Using Design to Fight Financial Crime

Using Design to Fight Financial Crime

November 09, 2021

Joe Robinson, CEO of Hummingbird

"Financial regulatory compliance" doesn't exactly scream, "sexy industry just waiting for top-notch design work,"  does it? Well buckle in, folks, because we're about to make the case that it's exactly that.

To start, what exactly is financial regulatory compliance?

Answer:  Regulations are the legal requirements intended to keep our financial system secure – free of crime and safe for people to use. Compliance is the act of following these regulations, which all banks, payments companies, lenders, crypto companies, casinos, and many other types of financial institutions are required to do.

Financial regulations: rules for institutions that are intended to keep the financial system safe and crime-free.

Compliance professionals are essentially the crime fighters of the financial industry. Their work focuses on investigating strange customer activities to determine if something illegal is taking place. They also work to ensure that their employer (the financial institution) isn't infringing on the rights and protections we enjoy as customers.

Compliance folks are probably one of the most overlooked heroes of modern society.

The Current State of Compliance Tech

Surely this profession is aided by state-of-the-art investigation tools and modern technologies, right? Picture Tom Cruise in Minority Report conducting investigations like a symphony with the aid of perfectly organized data and AI.

Unfortunately the current state of tech used to fight financial crime is like a nostalgic visit to 1990's computing. Ancient interfaces, explosions of spreadsheets, scattered data, and overflowing inboxes of tedious paperwork. It's a bit surprising that we're able to prevent any financial crime at all given the sorry state of the tech and procedures investigators have to work with.

This is the opportunity for design. Technology is capable of organizing the data, processes, and insights needed to more effectively fight financial crime, but it needs to do so in a manner designed for the discipline.

We're focused on being a thoughtfully designed and purpose-built platform for fighting financial crime at Hummingbird.

Investigators are often swimming in data and distracted by false alarms – the technologies they use should be designed to help them cut through the clutter and stay organized.

We anchor our design thinking at Hummingbird to specific ways in which anti-crime efforts can be improved. These themes provide a foundation of utility on which better investigations can be conducted.

Design themes for fighting financial crime


Unfortunately financial crime is quite common – there's a ton of it happening all around us. If you're not familiar with the practice area, you might imagine an investigator diligently working a single case for weeks – like obsessed detectives in a movie. The reality is that investigators might look at hundreds of cases per week. They have to move through the work with machine-like precision to get through the huge quantities of cases that arise.

Moving through cases with efficiency is key, and thoughtful design is the key to unlock it. We design for efficiency by thinking deeply about the steps involved in investigations, the availability of visualizations to the user, the economy of movement throughout our platform, and the elements of the work that we can automate away.

Our goal is to enhance focus and quickly draw out the insights of the investigator.


The amount of data and activity involved in financial crime investigations can be massive. Modern technology can help connect the dots and spot anomalies. We humans are amazing at pattern recognition and the kinds of creative thinking it takes to spot financial crime, but we need the information presented to us in intelligible ways.

We design for intelligence at Hummingbird by organizing the information that investigators need to see. We pull data together from fragmented sources and piece it together. We help investigators spot trends across the volumes of cases  they work.


It takes a team to truly work a financial crime case. There are many different points in the lifecycle of a case that demand collaboration: collecting information, sharing insights about the investigation, and communicating the findings are all practices that involve multiple people. Once evidence of a crime is reported to authorities, it goes to a new team of law enforcement agents and prosecutors that work to pursue the criminals.

Anti-crime efforts are inherently collaborative, but the work often takes place in silos. These silos sometimes exist for good reasons (like protecting consumer privacy), but they inhibit investigators' efforts to build a deep understanding of the crime. Smart use of design can facilitate collaboration in ways that protect privacy.


A platform used for financial crime investigations has to be trustworthy. Investigators are handling sensitive data about our finances. The platform you use has to be secure from the foundation up. Our privacy and rights as consumers depend on it.

Trust is also something we have to earn with our customers. They rely on us to provide a reliable, consistent platform for their compliance teams to do important work. That platform needs to evolve in ways that are predictable and transparent – not suddenly with surprise updates.

In summary: Join us!

Our mission at Hummingbird is to fight financial crime. It has been our mission since we started the company, and we take it seriously as a way to align our work with our goals. These four themes – efficiency, intelligence, collaboration, and trust – provide the answer for how we align our design work with our mission.

I’ll end with a shameless plug to join Hummingbird. The opportunity to bring thoughtful design to overlooked heroes doing important work is what motivated me to co-found Hummingbird. Great designers are in demand across the tech industry, but many segments are already saturated with it. Not so in anti-financial crime! If ever there were a meaningful industry in need of design help, this is it. The opportunities to really make a difference are everywhere in it.

If that appeals to you, please reach out to me on LinkedIn or through our careers page.

If you're in compliance and would like to see how Hummingbird has streamlined the case management process for you, please book a demo here.