Technology from the global war on terrorism is being brought to bear on advisors’ social media and email messages.

Compliant digital communications specialist Smarsh is acquiring artificial intelligence firm Digital Reasoning, the two firms announced today at the 2020 Finra Artificial Intelligence Virtual Conference.

“This will be the first time that customers can go to one place and actually get the most advanced capabilities for communications capture, archiving, supervision and surveillance,” said Brian Cramer, CEO of Smarsh. “Previously, artificial intelligence has mostly happened in a laboratory environment. This is bringing it closer to where the need is.”

Digital Reasoning’s natural language processing and machine learning capabilities will be melded with Smarsh’s digital communications content capture, bolstering Smarsh’s ability to identify compliance and security risks for advisory firms and increasing the scalability of its offering, which is currently used by several major financial institutions to manage over three billion email, social media, text, voice and instant messages each day.

Existing approaches to finding regulatory violations in communications data is conducted via a keyword approach, looking for certain words like “guarantee” or numbers consistent with a client’s personal information and then flagging communications that contain them. That process is like looking “for a needle in a haystack,” said Cramer, and leads to a lot of false positives which result in a labor-intensive process of a firm’s compliance personnel reviewing each message for potential violations.

Natural language processing enables Digital Reasoning’s technology to analyze text and voice communications as is, within context, said Cramer, which “shrinks the haystack.”

According to Tim Estes, founder and CEO of Digital Reasoning, the technology was first used to analyze communications for terrorism threats and messages.

“Our technology went into the banking space in 2012, where we would often meet Smarsh in the market,” said Estes. “Now the need has never been bigger.”

Amid the pandemic, the move towards more remote work has exacerbated the need for more effective compliant communication solutions, said Cramer.

Cramer and Estes do not expect the trend towards remote work and more digital communications to ease in the presence of a Covid-19 vaccine.

“While I do think we’ll see some return to the office in the second half of next year, it’s not going to roll back the digital transformation of financial services firms that has accelerated as a result of work-from-home,” said Cramer.

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