TESS Innovation has established itself as a leading developer and provider of financial crime solutions in Asia region, with plans to have at least one or two customers in each Asia-Pacific country by 2016. Beyond that, it aims to penetrate the Middle East and the US markets.
Besides Malaysia where it has a well-established market presence, TESS also has customers in Thailand, Philippines and Singapore, already has partners in Indonesia and Vietnam, and is in negotiations with potential partners to help it penetrate the China and Taiwan markets.
“Our vision is to make Malaysia a recognised model in Asia for combating financial crime”, said B.Y. Liew, its chief executive officer. He also wants TESS to be recognised as a supplier of anti-financial crime solutions and to be a leading anti-money laundering solutions provider in Asia and the World.
On 22 January 2015, TESS's Anti Money Laundering (AML) solution won the company a Gold Award in the ASEAN ICT Awards 2014 under the Private Sector category and is the only Malaysian company to receive an award that day.
“We wish to take this opportunity to thank MDeC for nominating TESS for the ASEAN ICT Award 2014, and we are pleased to inform that TESS just received the Gold Award under the Private Sector for our AML solution in Bangkok last night (22 Jan 2015). It was great that we received the award from our Communications and Multimedia Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, and being the only Malaysian company on stage”, said Liew.
In year 2014, TESS has won the Merit Award under the MSC-APICTA 2014, for the “Best Financial Applications” Award Category for our CORAL iSEM™ – an end-to-end Anti-Money Laundering System, and also the Enterprise 50 2014 Award from SME Corp Malaysia.
Founded on 22 March 2000 and now trading under the name TESS International, it initially developed Internet banking solutions and began marketing them but found it tough trying to convince local banks that a home-grown solution was as good if not better than the foreign ones which they tended to prefer.
TESS was awarded MSC Malaysia status in 2001 and that same year, it shifted its focus and adapted its Internet banking platform for unit trust management companies. Today, TESS' platforms are used by four of the five top unit trust companies in Malaysia, as well as a unit trust industry association.
TESS participated in a tender many years back to supply an Internet banking solution to a local financial institution and found that it was competing against 45 other companies offering the solution. Realising that this was a glutted market, in which competition was fierce and it would be hard to survive and grow, TESS made a shift.
We are not a “me too”
So in 2009, TESS decided to specialise on providing solutions to combat financial crime - a very niche market - and armed with RM1.2 million in funding from the MSC Malaysia Research and Development Grant Scheme (MGS Grant) - a matching grant which helped TESS develop CORAL iSEM (Intelligent Sensor for Money Laundering), its anti-money laundering solution, which it launched in mid 2010.
It won its first CORAL iSEM customer in 2011 and today has nine customers in Malaysia, including banks, insurance and unit trust companies. CORAL iSEM enables these financial services companies to comply with Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-terrorism Financing Act 2001 (AMLA), as required by Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia).
It stores money laundering patterns and employs artificial intelligence (AI) to learn to identify patterns to identify possible fraud. It identifies possible fraud almost in real-time from major deviations from each customer's regular transaction profile and usage trends. It supports Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones, United Nations, U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, European Union, Financial Action Task Force and other internal and external watch lists. The system compiles detailed customer information to ascertain relevant risk profiling and customer screening capabilities, has comprehensive and enhanced customer due diligence capabilities, analyses relationships, employs a business intelligence (BI) widget which displays statistics and analyses in graphical form and also generates reports.
Thailand and the Philippines
In February, 2012, Thailand was blacklisted by the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), and the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) of Thailand had to introduce currency declarations and checks on Thai nationals and foreign visitors entering and leaving the country. Such a blacklist increases the cost of funds transfers in and out of Thailand, and this provided an opportunity for TESS to offer its anti-money laundering solutions to help Thailand.
Here, TESS adopted the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model and together with its CORALTM local partner in Thailand, they operated a cloud-based anti-money laundering Customer Due Diligence (CDD) gateway, which enables financial services companies, including banks there to perform customer screening. This service is approved by the relevant Thai authorities, and financial services companies subscribe to it and upload their customer data to the platform, which scans the customer data to detect any blacklisted persons, whom the relevant authorities would then investigate.
The service, which is on-going today, has reached a total of 275 financial services customers out of the estimated 8,000 in Thailand, which leaves a huge opportunity ahead for TESS to take advantage of.
Big data analytics
Banks run reconciliation of their computer system's daily transactions in batch mode, usually after midnight, and this leaves a two to three hour window for anti-money laundering systems such as TESS' to analyse the previous day's transaction data to identify possible fraud. So TESS needed a very powerful and fast processing capabilities and it turned to the power of parallel processing using multiple graphic processor units (GPUs) and Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) programming to develop a big data analytics system to screen through bank's transaction data.
Big data analytics is increasingly in importance today as a means to scan through huge amounts of data being generated in huge volumes rapidly from multiple sources, whether an SMS, e-mail, website, tweet, posting on social media, and traditional databases, and to be able to make sense of it all, and to see ongoing and emerging patterns and trends as they are happening, and not after the event.
In April 2013, MDeC launched its Technology Acceleration Programme (TAP) in partnership with MIMOS and NVIDIA Corporation, to help Malaysian information technology companies speed up development of marketable products, and in June that year, TESS was amongst five successful companies out of many applicants, which were selected to attend bootcamp training and advanced training on GPU computing, conducted in collaboration with MIMOS Bhd and experts from GPU maker NVIDIA Corporation. The TAP programme is designed as such that a mentor is assigned to each TAP participant and TESS was assigned a mentor to help it with CUDA programming and in December, 2013, TESS won second prize in the TAP 2013 Award for its Xcelerated Anti Money Laundering(AML) Watchlist Search via GPU.
“Our Xcelerated Anti-Money Laundering platform speeds up the analytic screening process by at least 20 times,” said Liew. TESS has also been selected as one of the TOP 3 winners in the ASEAN ICT Award 2014.
The TAP programmes focus on different technologies each year, and this year (2014), it focuses on big data analytics, in collaboration with Revolutionary Analytics as technology partner.