HSBC-backed startup is using AI to help banks fight financial crime


The co-founders of Silent Eight, from left to right: Michael Wilkowski, Julia Markiewicz and Martin Markiewicz.

Silent Eight

WARSAW — When it comes to financial crime, banks can often be “one decision away from a huge mess,” Martin Markiewicz, CEO of Silent Eight told CNBC.

That’s because the risk of fines and reputational damage is high if financial firms don’t do enough to stamp out crimes like money laundering and terrorist financing. But it takes huge amount of time and resources to investigate and prevent such activities.

Markiewicz’s company uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help financial institutions fight these issues in a bid to cut the amount of resources it takes to tackle crime, keeping banks in the good books of regulators.

“So our grand idea for a product … (is that) AI should be doing this job, not necessarily humans,” Markiewicz said in an interview on Thursday at a conference hosted by OTB Ventures. “So you should have a capacity of a million people and do millions of these investigations … without having this limitation of just like how big my team is.”

With Silent Eight’s revenue set to see threefold growth this year and hit profitability for the first time, Markiewicz wants to get his company in position to go public in the U.S.

How AI can catch criminals

Silent Eight’s software is based on generative AI, the same technology that underpins the viral ChatGPT chatbot. But it is not trained in the same way.

ChatGPT is trained on a so-called large language model, or LLM. This is a single set of huge amounts of data, allowing prompt ChatGPT and receive a response.

Silent Eight’s model is trained on several smaller models that are specific to a task. For example, one AI model looks at how names are translated across different languages. This could flag a person who is potentially opening accounts with different spellings of names across the world.

These smaller models combine to form Silent Eight’s software that some of the largest banks in the world, from Standard Chartered to HSBC, are using to fight financial crime.

Markiewicz said Silent Eight’s AI models were actually trained on the processes that human investigators were carrying out within financial institutions. In 2017, Standard Chartered became the first bank to start using the company’s software. But Silent Eight’s software required buy-in from Standard Chartered so the start-up could get access to the risk management data in the bank to build up its AI.

“That’s why our strategy was so risky,” Markiewicz said.

“So we just knew that we will have to start with some big financial institutions first, for the other ones to know that there is no risk and follow.”

As Silent Eight has onboarded more banks as customers, its AI has been able to get more advanced.

Markiewicz added that for financial institutions buying the software, it is “orders of magnitude” cheaper than paying all the humans that would be required to do the same process.

Silent Eight’s headquarters is in Singapore with offices in New York, London, and Warsaw, Poland.

IPO ahead

Markiewicz told CNBC that he forecasts revenue to grow more than three-and-a-half times in 2023 versus last year, but declined to disclose a figure. He added that Silent Eight will be profitable this year with more and more financial institutions coming on board.

HSBC, Standard Chartered and First Abu Dhabi Bank are among Silent Eight’s dozen or so customers.

The CEO also said the company is not planning to raise money following a $40 million funding round last year, that was led by TYH Ventures and welcomed HSBC Ventures, as well as existing investors which include OTB Ventures and Standard Chartered’s investment arm.

But he said Silent Eight is getting “IPO ready” by the end of 2025 with a view to listing on the tech-heavy Nasdaq in the U.S. However, this doesn’t mean Silent Eight will go public in 2025. Markiewicz said he wants the company to be in a good position to go public, which means reporting finances like a public company, for example.

“It’s an option that I want to have, not that there’s some obligation or some investor agreement that I have,” Markiewicz said.



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