Today, only around 1-2% of money laundering is detected, giving the criminals the confidence of almost never getting caught. 1% is a tiny drop in the ocean of about 4 trillion dollars of dirty money gained every year through organised crime, most of it laundered through banks. Estonian RegTech startup Salv believes that smartly built tech will finally help the good guys get ahead.
Years ago, Taavi Tamkivi, now the CEO and founder of Salv, used to work for Skype as a data scientist discovering various types of fraud. Back in 2006, e-commerce was a relatively new thing and many internet companies struggled with criminals hacking into their systems, literally destroying firms. “Skype was on the verge of ending up like that, too,“ Tamkivi says. Skype managed to beat the criminals, but that just describes the everyday hazards they too had to face. “By the time I left, Skype was serving one third of the international phone calls in the world in 2013. My mission there was to find and stop various types of fraud attacking the customers and impacting our bottom line – payment fraud, account take-overs, spam, revenue assurance, etc.“ Then, going to work for Wise as a first compliance & AML expert, Tamkivi witnessed another revolutionary disruption – like Skype did in the telecom sector, Wise was making international payments accessible for everyone. His task was simple – as Wise is moving billions of dollars between numerous countries across the world, Tamkivi had to keep the criminals away and the regulators happy.
“When quitting Wise and being a stay-at-home dad with our fourth child, my friends kept coming to me for advice about anti-money laundering (AML) methods. AML didn’t used to be such a big topic like it is now, but I saw that the interest from banks and states to protect themselves from financial crime was growing.“ The bottom line was that banks saw that compliance alone isn’t nearly enough – it only catches 1-2% of global financial crime and fully compliant banks still make headlines for AML scandals. Statistics show that 70-80% of this ‘dirty’ money goes through legitimate banking structures. Under the current compliance practices, criminals are successful because they work in well-functioning large networks in which they can quickly and easily share the information they need. On the other hand, financial institutions have traditionally worked alone, without the ability to securely and quickly exchange information on suspicious transactions and customers to better stop criminal money.
Adaptable, expert-based crime fighting platform
So, Salv was created. A flexible, adaptable, expert-based crime fighting platform by people who have been financial crime fighters for over a decade and who know the tools today’s institutions need to combat modern-day-criminals. Within a couple of years, Salv has grown to 50 employees, fighting crime in 11 countries and counting more than 50 clients. Salv has raised €3,2M in venture capital investments and Tamkivi indicates that a new funding round is on its way. “We really believe that we could revolutionise the crime fighting world, like Skype and Wise disrupted their sectors for good.“ Tamkivi says that their mission is to make financial crime less profitable for the criminals by raising the “getting caught percentage“ from 1% to approximately 10%. “Criminals also have their business models. But when the risks in these models rise tenfold or even more, it greatly hits the motivation to take up any criminal actions.“
The key development here for Salv was creating the AML Bridge initiative. Basically, it helps banks to exchange and enrich information and data on bad actors, thereby enabling financial institutions to strengthen their respective AML efforts. As the web-based platform is encrypted and fully compliant with the latest data protection regulations, AML Bridge is able to legally, securely, and efficiently facilitate the cooperation between financial institutions across borders and legal jurisdictions so that transnational criminal networks can be tackled more effectively.
Estonia as a testbed
Salv’s initiative was piloted in Estonia with the full support of Estonia’s Financial Supervision and Resolution Authority (FSA), Data Protection Inspectorate (DPI), and Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). All of the biggest banks in Estonia partnered with Salv to create an information and data exchange platform, AML Bridge: Swedbank, SEB, Luminor, LHV, Bigbank, Citadele, OP Bank, Coop, TBB, and Inbank. In only half a year (from July 2021 to February 2022) banks reported to Salv that up to 500,000 euros per month of customers’ funds were prevented from reaching criminal controlled accounts. In all, up to 3 million euros of customers’ funds were safeguarded. To date, more than 1300 collaborative investigations have been undertaken via AML Bridge and that is only in cooperation with banks in a small country like Estonia. Tamkivi says that the initiative is already being implemented in many countries where Salv’s services are suggested between banks, creating an information exchange network.
Key findings from the AML Bridge pilot in Estonia:
+ The initiative saw all Estonian banks join forces with RegTech company Salv to create AML Bridge: a secure FinCrime intelligence sharing platform
+ Estonia’s Financial Supervision and Resolution Authority (FSA), Data Protection Inspectorate (DPI) and Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) – all fully supportive of the initiative
+ To date, more than 1300 collaborative investigations have been undertaken legally, securely, and efficiently across three different use cases – AML, fraud, and sanctions
+ Salv has seen the use cases for sanctions more than triple in the recent weeks
+ AML Bridge significantly cut the time required to handle cases and prevented up to €3M from reaching criminal-controlled accounts
+ Following the successful Pilot, the roll-out of AML Bridge is planned for further markets, and Salv is poised to include members from outside the traditional banking sector; the Company has onboarded its first crypto fintech and is in discussions with investment companies and pension funds
+ Further development is planned so that platform is multilateral, automated, proactive and able to handle large-scale FinCrime data exchange in real-time
Read more about the FinTech opportunities that Estonia offers here. Do you wish to do business in Estonia? Just send us a request for e-Consulting to get started and one of our investment advisors will get in touch shortly.
Also, be sure to listen to the Art of Digitalisation podcast with Taavi Tamkivi on e-estonia.com.