Crime does pay: CaseWare International locks up anti-fraud market


A global leader in artificial intelligence software that aims to thwart financial crimes such as money-laundering says it is gaining “incredible” momentum in the fast-growing market niche thanks to cutting-edge products developed in Ottawa.

CaseWare International employs more than 300 people around the world, 75 of whom work at its R&D facility on St. Laurent Boulevard. The 30-year-old company makes a number of financial and auditing software products, including a system that helps banks, retailers, money-transfer businesses and other customers spot suspicious transactions and spending patterns that could signal criminal activity.

CaseWare’s Ottawa-based chief operating officer Andrew Simpson says the idea is to stop unlawful behaviour such as fraud and money-laundering before it starts.

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“Instead of chasing it, we’re absolutely focused on preventing it,” he says.

Simpson and his team are hoping to cash in on their status as a leader in the relatively new but rapidly growing field of anti-money-laundering software. According to online market research agency, the market for such products is expected to grow by more than 10 per cent annually and hit nearly $1.5 billion by 2023.

Simpson says his company’s subscription-based software, first launched three years ago, can detect high-risk activity early on before it becomes an issue that costs businesses money or exposes them to legal liability. For example, the software can immediately alert a bank manager if someone who is attempting to open a new account is on a terrorist watchlist and could be using the account to finance illegal activities.

He says the product also serves as a powerful deterrent to employees who try to sidestep corporate or government regulations.

As an example, he points to the law that requires all Canadian banks, casinos and other businesses to report all financial transactions over $10,000 to a federal agency.

“An employee might be tempted to try to break down those transactions into smaller amounts to evade the reporting responsibility,” he explains. “Our software is designed to pick up those type of evasive actions.”

The software would then flag the suspicious behaviour and halt the transactions.

“There’s no way to evade it, so there’s no point in doing that,” Simpson says. “Everyone in the organization knows that there’s a software … that is actively monitoring all activity that is going on.”

The product’s 200-plus customers include a number of Fortune 500 companies, he says. He won’t disclose the privately owned firm’s revenues, saying only that sales growth has been “very good” and in line with industry trajections.

CaseWare director of marketing Anu Sood says the Toronto-based company used to be known mainly for its auditing software, but she says its move into the crime-detection sphere has “taken it to a whole different level.” In an industry in which sales often take up to 18 months to close, CaseWare has begun to pick up steam as the new software builds a reputation and continues to evolve and add new functions.

“Really, the last six months has been just incredible,” she says.

Simpson says the firm’s biggest hurdles are ensuring its fraud-fighting technology can keep pace with the bad guys’ ever-expanding bag of tricks and mining the gems from the relatively shallow pool of engineers and programmers with AI expertise.

“At the rate at which we are growing and the rate at which we are moving, it becomes a little bit challenging at times to find people at the same pace,” he concedes.

Noting that the issue of finding qualified workers to fill a growing number of job openings is “a good problem to have,” Sood says CaseWare will continue to expand its offerings to address constantly evolving threats.  

“Criminals, they don’t stick to one area,” she says. “They look for ways to infiltrate the whole business and get at it from any angle that they can.”

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