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Northwest Federal Credit Union Fights Financial Crime With Analytics

Using SAS software to find suspicious transactions.

Northwest Federal Credit Union, a not-for-profit financial cooperative of 105,000 members based in Herndon, Va., with assets in excess of $2 billion and five branch offices in northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., has publicly declared it uses SAS Anti-Money Laundering software to prevent and combat fraud on behalf of its membership.

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. Now, according to Nancy Huntoon, security and fraud manager and Bank Secrecy Act compliance officer at NWFCU, "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. 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 analyzing our transactions, so we took the scenarios out of the box to start," said Huntoon. "From the standpoint of pinpointing certain activities, it helps us define what we need to look at, and how to categorize 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 householding process to analyze the relationships between member accounts, and the money that moves between them, to identify suspicious activity.

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