MRC Vegas 2019: our key takeaways

Last month, the Ekata team descended upon Las Vegas for MRC 2019. From our Transaction Risk API launch to our Tiki Bar party to our expo booth, we did our fair share of chatting and–better yet–listening. MRC is a company favorite for that very reason: we get the opportunity to connect with our customers, partners, prospects, and other experts in the field. Read on for some reflections from a few team members.

Matt Gonzales  |  Product Manager
This was my first time attending MRC. It was great getting to know our customers, but I’m glad I also had the opportunity to attend quite a few sessions. Three of them really stood out! First, I attended a panel on Machine Learning. This session covered four topics around ML usage in fraud decisioning:

  • How to think about integrating ML models into decisioning? ML casts a wide net, while rules provide accuracy and specificity.
  • Single global model versus multiple custom or specific models? Start with one global model and only progress to multiple models when you really need it, based on the data.
  • The roles of supervised and unsupervised learning? Unsupervised learning can be leveraged to identify new rules and optimize supervised models but is not very valuable (compared to supervised learning) in the fraud space.
  • Model decision explain-ability was discussed as a challenge in the space, especially when regulation such as GDPR requires explanation for decisioning.

My overall takeaway from this session was that many eCommerce companies are in the process of adding or evaluating adding ML to their decisioning platforms as a necessary step to combat the increased levels of sophistication employed by fraudsters.
Sticking to the ML theme, I sat in on the talk Machine Learning vs. Payment Fraud: The Battle Continues. This session was led by two data scientists from, a Ekata customer on the forefront of using ML for fraud prevention. In this session, the basics of model training were covered, including generalized processes for selecting data, training a model and evaluating performance. A few interesting takeaways from this session were:

  • found gradient boosting to be more performant than random forest models. This corroborates what we’ve seen at Ekata.
  • come uses an interesting derivation of AUC to evaluate model performance. In addition to overall AUC, they look at partial UAC to determine model performance under specific business requirements for false positive rates.
  • Discussion on the value of a control group, where a subset of transactions flagged by their fraud platform are let through to measure real world model performance.

Finally, I mixed it up with Storytime with the FBI. This was a fun session with folks from the FBI and local Las Vegas police department. First the FBI covered common trends in fraud that they see. Interestingly the two cases they covered were both phishing attacks – business email compromise and payroll interception. Next a Las Vegas police detective spoke about card skimming. Needless to say, I’m now paranoid about running my card at gas stations.
Overall, this was a fantastic introduction to the MRC world and I can’t wait for MRC Vegas 2020.

Kelsey Teel  |  Product Marketing Manager
As I reflect on the sessions I attended at MRC Vegas this year, one in particular stands out: Two-factor Authentication – The Future of Payments in Europe. With the recent opening of our office in Amsterdam and the launch of our latest innovation, Transaction Risk API, understanding the changing landscape of payments in Europe couldn’t be more relevant. This session did a fantastic job of breaking down the challenges, solutions, and opportunities that the introduction of the second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) will bring when it arrives this September. The upcoming Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) requirements and various exemptions such as transaction risk analysis (TRA) put an emphasis on the importance of keeping fraud rates low which means the launch of our Transaction Risk API couldn’t be more timely – as it is built to help acquirers and issuers with this challenge.
Casey Smirniotopoulos  |  Sr. Event Marketing Manager
Like Matt, this was my first time attending MRC. Talking to our customers and partners, learning from other sponsors, and seeing the launch of our Transaction Risk API solution made this such a memorable week. But, I’m also so proud that visitors to our booth helped us donate $117 to Spread the Word Nevada, a non-profit dedicated to advancing childhood literacy within low-income communities by changing lives one book at a time. We got a thank you from one of the participants, Chloe, and I’m thrilled to share it with you!
We are counting down to MRC 2020, when Ekata will be there–we can’t wait to see you in Vegas!

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