TradeSun CEO Nigel Hook has a passion for fighting financial crime, even before it happens.
In 2018, Hook founded TradeSun, an offshoot of San Diego’s advanced analytics firm DataSkill, with a goal of creating an AI-driven platform that can sort through the complex data involved in global trade and assure banks and investment firms that shipments are compliant with international rules.
“The key part of what I wanted to do is fight financial crimes,” Hook said. “What was just launched is a real-time compliance model which puts tools in front of banks and corporate users to intercept financial crimes in flight, and at the same time enforce economic sanctions.”
TradeSun itself doesn’t enforce laws, Hook pointed out, but rather its platform offers a preventative measure to keep its clients from getting involved with illicit transactions.
“Other companies in this space do investigative work, looking at what happened,” he said. “The key difference with TradeSun is we do it real-time. Before the transactions close, we’re able to intercept it.”
To detect and intercept trade-based money laundering, fraud or even black-market activity, TradeSun has partnered with institutions like IHS Markit, Accuity and MarineTraffic to secure key data sources.
The company is also leveraging the expertise of JPMorgan Chase, which is using the platform to advance global trade.
“The more data you pull in and the more transactions you can look at, the better chance you have of intercepting nefarious or illicit acts,” Hook said.
Most recently, TradeSun announced a partnership with Lloyd’s List Intelligence (LLI). The company will leverage LLI’s extensive datasets for vessel tracking and ownership, bill of lading tracking, as well as maritime risk indicators in order to flag and intercept financial crime in real-time.
“Compliance professionals around the world need more than great data. They need the kind of greater insight that our unique data and analytics can bring to the TradeSun Platform to meet the most demanding of trade compliance standards,” said Thomas Richmond, strategic partnerships manager at Lloyd’s List Intelligence.
With vessel tracking data, TradeSun will be able to monitor ship movements to see if they stop in a sanctioned port like Iran, or slow down near Somalia and turn off their Automatic Identification System tracker for a few hours. The AI platform will process the information and alert financial institutions of a “higher risk component” to the trade transaction and if there is evidence of a crime, cancel the trade.
“It’s a case of putting all this data together and being able to find a needle in a haystack,” Hook said. “There are 70,000 ships on the ocean every day moving cargo from one country to another. You can’t look at every piece of merchandise in every container on every ship – it’s just impossible. But with AI and a smart platform, you can do it.”
Hook said the TradeSun platform catches thousands of transactions that have “some element of activity that is questionable” every year.
In addition to signing recent partnerships, TradeSun is also raising an $8 million Series A.
The investors were all from a “circle of friends” that included local business pillars like Malin Burnham, as well as international investors like Vesta Executive Chair Lorenzo M. Berho. TradeSun did not solicit funds from a VC group, Hook said, because the company already has a strong executive team with connections to banking and the early investors are very involved with the business.
“TradeSun understands the importance of community and working collaboratively,” Burnham said. “Nigel and his team are transforming the trade finance landscape. The company is taking compliance and financial crime prevention in global trade, an industry which is an essential driver of socio-economic prosperity, to the next level with an innovative AI-powered platform that intercepts illicit activity in real-time.”
The money from the Series A will be used to support new global clients like Stanbic Bank Kenya, Scotia Bank and BBVA.
“International trade is the lifeblood of the global economy,” Berho said. “Trade is inherently complex, and malign actors exploit these complexities for their own gain, to the detriment of society. TradeSun is the leading platform for financial crime prevention in trade, leveraging data and artificial intelligence to reduce risk for banks and their corporate clients.”
CEO: Nigel Hook
Headquarters: Del Mar
Business: AI platform for trade compliance and financial crime prevention
Employees: 85 employees across 14 countries
Notable: CEO Nigel Hook was selected for the FBI’s Citizens Academy, a program that teaches business leaders how crimes are investigated.