Meet one of our 2018 Translational Fellows – Kee Siong Ng

13 August 2018

In late July, Associate Professor Celine D'Orgeville from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Associate Professor Kee Siong Ng from the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, were announced as the 2018 Translational Fellows.

The ANU Translational Fellowship Program aims to provide enhanced opportunities for early and mid-career researchers to pursue diverse career pathways within the University and alongside government and industry.

In particular, the Fellowship is designed to help researchers break down the barriers between universities, society and industry by providing them with the right support structure and incentives to take their ideas outside the University to achieve greater societal impact, in alignment with some of our key goals in the ANU Strategic Plan.

We caught up with Kee Siong to ask him about the fellowship and his research that involves working with authorities to stop money laundering.

Congratulations on receiving a 2018 Translational Fellowship Kee Siong! Can you tell us specifically about your Fellowship and what it will enable you to do?

I have a joint appointment at AUSTRAC, Australia's Financial Intelligence Agency, where I am co-leading a collaborative effort between AUSTRAC, law-enforcement agencies and the major banks to build a Real-time Alerting System to detect and disrupt complex money-laundering and terrorism-financing activities in the financial system.

There are many different dimensions to this important problem and the solutions we will need sit at the intersection of Artificial Intelligence (for statistical modelling of risky behaviour), cryptography (for privacy-preservation and secure communication), large-scale distributed database systems (for dealing with the enormous datasets in different organisations) and law and policy (for developing legislation and policies that are practical and foster trust in the system).

While we can already make some progress on the problem using existing technologies, a lot of research and development is still needed to take us to a desired end-state where we can (hopefully) stay 1-2 steps ahead of the criminals. The Translational Fellowship will allow me to build a multi-disciplinary team at ANU to start tackling some of these hard research problems in collaboration with like-minded researchers and analytics professionals in academia, government, and industry.

What is your field of study?

My primary field of study is Data Science, which is really about designing Data-Driven Artificial Intelligence algorithms on Distributed Parallel Databases to solve business problems in Dynamic and Uncertain Environments in their full glorious complexity. 

How much do you receive as part of the Translational Fellowship?

I am getting $600,000 over 3 years from the ANU Translational Fellowship Program, with a matching co-investment by the Research School of Computer Science in the research program. The government is putting in substantial resources into the overall Real-time Alerting project too.

As the Translational Fellowships aim to break down barriers between universities and industry what are your plans with your Fellowship, moving forward?

AUSTRAC and the four major banks have just conducted a successful proof-of-concept to detect suspicious cash-funded international fund transfers that span multiple financial institutions using privacy-preserving data-matching technologies.

This is a world-leading effort made possible by the culture of innovation and collaboration we created in Fintel Alliance, the public-private partnership established by AUSTRAC about 18 months ago.

We have a 3-year plan to build on that initial success and ANU is a key part of that plan. As Australia's national university, we have an important role to play in working with the government and the banks to create a well-functioning banking and financial system that has the trust of the general population.

Is there anything else you'd like to add? 

The open-source privacy-preserving data-matching and machine learning technologies we will be developing as part of this Translational Fellowship has many applications outside Financial Intelligence, including Cyber Security, Healthcare Analytics, and Insurance Fraud. I would like to encourage readers to reach out to me if they can see a way to collaborate with us to take the ideas to other application areas.