Elke Biechele tells us how RisikoTek is focusing on financial crime detection and related risk mitigation.
Peter Eulberg, CEO, Freddy Zwanzger, CDO and Sascha Göbel, CTO
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Elke Biechele: We are trying to make the best out of the situation. Luckily we have not had any incidents in our immediate circle of family, friends, and business partners. This Covid crisis has taught us some very good lessons, one of which is to appreciate other human beings and the resilience of nature. One surprise experience was to feel how important people are to us that we do not even know!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded RisikoTek.
Elke Biechele: I have had a successful corporate career leading banks in Risk Management. After concluding 20 years, I decided that there is a huge gap in the investigative side of risk management. Whole countries are excluded from global trade because banks find it too difficult to differentiate clean from dirty money. So I founded a technology company that automates the detection of financial crime. We are now helping industries such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and financial services to protect themselves from financial crime. Some may also generate more revenue by reclaiming market share from illicit markets. Due diligence in the supply chain is more important than ever and the same goes for due diligence for financial services.
How does RisikoTek innovate?
Elke Biechele: During the pandemic, crime rates have shot through the roof, in some parts as high as 20 times the previous year’s average. Our job is to identify the types of financial crime people and corporations do and then innovate with new algorithms the detection of those new crime methods. Our sweet spot is to respond quickly to changing crime types.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Elke Biechele: We have seen an uptick in demand from legitimate brand owners. They are engaging us to help identify illicit markets and counterfeiters, who are the masterminds behind things like counterfeit medication, airplane parts, or food and how they wash their ill-gotten gains. For us, the pandemic was initially detrimental but now many positive aspects are unfolding, one of them is that we are now fully virtual and our clients too. The cost savings translate into more headcount. We are just hoping that it will be over very soon and business can resume as normal.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Elke Biechele: Luckily our government has put in many targeted grants and support schemes so the pandemic did not affect this country too much negatively. Key lessons learned were definitely the importance of being with other humans – even if we don’t know them. Another lesson learned is how fast the climate can rebounce with less pollution and human interference. It gave me hope.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Elke Biechele: A big game-changer definitely was the digitization of all things everyday life. Even digital doctors and digital disbursements of medication was an eye-opener. Working from home required a shift to managing people with what really matters – the objectives and the targets that need to be reached. Then working remotely is no problem at all, it saves costs and the environment. As we are a tech company anyways, data, software, and subject matter expertise is our bread and butter.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Elke Biechele: Our competitors are established blue chips like IBM or now Palantir. Our advantage is to be more versatile and adaptable to fast-changing environments such as staying ahead of new and emerging ways to do financial crime. Crime is set to grow exponentially due to the increase in digitization. We are set to respond extremely fast.
Your final thoughts?
Elke Biechele: We are hoping for a fast post-pandemic recovery for everyone especially in the travel industry.