Richard Wood, chief executive officer at Synectics, reveals why data really can be a force for good, especially when it’s shared, and reflects on what it would mean to win Data Initiative of the Year at the ceremony on 22 July in London.
FinTech Intel: Congratulations on being named as a finalist for Data Initiative of the Year—how crucial of a role is data playing in the fight against fraud, particularly financial?
Wood: Thank you. The role data plays in fighting financial crime is absolutely critical. Serious and organised crime, much of which is driven by economic crime, is estimated to cost the UK £37 billion a year. We all know that this figure is set to rise in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Quite simply, data is one of the few effective weapons we all have in our arsenal, and the real value is unleashed when we bring our resources together.
We have helped organisations that we work with identify and prevent more than £5 billion of fraud, through the power of shared data. Data is crucial to the identification and disruption of the latest financial fraudulent activity, crimes that are anything but victimless and include:
- Pinpointing money mules that are involved with, coerced into and victimised by serious organised crime.
- Working to identify push payment fraud where our grandparents and other family members are deceived out of their savings.
- Targeting fake businesses that fraudulently obtain taxpayer funds and funnel the proceeds overseas.
FinTech Intel: It feels like partnerships and collaboration are key—is that how Synectics works?
Wood: In a word, yes. The hint is in our name, Synectics, meaning the coming together of a group of people of different skill sets to solve a common problem. Our entire business was founded almost 30 years ago on the principles of syndicating data and sharing insight across industries. We have always recognised that when we collaborate, we are all so much more powerful than the sum of our individual parts.
More than 140 organisations in the private sector, and 1300 public sector organisations, actively work to prevent fraud in their own organisations and to alert all other organisations in the ecosystem of these bad actors.
Companies that, under normal circumstances, would be seen as competitors, stand side by side united in the fight against financial crime and fraud.
If you are a criminal with the intent of committing fraud, collaboration on this scale will make your ‘job’ incredibly difficult to accomplish. UK PLC is a global leader in these partnerships, where everyone benefits from more efficient use of their taxes and lower costs to access financial services.
Our ecosystem, by its very nature, promotes cross industry and public-private collaboration—it’s the only way we know.
FinTech Intel: The rise of fintech will undoubtedly draw questions about privacy and data protection—how important is it that the sector gains the trust of its customers in these respects?
Wood: It’s absolutely critical. We believe privacy and data protection regulation has been a positive catalyst for growth. Customers trust their bank more than any other organisation when it comes to data privacy and security.
When you apply for a new credit card, seek to move house, and renew your mortgage, or look to buy a new car, you want to know your data is used with your best interests in mind. You want to know it’s secure and you want to feel that no-one else could access these services by fraudulently using your credentials. For UK fintechs, this trust must be core to their business philosophy.
Trust will be the new customer battleground, and loyalty will be its currency.
We all know that ‘digital first’ is the mantra of most fintechs and is at the centre of transformation strategies for most established financial institutions. With this shift comes greater responsibility around privacy and data protection, responsibilities that we all need to share.
FinTech Intel: Finally, what would it mean to you and Synectics to win Data Initiative of the Year at this year’s UK FinTech Awards?
Wood: Personally, I’d love to take the award back to Stoke and parade it through the streets on an open top bus (Covid-19 restrictions permitting). We are a very big part of our local community and I know that this would mean a lot for the region, as well as Synectics.
Stoke-on-Trent benefited from being the world centre of ceramic production as we know it, although today most of the bottle kilns have been destroyed with only sanitised remainders left. Celebrating Stoke in the modern era of fintechs would be a significant boost, celebrated with our university partners, our school affiliations and promoted as a success story for a more modern Stoke.
It would also be an incredible recognition by the industry of all the hard work we’ve put in over the last 30 years. When our staff come to work every day, they know that they are helping our customers fight for the good of society as a whole and they’re incredibly proud of the part we play in that fight.
It proves that data really can be a force for good, especially when it’s shared.