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Trust and security to the fore

Machine learning and the blockchain will potentially allow banks greater ability to trace the progress of defrauded funds along the blockchain, creating greater potential for recovery

The global financial system is built on trust. Trust that our money will be there when we need it. Trust that when we make a transfer or pay a bill the money will go to its intended destination. Trust that our personal data is secure.

In a world of increasingly sophisticated fraudsters and cybercriminals, financial institutions are increasingly reliant on advanced security systems to maintain that trust. One technology that has been widely acclaimed for its inherent security characteristics is blockchain but its adoption by the financial services world has not been as rapid or widespread as initially expected.

But it is not as straightforward as that as Maurice Murphy, country lead for Ireland at Revolut, explains.

“Trust and security are more important to Revolut than anything else,” he says. “We invest vast amounts in the most advanced systems and processes to help make sure that our customers’ money – and their data – is kept safe and secure. We want to allow people to send their money wherever they want in seconds, pay for services instantly and invest as they choose: we are now processing over 400 million transactions per month. But we also understand that customers must always know that we are putting their safety first.”


He points out that the world is only just starting to appreciate the potential of blockchain technology – with immutable records of every transaction – to enhance these security measures even further.

“Equally significant and perhaps more immediate, though, is the potential offered by our next-generation AI systems to help protect customers against financial fraud,” he says. “Already at Revolut, our machine learning models have helped us to a point where we are able to analyse millions of payments a day – and still spot transactions which, while they have been fully authorised by the customer, are being made at the behest of a criminal.

“We are also very excited by the possibility that both AI and blockchain technologies may help industry find new solutions to the growing threat from fake text messages, fake phone calls and fake websites from which almost all frauds originate,” he adds.

However, while criminals have realised that it is almost impossible to break into a digital bank they have turned instead to social engineering – tricking customers into instructing their bank to transfer out their money into the hands of the fraudsters.

“Machine learning and the blockchain will help the tech firms and telecoms in question to stem this tide of fake content while potentially allowing banks greater ability to trace the progress of these defrauded funds along the blockchain, creating greater potential for recovery if the criminals do manage to trick them into handing over their funds,” says Murphy.

Developments in the wider financial system will also drive adoption of blockchain technology, he believes. “As central banks around the world deliver on their ambitions to begin creating their own digital currencies – the digital euro or digital dollar – we believe a wider appreciation of the potential of blockchain and Web3 technologies will follow. Ultimately, though, the nature of the technology should not shape the direction of travel regarding trust and security: we believe in using the systems which have the greatest impact. What matters most is using every available resource – technological, legal and human – to ensure that customers’ money is safe and secure.”

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times