CBA pilots AI-backed police referral service

NSW Police CBA

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has announced a new capability within its Next Chapter financial abuse support program, unveiling an Australian-first pilot program that will enable NSW-based customers to automatically report instances of financial abuse to the state’s police force.

The new streamlined process will enable CBA Next Chapter staff – when the bank detects that a customer is on the receiving end of multiple instances of financial abuse through one of its digital channels (typically executed via transaction descriptions) – to report abuse on their behalf to NSW Police.

CBA confirmed that it will contact customers to obtain their consent before a report is filed.

Customers who believe they are victims of financial abuse through the bank’s channels can also contact CBA to request that these instances are reported on their behalf.

The bank said its new reporting function builds on its existing use of artificial intelligence and other technologies to detect and block abuse in transaction descriptions.

Slated to launch in mid-September, Angela Macmillan, CBA group customer advocate, said the first-of-its-kind initiative between the banking sector and law enforcement would “[pave] the way for more effective collaboration in the fight against domestic and financial abuse”.

“Technology-facilitated abuse continues to be a serious problem, and this collaboration with NSW Police enables us to act – not only in supporting victims, but in the prevention of abuse,” she said.

CBA first implemented abusive transaction monitoring in June 2020. The bank notes that it blocks close to 400,000 transactions annually through an automatic filter that prevents offensive language from being used in transaction descriptions on the CommBank app and NetBank.

This technology is augmented by an AI model that reviews transactions and annually detects around 1,500 perpetrators that send potentially abusive messages. These cases are then manually reviewed to determine the severity and the appropriate action required from CBA.

Australian Banking Association (ABA) chief executive Anna Bligh praised the collaboration with NSW Police, noting that critical information on instances of abuse “can now be shared when financial transactions are being used to threaten, harass or intimidate victims of domestic violence.”

This trial will provide valuable insights for police services and other banks about how to better combat the scourge of domestic violence.”

In 2020, CBA updated its Electronic Acceptable Use Policy, after identifying more than 8,000 CBA customers who received multiple low-value deposits with potentially abusive messages in the transaction description.