention.

(Production orders are requests from law enforcement agencies to provide information on certain individuals' or companies' bank accounts for criminal investigations.)

POET is not a fancy, nice-to-have facility, because OCBC receives, on average, more than 1,000 such production orders every month from law enforcement agencies - a number projected to go up over the years.

The bank's Head of Group Legal and Regulatory Compliance, Loretta Yuen, told The Business Times: "We can now respond to production orders in one to two working days. This is provided the information requested does not exceed 13 months."

Previously, the process was manual and very taxing on the bank's staff.

"It sometimes took banks between 10 days and three months to respond to these production orders, especially if the volume of the information requested was extensive," she said.

OCBC developed POET in-house; its collaboration with the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) started in July 2019, after a successful pilot.

Since then, it has extended the collaboration to other law enforcement agencies, including Singapore Customs, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), the Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau (CPIB), as well as units under the Singapore Police Force, such as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Anti-Scam Centre.

The collaboration with CPIB, Singapore's graft fighters, began last month.

CPIB said: "The automated system shortens the turnaround time to retrieve banking information for the purposes of investigation."

Ms Yuen said the bank now works with more than 10 law enforcement agencies on this, and expects about 70 per cent of the production orders to come in through POET.

OCBC has had meetings with the other two local banks, DBS and United Overseas Bank, to share POET so as to improve the banking community's effort to combat financial crime.

"We have also received interest from other foreign banks in Singapore, as well as regional banks overseas, who are interested to find out more about POET," Ms Yuen said.

These days, cyber criminals operate at ever increasing speeds, so for law enforcement agencies to fight crime effectively, they need information quickly as well.

OCBC has tapped technology and data analytics to design the solution for faster and more efficient data processing.

"By greatly reducing the turnaround time for production orders, we are doing our part to put the squeeze on criminals,'' Ms Yuen said.

She added that the information gathered from these production orders through POET is very important to banks as well.

"We can use it as additional surveillance risk indicators, as well as in intelligence data mining and transactional link analysis to identify hidden relationships and/or clustering relationships that may pose money laundering risks to the bank," she said.

She added that this helps in the speedy detection of possible cases of money laundering or suspicious transactions, so the bank can report these to the relevant authorities.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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