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Financial intelligence, or FINIT, is the process of collecting data regarding the financial affairs and activities of a specific entity. The idea behind this type of fact gathering is often to assess the nature of the entity’s general operation and to project future movements or decisions that the entity will make. Intelligence gathering disciplines of this type are often used by businesses to evaluate the level of competition they can expect from other companies, and may also be used by law enforcement agencies during the course of investigating suspicions of commercial crimes or financial wrongdoing on the part of an individual or a company.
The focus of financial intelligence is to develop an accurate understanding of the financial status of the subject, often by gathering all sorts of data relating to the financial condition of that subject. This would include gaining access to bank account information, looking into investments made by the subject, and even assessing general spending habits. Doing so makes it easier to get some idea of what type of financial transactions the subject will make it the future. When used as a business tool, financial intelligence can often make it possible to position a company so that it can benefit from those upcoming transactions in some manner.
Law enforcement will sometimes employ the practice of financial intelligence as a means of investigating suspicious activities on the part of a business, organization, or even an individual. For example, if there is some suspicion that a local business is a front for a money laundering operation, law enforcement professionals may monitor transactions made by the business, including deposits and withdrawals from bank accounts, daily register tapes generated by the business, and a host of other financial and operational aspects of the business. From this perspective, financial intelligence will ultimately either confirm that illegal activities are taking place, or that the business is legitimate and there is no wrongdoing occurring at the location.
In some nations, governmental regulations and various laws and statutes help define the basis for a financial intelligence operation. This helps to protect individuals and companies from scrutiny without cause, and also helps to ensure that the privacy of business financial records is maintained. Tax as well as law enforcement authorities may often be granted access to private financial records, assuming that the request is in line with those regulations. In terms of businesses gathering financial intelligence on competitors, the process relies on using information that is considered in the public domain. Should a business choose to use other methods to obtain the intelligence, the effort may be considered more along the lines of corporate espionage, and be subject to severe fines if the illegal gathering of data is discovered.