Governance, Risk & Compliance

Financial crime in MENA

financial crime survey

Regulatory compliance has become an incredibly complex and challenging issue for many companies and will remain a challenge for senior executives for some time to come. With that in mind, we recently released the findings of a financial crime report covering the Middle East and North Africa region in 2014. The report, conducted in collaboration with Deloitte, is the first of its kind in MENA.

According to the survey, around 85% of respondents have seen anti-crime and compliance activities increase in the last two years, whilst less than 6% of respondents believe that their compliance policy will stay the same over the short term. More than 75% of participants surveyed expect that compliance related costs will continue to increase in the short term with technology (26%) and process improvement (22%) standing out as key tools organizations are investing in to manage compliance risks. Almost half of those surveyed highlighted a lack of confidence in the effectiveness of their existing financial crime programs when compared with both domestic and international regulatory requirements. Similarly, 57% of respondents questioned the ability of their compliance policy to prevent illicit activity.

After analyzing the results, we noted a number of themes had emerged: (more…)

Governments to banks: Comply or else

When a government uses sanctions to keep rogue nations in check, or law enforcement agencies bust criminal cartels, they can usually thank a bank. Financial institutions may seem like an unlikely partner in crimefighting—but they actually play a crucial role in maintaining global security. But banks are growing more wary of their role in helping freeze or investigate suspicious channels in the global flow of money, and their caution could create fertile soil for even more crime—and more economic instability.

Read more about the bankers’ dilemma.

The weakest link

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This week’s post is by Phil Cotter, Managing Director of Thomson Reuters Risk business.

A multinational organization’s supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Good global supply chain management should focus on sustainability, utilizing a risk-based approach to ensure resources are deployed in the most efficient manner. It must be robust enough to expose weak links that may be hiding within complex webs of relationships and interrelationships.

Today’s multinational organizations tend to have multitiered global supply chains including vendors, partners, subcontractors and sponsors, all linked together in complex webs of interrelationships traversing multiple jurisdictions. These complex networks can mask dangerous vulnerabilities: A problem in one area can quickly ripple up and down the chain, leading to severe reputational damage. One of the most effective methods of coping with complex, often hidden risks, especially for companies active in multiple jurisdictions, is to adopt the risk-based approach (RBA) outlined in the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) February 2012 “Recommendations for International Standards on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism & Proliferation.” These should be included in the organization’s Know Your Supplier (KYS) processes. (more…)

Know who: Out of the shadows


2014 was a year in which knowing more —who, what, why and how — was critical to informed decision making and successful outcomes. Explore our 2014 Annual Report.

Professionals today must manage counterparty risk, know-your-customer requirements and supply chain security. Criminals and illicit networks increasingly mask themselves as legitimate business entities, and association with them — knowingly or not — exposes organizations to the risk of regulatory sanctions or fines. This can lead to irreparable reputational damage, often more devastating than a breach of compliance. Knowing who we are really dealing with — and uncovering risks associated with sanctions, organized crime, fraud, money laundering, bribery and country — is critical. (more…)

Why does KYC matter to corporate treasurers?

Banks’ ever-increasing KYC requirements are hindering the operational efficiency of corporate treasury departments. Our own Anna Mazzone explores some innovative solutions to the problem.

Many corporate treasurers will remember the ‘old days’ of KYC, when banks’ requests for documents were fairly simple and predictable in nature and adding additional features or services to an account didn’t normally involve additional procedures. The game-changing events of 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008, however, have resulted in increased regulations and the metamorphosis of KYC. The threat of hefty fines and, more importantly, reputational damage have seen banks focus on KYC compliance with renewed vigour.

Banks and corporate treasurers – same problem, different perspective

Where does this leave corporate treasurers? The KYC checks performed are now extensive, with additional checks for additional services. The number of documents required is increasing exponentially and moreover, requests vary by bank and by geography. With no ‘standard’, it is difficult for treasurers to predict exactly what information will be required and many are wasting time collecting documents and carrying out repetitive activities. On top of this, client on-boarding can take up to 34 weeks, significantly disrupting the revenue generating activities of the organization.

Then there are the very real concerns over data security and privacy. Sensitive documentation requested by banks can and does get lost leading to a further waste of valuable time, with treasurers having to check that documents have arrived. Email is not secure, since sensitive information can be intercepted and there is no way to track who are viewing the documents once they have been sent to the financial institution.

But let us not forget that banks also face challenges, including fines; operational, staff and IT costs; lost revenue due to customer attrition; and the threat of reputational damage if they fail in their KYC due diligence. Mired in their own problems, many banks do not view KYC from a client perspective at all. But KYC is not just a bank problem! End-clients are being affected too.

Innovation to the rescue


Regulatory burden may be slowing bank startups, U.S. Fed study finds

Regulatory burden may be slowing bank startups, U.S. Fed study finds

A sharp drop in newly formed U.S. banks is at least partially due to stringent regulatory requirements established by the Dodd-Frank Act, a research paper by Federal Reserve Board of Richmond found.

