Aimee Chanthadavong
March 6, 2018

Austrac seeks external code help

FinTel

Austrac seeks external code help

Raj Walton: Financial intelligence agency Austrac is looking for new ways of thinking

“We need help,” says Austrac director of innovation Rajesh Walton, as he explains why the Australian government’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing agency will be hosting its first codeathon later this month.

The 32-hour event will see industry and government working together to better understand potential solutions that Austrac could use to address cyber security concerns, terrorism financing related to blockchain, machine learning, artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency.

“We talk about the ideas generation and how important it is, but there is a real facet about improving problems that exist currently. That’s the crux of what this codeathon is,” Mr Walton said.

“It’s us not being afraid of saying, ‘Hey, look we need help. We don’t represent all the brains across Australia and transnationally, so come and help us solve some challenges’.”

“We then get to share the knowledge with different backgrounds and perspectives that we normally wouldn’t get. So for us it’s critically important.”

Mr Walton is optimistic some solutions could potentially prevent a repeat of the recent Commonwealth Bank of Australia money laundering fiasco. In fact, major banks including Westpac and ANZ are attending the event to show their support.

He added it also ties in with the recently announced draft open banking regime, which will give people the right to take their data from one financial institution or FinTech to another when they change providers.

“We need to be open about the ideas of others, so we can actively collaborate and co-design solutions. It’s an important facet in our regulatory obligation as well.

“We have to remain open-minded and listen to our partners – internally and externally – to ensure we deliver the right outcomes for everyone.”

Winning teams will have the opportunity to turn their ideas into tangible protducts, but such products would be adopted through the Austrac’s Innovation Hub, Mr Walton said there was “potential for that”.

“We’re actually embedding some Austrac mentors from our financial intelligence and compliance area on the ground [of the codeathon] to go around and talk to these participants, explain how we do our work, explain what is that we’re trying to achieve,” he said.

The concept for a local hackathon was born after Austrac and Bank Negara Malaysia co-hosted an international codeathon in November last year.

Austrac oversees the compliance of more than 14,000 Australian businesses ranging from major banks and casinos to remittance service providers. With a massive growth in the financial sector it is looking at new ways of gathering information and dealing with the wider financial community.

The codeathon also builds on from Austrac’s launch of the Fintel Alliance launched nearly a year ago to the day to combat money laundering and terrorism financing through a private-public partnership.

“It’s really important for us to lean on expertise outside of our normal remit to get some context of the market so we can where technologies is heading,” said Mr Walton.

“We want to listen to people and get their advice because we certainly don’t sit here thinking we know all the answers, it’s a long way from that.”

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