Ahead of International Women’s Day, Nicola Eschenburg has taken a moment to reflect on her new role in the Futures team, looking for the next big problem to solve that would make a difference here and now
If there’s one thing lockdown taught me, it’s good to stop, breathe and take stock occasionally. The upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8th combined with moving to a new role seemed a good time to do just that.
My innovation work in Futures has always been about looking for the next big problem we could solve - thinking about what would really make a difference to our world if we could solve it. We weren’t looking to land Perseverance on Mars, but neither were we looking to simply add a feature to an existing product set.
My goal has been to find the sweet spot where we could make a difference to someone’s life here and now, but also to have a broader impact as we scaled up. I’ve immersed myself in problems from trade-based money laundering to security in operational technology to trust in analytics and algorithms, all with the goal of finding out why those problems were a problem and then working with the team to solve that problem. I’m sure Henry Ford would be thrilled to know that his question of why people would want faster horses has been my guiding light (and yes I know there’s speculation he never really said that, but why let truth get in the way of a good story…).
One of the product concepts that emerged from my initial problem space research is the FinCrime Testing Service (FTS). FTS simulates financial crime typologies using synthetic data to provide regulated financial institutions with an independent test of their anti-money laundering detection rules. I’ve had the pleasure of working with and mentoring some of the smartest people I know as the team took the concept, created a minimum viable product (MVP), successfully tested it with a European bank, proved the business case and secured the funding to scale-up a new business.
The Futures team is all about a start-up mentality, and to me that start-up mentality means you turn your hand to whichever pump needs you most. Currently, that pump is FTS – following our initial successful proof-of-concept we’re getting second and third meetings with banks and we’re building up our typology database to deliver on our ambitions. Alongside my colleague Ben Tutt I’ll be applying my detective skills to anti-money laundering, thinking about which predicate offences banks might struggle most to spot. That means breaking down the nuances of criminal behaviour – not just establishing how an offence is executed, but what the red flags are in pattern of life data and how the illegitimate might be disguised in the legitimate, and ultimately what patterns we need to look for in their transactions.
It’s not necessarily where I thought my career would be going next, but I know it’ll be interesting and my entire career has been predicated on saying yes to things that interest me. So here’s to another year of being a woman in technology – it might be challenging, but at least it’s not dull!
Find out more about our Futures team. Driving innovation from within.
About the author
Nicola Eschenburg, Research Lead, Futures