The paper reviews trends of new entries into the banking industry since states relaxed restrictions on branch banking in the 1970s. It found that each wave of banks exiting the industry was accompanied by a rise in startups. The paper breaks down new bank entries into three categories: a) banking entities such as credit unions, or saving banks that become commercial banks by converting their charter; b) units that spin off from their holding companies; and, c) newly established banks.

Regulations as possible cause


The need to know: Explore our 2014 Annual Report

Annual Report

Our customers participate in the most important conversations in a fast and complex world every day. As professionals, they navigate markets, risks and regulations; shape and manage legal systems and tax jurisdictions; protect innovations; and drive scientific discovery. Their work is important and their decisions matter. And common to them all is the need to know.

Professionals today need more. More than information, data and news. More than speed. More than mobile access. They need insight, analysis and context. Solutions that simplify, clarify and deliver competitive advantage, providing confidence to act on what they know. And millions of professionals from every part of the global economy rely on Thomson Reuters for what they need to know to understand critical issues, solve tough problems and adapt to dynamic change.

During 2014, the risks of global fraud and rising terrorism; the multi-stage recovery of world markets and the opening up of China; the significant shift in oil prices and increasingly urgent focus on climate change and energy alternatives; and the economic and social impacts of an aging world population and Alzheimer’s disease were just a few of the challenges and opportunities facing our world. It was a year in which knowing more — who, what, why and how — was critical to informed decision making and successful outcomes.

Explore our 2014 Annual Report – Know which includes the Corporate Responsibility & Inclusion and Thomson Reuters Foundation annual reports.

Uncertainty over resolution regime may hamper loss-absorbency standard for big banks

Uncertainty over resolution regime may hamper loss-absorbency standard for big banks

Even as international standards slowly take shape for total loss absorbency capacity (TLAC) – key element of the regulatory effort to end the perception that major banks are “too-big-to-fail” – pe the end of a consultation period last month left uncertainty lingering over restrictions on many of its provisions, and more importantly, the context in which it would operate.

Many of comment letters on the proposal by the G-20 backed Financial Stability Boardhave argued against these elements of the plan: strict requirements over eligibility for debt instruments — and their related cost — that could be counted as TLAC, the large share attributed to long-term unsecured debt within its TLAC composition, and the authority that national regulators are accorded in issuing additional TLAC standards. (more…)

Breaking the cycle of mistrust

Stock prices displayed on an electronic board are reflected in raindrops on the window of the board outside a brokerage in Tokyo

Instant messaging and chat rooms are essential to business, but they cannot continue to be used if they are not regulated properly. The very systems that are supposed to help businesses run their operations are the ones that are creating the most suspicion.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen it often repeated in the press: Banks are considering shutting down employees’ access to electronic chat rooms in the wake of market manipulation scandals, and even banning the use of instant messaging tools altogether. This is set against a backdrop of headlines dominated with news of misdemeanors and staggering penalties across the financial services industry. Time and again, firms and individuals are implicated, reputations are tarnished and the integrity of the entire industry comes into question.

This is the context in which banks’ use of chat rooms and their role in market abuse has been debated, only for no lasting resolutions to be drawn. In fact, we risk continuing these debates indefinitely, unless proactive steps are taken to address concerns and action is taken to reinforce them.

The immediate call by some banks to shut down chat rooms and instant messaging systems doesn’t address the real problem, and instead creates more problems than it solves. Shutting down chat rooms is undeniably impractical, because such communications are critical to the way the financial industry does business. Although doing so seems as if it would solve the dilemma, in reality, phone calls – the only real alternative – are even harder to monitor for abuse. Added to this is the fact that instant messaging tools help banks do business in the most efficient and timely manner – two traits that cannot be ignored in today’s markets.

However, it is also undeniable that chat rooms cannot continue to be used if they are not regulated properly. There needs to be some way of efficiently monitoring the use of instant messaging and chat rooms that satisfies the twin needs of business and compliance teams. This is no easy task. (more…)

The peak of regulatory change may be some way off


The amount of regulatory change tracked by Thomson Reuters for financial firms around the world has doubled in the last two years. The world’s financial regulators issued an average 155 alerts on every business day in 2014 – a total of 40,603 for the year. These alerts relate to updates to their rulebooks, but also other announcements, policy papers, speeches and enforcement notices. In 2013, they issued an average of 103 updates every business day; in 2012 the number was 68.

These numbers provide hard evidence of the extraordinary growth of the compliance culture in the financial services industry worldwide. The figures have been compiled by Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence, which monitors more than 950 regulatory rulebooks worldwide published by more than 550 regulatory bodies.

The number of daily regulatory updates is perhaps as close as we can get to an authoritative measure of the extent of financial regulation growth since the crash. We have been compiling these figures since 2008, as the numbers and extent of rulebooks (and rulemaking bodies) have grown.

We also know that the consequences of failing to comply are becoming ever greater. In 2013, the UK regulator issued fines some 18 times greater than its predecessor had in 2008. Last year our report on the rising costs of non-compliance noted the increased focus among regulators on greater accountability and personal liability for the individuals involved in breaches.  We also noted that every global systemically important bank has been fined in recent years. The cost of compliance is not simply the amount handed over in fines, but also the cost of ending a business line, or perhaps curtailing the provision of certain services. And there is also the risk of enduring reputational damage done to the brand. (more…)