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4 Challenges Your Bank Must Overcome to Effectively Combat Financial Crime

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financial crime

One frightening reality that bank executives may have a hard time accepting is that, with the advent of technology, their institutions are becoming increasingly vulnerable to financial crime.

It isn’t just an issue of money launderers, terrorist backers, and other malicious agents running rife in these times of economic precarity. Such actors are also getting even better at their game, and the structural defenses that banks may have used against them in the past are no longer sufficient. When all that is added to the general difficulty of modernizing a bank’s anti-money laundering (AML) system and meeting the demands of its AML regulators, protecting an institution against financial crime seems like a weighty task indeed.

But on the issue of keeping your bank’s assets safe from the taint of criminal activity, there’s no way to go but up. With every year that passes, your bank should be able to strengthen its AML compliance, case management, and transaction monitoring processes. The goal is to evolve faster than criminal agents’ methods and to make sure that your data and monetary assets remain safely out of their reach.

Below are four challenges that you should overcome to be at an advantage when combating financial crime. Address these issues now and avoid the risk of being permanently compromised by criminal activity.

The Limitations of Your Current AML and Financial Crime Compliance Management Systems

You may not realize it, but one of your biggest obstacles to forming a full response to financial crime is your legacy AML compliance system.

If it’s been a long time since you updated your bank’s tech stack for AML functions, your institution is particularly vulnerable to threats. Savvy criminals can take full advantage of slow, siloed-off, delay-ridden, and case-congested AML structures. Indeed, these malicious individuals can wreak significant damage to a bank by exploiting an outdated system’s weaknesses.

If you want a fighting chance against financial crime, it’s in your best interest to upgrade to a consolidated AML solution that runs on the cloud. Having an overarching platform for AML will get your bank up to speed in terms of real-time transaction analytics, visibility over your customer enrollments, and coordination among stakeholders in your AML investigations. Upgrade as soon as possible so that there’s little legroom for financial criminals to move around in.

Increasingly Complex Schemes from Money Laundering Networks

The second challenge that you must address is your understanding of how money laundering networks and other criminal rings currently operate.

Too many banking execs still envision financial crime to play out just like it does on TV: in an obvious and predictable manner. But in truth, most criminals have adapted their methods to be even more sophisticated and undetectable to the naked eye. Over the years, they have become even better at covering their tracks and disguising their movements to look like those of legitimate customers.

An institution cannot be too complacent about keeping up with criminal trends and connecting its systems to the news, international watchlists, sanction lists, and lists of politically exposed persons (PEPs). You and your team should stay on your toes and pay careful attention to any anomalies that occur in your system—not only for individuals but also for patterns or webs of suspicious customer behaviour.

Inefficient Approaches to AML Case Management

A third issue that may stand in the way of nipping criminal activity in the bud is your bank’s piecemeal approach to AML case management and investigation work.

If your bank relies on a case management method of simply segregating the false positives from cases of legitimate concern, it could spell your financial institution’s doom. In the long time that it takes to review individual cases and flag them one by one, you may have already been significantly compromised by the false negatives.

Because of this, make it a point to rethink your AML case management strategy to be quicker, less overwhelmed by congestion, and more efficient with your investigators’ attention. Again, there’s value in employing a pattern-based crime detection system and training your staff to look at both cases of concern and webs of suspicious activity, as certain cases in these groups may ultimately be related. This approach will also help investigators zero in on cases of alarm and resolve them with greater speed and accuracy.

Deficiencies in the Audit and Compliance Trail

It’s never easy to keep a paper trail for AML audits and other efforts toward full financial crime compliance. That said, it’s housekeeping work that banks urgently need to do. Without organized and updated systems for tracking AML governance and transparency, a bank will stay in the dark about just how effective its AML system has been over the years. Needless to say, it may falter when it’s time to submit to its regulators—or, worse yet, when actual criminals come knocking.

Your bank shouldn’t be remiss in compiling its documentation work and keeping financial crime compliance reports. Be up to date about the performance of your AML system and which aspects of it require technological or operational improvement.

Bolstering Your Bank’s Defenses Against Threats of Financial Crime

Steering clear of financial crime shouldn’t be a matter of luck for your bank. You must be purposeful in your efforts to strengthen its defense against criminals and its compliance record with your regulators. Even if you don’t envision your institution as an easy target for criminal networks, you never know when they may attack. What matters is that you’re prepared and that your assets are sufficiently protected when—not if—your bank becomes their next target.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

Banking

Visa Sponsors Ecobank Cardholder’s Trip to Qatar for World Cup

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Ecobank cardholder

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

A customer of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr Ejike Michael Eziuche, will have the opportunity to travel to Qatar for the ongoing FIFA World Cup taking place in the country for free.

This was made possible by just being a customer of the financial institution in Nigeria and being issued a Visa card by the bank.

The Ecobank cardholder was among the winners of the payments firm’s Spend & Win Campaign, designed to reward customers and football lovers who were active users of their Visa cards.

The only condition to be part of the promo was spending a minimum of N50,000 in at least five transactions to qualify. The winners will have the opportunity of a first-class experience in the tournament, all expenses covered as Visa is the Official Payments Sponsor of the tournament.

“Mr Eziuche’s emergence as a winner is a reflection of the hassle-free payment experience our customers enjoy with their Ecobank Visa cards.

“At Ecobank, we are always innovating our services to suit our customers’ lifestyles, especially when it comes to how they can effortlessly access our products. I am truly delighted for him and wish him a memorable time in Qatar,” the Head of Consumer Banking at Ecobank Nigeria, Mrs Korede Demola-Adeniyi, commented.

