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Northwest Federal Credit Union fights financial crime with SAS

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With fraud and financial crimes plaguing both small and large organisations alike, banking institutions of all sizes require technology to help stay ahead of criminals.

Northwest Federal Credit Union (NWFCU) – a not-for-profit financial cooperative of 105,000 members, with assets in excess of $2-billion and five branch offices in northern Virginia and Washington, DC – uses SAS Anti-Money Laundering, part of the SAS Enterprise Financial Crimes Framework for Banking, to focus on fraud prevention and combat fraud on behalf of its membership.
"SAS Anti-Money Laundering has definitely been a huge asset for us from a process and efficiency standpoint; it's really made a world of difference," says Nancy Huntoon, security and fraud manager and Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) compliance officer at NWFCU.
In the past, NWFCU had to generate a number of transactional reports containing a large volume of detail each day and then manually comb through each transaction to identify possible suspicious activity.
"SAS crunches all the data and readily provides the fraud and money laundering scenarios and risk factors upfront. It's helped us with time management by identifying fraudulent activity so we can focus more accurately on suspicious alerts," Huntoon explains.
"Our BSA specialist can effectively review the new alerts and move on as compared to the previous process, which might have taken more than a day to just work through the large volume of transactional data."
NWFCU monitors a wide variety of fraud scenarios and risk factors – such as large cash withdrawals and deposits, wire transfers, the velocity of debit card activity and money structuring. The pre-defined scenarios and factors in the SAS solution helped the credit union adapt quickly to the new system.
"We didn't exactly know where to start in analysing our transactions, so we took the scenarios out of the box to start," says Huntoon.
"From the standpoint of pinpointing certain activities, it helps us define what we need to look at, and how to categorise each activity. SAS has made it easier to target more indicators that we may not have seen before – it takes a lot of the guesswork from the process and helps us catch things earlier to prevent potential fraud losses."
To build upon the credit union's financial crimes capacity, Huntoon and her team are also building a house holding process to analyse the relationships between member accounts, and the money that moves between them, to identify suspicious activity.
"The flexibility of SAS allows you to synthesise your analysis of transactions and prevent potential fraud. I like SAS' customer support structure and availability. SAS was the best fit overall – from service to install to the actual application. The solution had most of what we needed; if it wasn't available, it was certainly programmable," she concludes.