Speaker "Leah Mcfarland" Details Back



Future of blockchain use in financial monitoring


  • There are currently multiple use cases for blockchain in processing financial transactions, although no applications have yet become widespread
  • There are multiple challenges to the use of blockchain for the above, including:
          Technology not widely or well understood
          Transaction processing expensive in terms of server use, time involved, and actual associated cost
          Tension regarding whether distributed ledger should be public or private (and where line is drawn between them)
          Regulatory regime not yet well-defined
  • Blockchain is described as anonymous, yet it contains the technical potential to eliminate privacy as we know it
  • As use of blockchain becomes more common, the regulatory expectation will grow for financial monitoring to be instituted on top of it
  • In addressing above issues, blockchain could be a revolutionary force in financial monitoring, enabling:
          End-to-end transparency of all actors involved with a series of transactions (decreasing compliance costs)
          More effective information sharing among financial institutions on overlapping client activity (decreasing systemic risk)
          More targeted government oversight of the financial sector (focusing on truly high-risk areas and increasing timeliness of response)
          Based on above, reduced cost of entry for new actors in the financial sector (increasing access to finance and flexibility of services)
  • Nonetheless, ability to retain client privacy and to control access of illicit government/financial/criminal entities would need to be addressed


Leah McFarland is Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Transaction Monitoring Solutions Head at State Street, responsible for defining and implementing the strategy to transition from a rules-based to a features-based monitoring approach using machine learning on a big data analytics platform. Before joining State Street, she served as AML Business Solutions Head at Citibank, where she led global implementation for big data, robotic process automation, and data visualization and pioneered the use of agile project delivery. Prior to that, Leah worked at FSVC, where she managed a $5 million portfolio delivering risk management assistance to financial institutions in the Middle East, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Eastern Europe. She began her career as a diplomat for the U.S. Department of State, serving in Moscow, the Secretary of State’s operations center in Washington, DC, and Sao Paulo. Leah has an M.A. in International Affairs from the University of California at San Diego and speaks Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, and some Mandarin Chinese.