Simon Fraser University and the Royal Bank of Canada come together to disrupt the financial industry. Four SFU students dominate the RBC Amplify competition with their trailblazing solution for early fraud detection.

Whether through telephone, email or in-person, fraud threatens the hard-earned money of every Canadian. Preventing fraud requires innovation at the nexus of technology and data—but how do you innovate to be among the most trusted financial institutions while effectively protecting your clients’ data?

For the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), one answer came from four students in SFU’s Professional Master’s in Big Data program.

In summer 2017, SFU students Karthikeyan Chandrasekaran, Roobini Mathiyazhagan, Ruturaj Patel and Sreenath Vazhayil packed their bags and headed east for what would be an exciting summer co-op at RBC’s Toronto headquarters. They saw an opportunity to participate in the highly competitive Amplify internship at RBC, which received—this year alone—15,000 applications from across the globe for only 64 student positions. What they didn’t know was that they would create an unparalleled approach to fraud detection that would save the company millions of dollars.

The SFU team created a Fraud Early Detection Solution (FrED) for RBC’s contact centre, which they presented at AMP Expo—an event to pitch innovative ideas and solutions to RBC’s top executives. Using real-time machine learning techniques, they solved a fraud detection problem that had challenged RBC.

“After learning from our courses at SFU, we were able to clearly understand RBC’s requirements, and could analyze them to provide the proper solutions to their problems,” said Ruturaj Patel, one of the FrED creators. By understanding the organization’s needs, along with strong mentorship from the Director of Quality Engineering, Domenic Pagniello, the FrED team was able to successfully turn their ideas into action in less than four months.

“After learning from our courses at SFU, we were able to clearly understand RBC’s requirements, and could analyze them to provide the proper solutions to their problems.”

“We created the Amplify program to help develop the best talent in Canada and globally, and we’re pleased to be able to tap into teams like FrED,” says RBC’s Group Head of Technology and Operations, Bruce Ross. “We gave all the teams challenging real-life business problems and they impressed us by completely redefining what is possible in such a short period of time.”

FrED is shaking up traditional fraud detection systems. Within the next 12 months, FrED could significantly reduce RBC’s contact centre fraud. Through their use of big data, Karthikeyan, Roobini, Ruturaj and Sreenath made a big impact, potentially disrupting cyber fraud practices.

“We created the Amplify program to help develop the best talent in Canada and globally, and we’re pleased to be able to tap into teams like FrED."

On August 16, 2017, team FrED was awarded Best Overall Solution at the AMP Expo, with a grand prize split amongst the talented creators and a patent pending for their solution. These SFU students used their expertise and delivered a remarkable big data solution that protects customers from fraudulent activity.

“Success happened because we were able to do everything needed as full-stack data scientists in Amplify – from understanding the problem, to showing predictions to our clients,” explains Patel. In doing so, this prepared them to launch their careers in the rapidly growing field of big data.

Four SFU students came together and turned their early fraud detection idea into a practical solution for Canada’s largest bank. By saving customers from fraud, RBC and SFU are investing in the protection of their futures.

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