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Author Revathi Subramanian
ISBN No 978-0-470-49439-4
Review date 24/01/2018
No of pages 192
Publisher URL http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470494395.html
Year of publication 16/05/2014
Bank Fraud: Using Technology to Combat Losses
Does it say more about the qualities of this book, Bank Fraud by Revathi Subramanian, or more about all the other books about security and fraud management, that you come away from the book feeling enriched, and enthused, rather than fearful or scratching your head at some of the jargon?
Not that Subramanian is a security specialist - by training she is a statistician; and yet the book has no mathematical formulae, and not even many numbers; in fact, it's a most humanistic book, which quotes Leonardo da Vinci and Shakespeare as readily as Sherlock Holmes and Walt Disney. She begins with a brief history of recent banking, which serves to show how recent the profound changes in banking like everything else, thanks to technology. A world without any credit cards, let alone plastic cards used everyday, is still well within living memory. Too often in books, a re-telling of the past feels like a padding-out exercise and it doesn't add to the book's argument. Not so here; we can see that with swift changes in the way we bank and spend money, business changes have had to follow; banks don't know us personally, face to face; we are merely a voice on the end of a line, or a number, zeroes and ones sent down a line.
In the core of the book is a 'ten commandments' chapter and those commandments for fraud management are worth spelling out, for their worth and to show the pithiness of the book in general: garbage in,garbage out; no documentation, no change; key employees are not a substitute for good documentation; more rules doesn't mean better; score - never rest on your laurels; score plus rules equals winning strategy; fraud is everyone's problem; continual assessment is the key; if they (fraud control systems) rest, they rust; and continual improvement - the cycle never ends.
As several of those commandments spell out, fraud management never stops, because criminals never stop; the best you, or rather the banks in this case, can do is stay a few steps ahead of the criminals, 'in this race to combat fraud'. She stresses the data; it has to be inputted correctly; but management, also, of the risks. She writes: "To date, the enterprise fraud problem has been tackled marginally at best by most financial institutions. The number of ways in which fraudsters can use the loopholes is mind-boggling and is getting worse, not better." While she makes plain that mining of data, and data analytics, are a science, she is alert to human behaviour. For instance, bank customers (including herself) may be annoyed if called back by a bank verifying a transaction that's genuine. It may even lose a bank customers.
It would be a shame if this book were only read by people in the narrow field of banking fraud management, as the title suggests. Anyone in retail, anyone whose business handles credit cards, can learn from her approach to loss prevention. Sports betting comes to mind, too; by spotting odd and suspicious bets, that are out of the ordinary pattern, and scoring them to give some idea of the risk, you can reduce the bookmaker's exposure to risk - and, as Subramanian points out, it has to be done in a timely manner; it's no good working out that a transaction is suspicious or fraudulent after the event. All done according to statistical principles. Anyone who's seen the world change through computers and going digital can identify with her: "Isn't it amazing how far we have come?"
And she closes by arguing that modelling and using 'advanced analytical techniques', while already exciting, has only begun. "As data proliferates and the time to react gets squeezed more and more, sophistication is going to make a lot of these problems solvable, and banks as well as customers are going to get more and more demanding with respect to analytical techniques." Yet always her arguments are rooted in the real world; 'we should seek out simple, elegant solutions for problems' and it's no good coming up with a solution that costs more than the problem. This book is indeed simple (or at least much simpler than it would have been in the hands of a lesser author) and elegant, and neatly sets out fraud analytics as a field to work in.
Bank Fraud, by Revathi Subramanian, Senior Vice President, Data Science at CA Technologies. ISBN: 978-0-470-49439-4, hardback, 192 pages, published May 2014 by Wiley. Visit http://eu.wiley.com.