Fintech Interview with Founder and CEO, Silent Eight – Martin Markiewicz
Martin Markiewicz from Silent Eight discusses the integration of alert investigation into the case management processes of financial service providers, AI, and offers advice to other startups.
1. Tell us about your role at Silent Eight?
As a company, we have a mission to fight financial crime. We want to help the “good guys” win the fight against all the bad actors that are trying to enter the global financial system. We can do this by giving the good guys (banks, financial institutions, etc) the best tools possible so they can win and ultimately make the world safer. Our vision is to change what is happening around the world and to do so through innovative and advanced technology.
My role at Silent Eight is to always drive toward this vision, to make sure that we are creating this technology and that we never stop. That we never say “my job here is done,” but that we continue to put a lot of effort into research and development (R&D) and continue to equip the good guys to win the fight.
The other part of my role is to make sure that we take the innovations we create and not just mark them as “done” or shelve them and leave them alone. To make our vision come to life, all financial institutions around the world must use this technology. We have to reach them, prove the benefits coming out of using the technology, and then support them when they start using it.
2. Can you tell us your journey into this market?
We were very surprised that opportunities for someone like us in this market still existed when we started our research. When we looked at all the effort going into fighting financial crime and saw the incredible volume of work –across regulators, government, banks– these are institutions that are investing billions in technology and people. They are doing so much great work and making such a large impact, that we initially only hoped to improve their lives by maybe 5%.
We saw that there was room for an impact, but we imagined it to be small. However, when we started working hard and investing heavily on R+D with our first customers, (a global Tier 1 bank), what we discovered is that what can build and deliver has more than a 5%+ impact, but we can literally change the game. We can make things 500x, maybe even 5000x better. This is the impact we realized we could have and once we realized this, it was a no-brainer to continue on this journey.
3. How do you think technology is upgrading in the RegTech sector?
In our daily lives, all of us use more and more advanced technologies. – like google home, alexa, etc. And we’re using these regularly, to the point where we are hopeless without our smartphones and all the applications and cloud services that are plugged into our phones to connect with others, make better decisions, navigate terrain, etc. Right now we take these things for granted because they are so ingrained.
But the same adoption needs to happen when it comes to regulatory technology. We have to bridge the gap between what we’re doing in our home and what we’re doing at work in regards to the tools we have available. So that the advancement in our personal lives is part of financial crime regulation. Because why shouldn’t people fighting crime be able to have access to advanced AI that makes life easier? There is a natural path to leverage on all the research and experience that we’ve collected from the consumer market and places that turn out to be early adopters. We can use learnings (and not repeat mistakes) and try to apply them in the regtech sector. The caveat is doing this responsibly and in a transparent way.
4. How has application of AI technology empowered the financial ecosystem?
The financial ecosystem as a whole was always behind consumer technology and other sectors. It is heavily regulated and so change happens more slowly than in other areas of our industry.
I can’t speak to how AI has impacted the entire ecosystem, because my expertise is only in the way that it can impact anti-money laundering and the financial crime compliance sector. But, in this segment of the financial system, there is a tectonic shift in the way things were done not so long ago, to how the work is being done today with our help and the help of companies like ours.
5. Can you explain how integration of existing platforms of companies with Silent Eight can bring a major change to their due diligence processes?
Every time there is even a slight risk that something is suspicious, a responsible bank or financial institution needs to conduct a detailed investigation. All the evidence needs to be collected, so the institution can understand the entire situation and context. Then, based on the facts, laws, and internal policies, a decision needs to be made. We’ve created a machine that can learn how humans are actually doing these investigations, how they reason about it–the why and how of the decisions– liberates our customers and provides security for their institutions.
We not only are able to conduct and solve an entire alert investigation, but we do it transparently and directly in a client’s existing case management. Our findings are presented back in plain English so that there is never a question of how or why a decision was made. This enables automation, but with full human control and oversight. We make concerns around precision, consistency and volume a thing of the past.
6. Congratulations for being recognized among top 12 Fintechs in Aurexia’s Finlab Index 2020! Can you share with us what features of your solution led to this achievement?
Thank you, we were honored to be selected by Aurexia. We believe what led to the selection was that our solution is not only visionary, but viable, but it is different from other vendors. We are actually solving the problem. We continuously learn the best ways to conduct an investigation in order to make good decisions and provide the right arguments. All of this takes place within a design that is completely transparent. Whoever is in charge can see what the system is learning and has complete control over its decisioning. The supervisor is able to see the output in plain English to verify what was decided and why.
7. What advice would you like to give to the technology Start Ups?
There’s a quote I love that goes something like “the smartest people aren’t always the most successful, it’s the ones who never give up.”
The advice I would give is:
brace for a long journey with a lot of problems along the way. You will have a lot of assumptions that will be challenged, and a lot will be proven to not be true. Let go of your ego, adjust, listen to your customers. Go forward and don’t quit.
8. What is the Digital innovation in AI technology according to you that will mark 2020?
I can’t disclose any details yet, but by the end of 2020, we will publish a success story with one of our customers that will be game-changing for us and the industry. Stay tuned
9. What are the major developments you are planning, in recent time?
The short answer is: doing more of what we’re doing already. In 2020 we’ve already doubled in size. We’re growing very quickly and creating a lot of innovation at the same time. We are fortunate enough to be able to deploy this innovation in one of the biggest FIs in the world.
Every 3 months, when I sit down and look back at the previous quarter, I see that there are so many groundbreaking things we have achieved and a pipeline that is fast growing.
10. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
We have an incredible team– people in the US, UK, Poland, and Singapore. And we have some of the smartest people in the world working with us. The team recently grew by a lot, with incredibly talented people that are aligned with our mission coming on board. In terms of team size and output, we are 2x bigger, but we are doing 10x more, it’s truly amazing.
AND! We’re hiring, check out our career page. We are constantly looking for new talent, especially for people who are passionate about using technology to stop bad actors.
11. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
I love Blinkist. It’s a cool app because it’s basically an executive summary for nonfiction books. The last one I listened to, today, on 2x speed, was “The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution” by Gregory Zuckerman. It’s a book about Jim Simons, Founder of Renaissance Technologies, the best quant hedge fund in the world that had returned more than 66 percent annualized returns over a 30-year span from 1988 to 2018 using math and models of the market. Jim cracked codes in the cold war and was a mathematics professor. It was an awesome story about someone who saw a problem and approached it in a completely different way than everyone else.. I’m a mathematician so Jim has always been an interesting guy for me.