Tom Fox welcomes Simon Moss to this week’s show. Simon – who describes his background as “eclectic”, having worked in and led many companies over his career, including IBM –  is now the CEO of Ayasdi, one of the most innovative companies in the artificial intelligence space. Simon and Tom discuss the important work Ayasdi is doing for its clients.

The Data Problem

Tom asks why AI can’t seem to keep up with the volume of data that needs to be reviewed for AML, ABC and trade sanctions. Simon disagrees that it’s an issue of volume. The problem is diversity and distribution. He says, “The problem with data now is that it is so diverse, so distributed, and we’re still trying to deploy products of extraordinary innovation – including AI products –  in the same ways as we did in the 1970s.” He laments that we try to homogenize data into a construct, which uses 80% of our data management resources. “We have institutionalized redundancy in data management, and it is getting worse because of the proliferation of data sources.” While this structure works for data at rest, it is unsuitable for unstructured data and data in use.

A Unique Approach

“We don’t use the data model approach,” Simon remarks. Ayasdi believes that a company is represented in its data, so they create a model that is unique to each client. “…it knocks 40 to 50% off the time to actually deploy innovation,” he says. He explains why machine learning cannot effectively predict or discover crime or compliance issues. “Hypothesis-based machine learning is brilliant for finding a needle in a haystack… The problem with compliance is you’re looking for a needle in a stack of needles.” Ayasdi’s approach, on the other hand, is to let the data tell the story. “The breakthrough that Ayasdi uses,” Simon says, “is what’s called unsupervised learning as part of a machine learning process. In other words, we are not going to give the software a hypothesis of what to look for. We simply say, ‘Go find interesting stuff.’ Let the data tell us the story.”

Innovating for the Future

Ayasdi is engineering the operational diligence and deployment needed for the future. It was technology that drove the blue collar transformation of the early 2000s, and it is technology that will drive the transformation of the white collar industry over the next decade. “We’re engineering our technology to make sure that we can service a customer expectation in the future,” Simon says. Tom comments, “It strikes me that the insights that could be generated [go] really far beyond the anti money laundering and fraud and corruption.” Simon agrees. He shares three examples of how Ayasdi has helped their clients gain valuable insights and profit from them. “What we’re doing is we’re creating true Alpha. We’re creating true opportunity and we’re creating true transparency. When those decisions are made, you know that the decision that has been created has all the explainability, all the referential insight that’s needed, all the appropriate data, so that when a regulator comes in and says, Why did you do this? It’s all completely supported.”

The true challenge of innovation, Simon argues, is that a solution works at scale. “The challenge is, How do you optimize the operating model of an institution? And you do that by looking at the institution as a whole.”


Simon Moss on LinkedIn