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Q&A with Alyssa Iyer on Fighting Financial Crime through Tech-enabled Solutions

February 2, 2023

  • Blog Post

Alyssa Iyer is an Entrepreneur in Residence at Forgepoint. Learn more about her background here.

Alyssa, tell us about your story: where did you grow up and what has been your journey to get to where you are now?

I grew up in Iowa in a farming community full of entrepreneurs, including my family which runs a hog operation producing over 12K pigs a year and harvesting 1K acres of corn and soybeans. From an early age, I saw first-hand how difficult, yet rewarding, owning your own business can be, and the resilience one must have to ride the highs and lows. Although I hold the utmost respect for those in agriculture, I followed my passion for global affairs by studying International Relations and Spanish at the University of Iowa, which included a year studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I then attended George Washington University where I received my Masters in International Relations.

After receiving my Masters, I landed a job conducting due diligence investigations in Spanish and English at Kroll, a corporate investigations and risk consulting company. This is really where my journey into Anti Money Laundering (AML) started and where I “cut my teeth” as an investigator. At Kroll, I learned search methodologies and how to positively match a subject to potentially adverse information. When I moved on to JPMorgan Chase as a compliance officer, I added transaction monitoring experience to my investigator toolbelt. I learned strategies for reviewing massive data sets for red-flags and patterns of unusual activity. Once I joined PwC, I realized these experiences were extremely helpful now that I was responsible for leading teams of investigators on massive AML operations engagements. Often faced with siloed, messy data sets, overly complicated processes, and immature tech platforms, we combined our collective investigator expertise with automation to replace timely and costly, manual processes with tech-enabled solutions.

This path has led me to where I am today – at Forgepoint where I get to apply the lessons learned throughout my career in search of a technology that will help solve the pain points still experienced in compliance today. To say I’m grateful for this opportunity would be an understatement!

How does your background and international experience influence your work in regtech?

Consulting in the US and across the globe gave me a diverse perspective shaped by banks of varying sizes, a range of stakeholders, and a myriad of technical environments, from which I view potential opportunities. My roles were often operational in nature, managing thousands of remediation files and hundreds of investigators. I became deeply passionate about solutions that aim to reduce manual work and help investigators focus on what really matters – analyzing risk. We were also responsible for ensuring compliance with regulations, which made me equally passionate about finding new ways to help teams adhere with regulatory requirements and apply risk-based approaches. Because of these experiences, I often look for how to solve the root causes of compliance challenges from both an operational and regulatory perspective.

With this diverse experience, I’ve also found that many institutions grapple with similar challenges, a huge one being data management. The sheer amount and types of data needing to be collected and reviewed as part of compliance requirements, as well as reported to boards and regulators, slows down so many processes, leading to lost time, inaccuracies, and poor customer experiences. With that said, this vast sea of data also has the power to improve risk identification/mitigation holistically, once the right technology is applied to provide actionable insights.

How has this informed what you look for in (new) technologies to help institutions identify risk and comply with regulatory requirements?

I’ve seen how data can transform the investigation process. Good intelligence can accelerate customer onboarding and can also accelerate investigations due to uncovered connections between potential suspects. Without good data, it’s very difficult to bring innovation or automation to compliance. That’s why I’m looking for solutions that a) aim to transform data, provide insights, and ultimately enable automated processes like data collection and b) have beneficial impacts outside the compliance department. Entity resolution is an example that I’m excited about. It has the potential to enable compliance automation by transforming the bank’s data to create unique and holistic customer profiles. Centralizing all known data points on a given customer can not only streamline investigations but also highlight cross-selling opportunities across business lines, a win-win for both the compliance department and the front line.

Why Forgepoint? What is your role working with the team and our companies?

Forgepoint’s mission to protect the digital future resonated deeply with me, as someone who has seen how criminals leverage weaknesses in our institutions to facilitate nefarious operations. Often, people think of compliance as a check-the-box exercise, but the team here sees the synergies between the solutions used to prevent financial crime in AML and to stop cyber criminals.

I’ve also seen just how dedicated the team at Forgepoint is in bringing value to their companies. To that end, I’ve been working with the Forgepoint team and their portfolio companies to identify how they can apply their solutions to enhance and automate regulatory compliance. We’re also looking for new approaches to the most pressing challenges that to date haven’t been addressed by existing companies in the market. And if we can’t find that company, we’ll work together to build it.

What do you find most gratifying about what you do?

What I find most gratifying is the potential impact of our work here. We’re solving a problem that truly has a global impact. When it comes to financial crime, 2-5% of global GDP (approximately $800 billion – $2 trillion USD) is laundered every year, enabling illicit activities such as human trafficking, terrorism, cybercrime, just to name a few. I feel incredibly grateful to be working with the best in venture to identify the cutting-edge technology needed to solve such a massive, ever-changing problem.

If you weren’t an Entrepreneur in Residence, what would you be doing?

I’d be working for the federal government to bring these tech-enabled solutions to the institutions charged with stopping anti-money laundering, human trafficking and terrorist financing. If not that (and if I’m dreaming…), a Peloton instructor. Music and movement fill my cup!