The First US Regulatory TechSprint: Financial Crime and Human Trafficking

From July 30 - August 2, 2019, something new happened in Washington DC. AIR ran the first-ever U.S. financial regulatory TechSprint — a hackathon on financial regulation.

The event was held at the offices of Ernst & Young (EY) in Washington DC and was organized in collaboration with the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), with live video connections between London and Washington throughout the week.

The hackathon teams set out to solve a huge problem: how to bring better technology into fighting the money laundering that funds terrorism and trafficking in illegal weapons, drugs, looted antiquities, endangered wildlife, and human beings. The United Nations estimates that current efforts have worse than a 99% failure rate in catching financial crime.

The four-day sprint in the U.S. featured five competing teams drawn from 35 diverse companies and three federal regulatory agencies. During the week, the hackathon was observed by 65 regulators from 16 agencies. The final day was keynoted by FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams, who also served as a judge in the competition. The FCA was represented by Head of Innovate, Samantha Emery. Solution demos and keynotes were live streamed from London, including an address by Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Marshall Billingslea, who announced plans for the Treasury Department to conduct its own tech sprint next year.

The event’s theme was, “It takes a network to defeat a network,” and many UK and U.S. teams explored Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET) to enable financial companies and law enforcement to share information more freely, while safeguarding the privacy of financial customers.

Following the event, the U.S. teams have demonstrated their solutions to senior leaders at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, FinCEN, and will also be presenting to the heads of the U.S. financial regulatory agencies.

The DC TechSprint introduced a new model for collaboration between U.S. regulators, law enforcement, and market participants, and especially between regulatory experts and software developers. AIR plans to help the regulatory community lead more U.S.-based TechSprints in the near future.

Many of the participants in the first U.S. sprint said it was the most exciting and meaningful week of their careers. For a look at why, watch our video.

If you’d like to learn more about getting involved in future TechSprints, please contact us.

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