“We understand our role as a leading payments provider, pioneering seamless payments experiences across Africa; this is why we partner with critical stakeholders like Visa to ensure that our customers can have cards that allow them to enjoy financial services from anywhere in the world.

“Our promise to our customers has always been the same; to provide them with access to affordable and reliable financial services.

“We will continue to do so through our digital platforms, including Ecobank Mobile App and USSD *326#, Ecobank Online, Ecobank OmniPlus, Ecobank Omnilite, EcobankPay, Ecobank RapidTransfer, ATMs, POSs and an extensive distribution network of over 250 branches and over 50,000 agency banking locations,” she added.

Ecobank Nigeria is a subsidiary of the Ecobank Group, the leading pan-African banking group with operations in 33 African countries and an international presence in four locations (London, Paris, Beijing, and Dubai).

The lender is a major player in the distribution of financial services in Nigeria, leveraging digital platforms, including Ecobank Mobile App and USSD *326#, Ecobank Online, Ecobank OmniPlus, Ecobank Omnilite, EcobankPay, Ecobank RapidTransfer, ATMs, POSs and an extensive distribution network of over 250 branches and over 60,000 agency banking locations.

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Banking

Sterling Bank Sponsors Training of 1,000 Youths at NJFP

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Sterling Bank

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Sterling Bank Plc has sponsored the training of 1,000 fellows at the Nigeria Jubilee Fellows Programme (NJFP), a youth empowerment initiative between the Nigerian government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The programme, launched in 2021, was borne out of rising unemployment and the COVID-19 pandemic, which adversely impacted the ability of young Nigerians to find work.

The initiative seeks to connect talented graduates with local job opportunities that apply their expertise while equipping them with world-class practical knowledge and relevant skills, and it does not matter if an applicant does not have job experience.

It targets a broad range of sectors, including the start-up economy, innovation, and creative industries, the digital and technology sector, the green economy sector, financial services, key public and international development institutions, research and development, agriculture, real estate, construction, transportation, and health services. In other words, there is a place for every organisation in this programme.

The Managing Director of Sterling Bank, Mr Abubakar Suleiman, explained that his company supported the programme because of its interest in the education sector as one of five sectors it is presently concentrating investments in under its HEARTs of Sterling programme. The other sectors are Health, Agriculture, Renewable Energy and Transportation.

It will be recalled that as part of its commitment to the reduction of unemployment among youths in the country, Sterling Bank Plc recently renewed its partnership with iCreate Africa to provide a payment system that allows qualified workers to purchase tools and pay in instalments.

Consequently, the bank has also introduced different packages so that skill-seekers can access soft loans to buy tools, and it is encouraging skill-seekers not to let the opportunity slip off their hands.

Also, as part of this strategy, the commercial bank had also expanded its Café One community to Abuja in partnership with iCreate.

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Banking

Zenith Bank Assures Budding Entrepreneurs Necessary Support to Succeed

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Budding entrepreneurs

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria have been assured by Zenith Bank Plc of all the necessary support they need to succeed and become corporate organisations capable of employing many people.

The Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank, Mr Ebenezer Onyeagwu, who gave this assurance last Wednesday, disclosed that this was why the bank organised the second Zenith Tech Fair themed Future Forward 2.0.

At the keenly contested hackathon session, the sum of N53 million was won by the participants, with Ecotutu, a cleantech company making cooling affordable and accessible for businesses, especially in the agricultural sector, emerging as the overall winner and taking home the grand prize of N20 million.

This is in addition to a mentorship programme with Seedstars, a company dedicated to implementing high-quality capacity-building programmes for entrepreneurs in emerging markets.

The first runner-up, Foris Labs, an app-based platform that allows students to conduct science experiments individually and in groups interactively via their mobile phones, won N15 million and a mentorship programme.

The second runner-up, Finva, a start-up which helps creditors offer credits at low risk, won N10 million as well as a mentorship programme.

Other finalists who took home N1 million each were Sanwo, Itinu -Ev, Eduvacity, Green Bii, Zion Robotics, Sono Care, Base, and I grow Africa.

Addressing guests at the Eko Convention Centre, Mr Onyeagwu announced that “all finalists would be enlisted into our incubation lab for grooming and mentorship.

“Our expectation is that we are going to scale and grow them just like the zenith brand. So, looking at what we have gone through, I can tell you that so much iron has been loaded on fire. The only thing left is to activate the digital talents, tech skills and entrepreneurship that would culminate in a new digital economy for Nigeria.”

Described as a huge success by participants, the two-day Tech Fair featured presentations on the leading technological innovations that cut across different aspects of life, such as Artificial Intelligence, Computing, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Robotics, Big Data, FinTech, Augmented Reality, Data Analytics, 5G and Communication Technologies, with the keynote address, The Future of Banking: Digital Transformation Journey, delivered by Brett King, the renowned futurist, bestselling author, award-winning speaker, founder of Moven and Author of Bank 4.0.

The event also featured a goodwill message by the founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr Jim Ovia.

Other eminent IT practitioners from top global brands who also made presentations included Tarik Alatovic, Senior Partner, McKinsey; Juliet Ehimuan, West Africa Director, Google; Ola Williams, Country Manager, Microsoft Inc.; Andrew Uaboi, Vice President/Head, Visa West Africa; Mrs Rakiya Mohammed, Director of Information Technology, CBN; Chris Lu, Managing Director, Huawei Technologies Nigeria, and Dame Ms Adaora Umeoji, Deputy Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc, amongst others.

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