Riyadh – MENA Herald: Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals, today inaugurated the 8th Compliance & Anti Money Laundering (AML) Seminar in Saudi Arabia. The seminar is held in partnership with the Institute of Finance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and under the patronage of H.E. Abdulaziz Al-Furaih, Vice Governor of Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA).
Speaking at the opening session, Mr. Abdulaziz Al Furaih pointed out that SAMA is expected to obtain a full membership at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June 2018. “Regional regulates have taken tremendous steps against money laundering. Several new assessments have emerged including the set of recommendations by FATF and the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENA FATF). The deployment of capable resources in the financial sector will drive effective AML national agendas and also help governments meet the international requirements.”
Nadim Najjar, Managing Director, MENA, Thomson Reuters, said: “According to Thomson Reuters Global Cost of Compliance report, around 80 per cent of the respondents in the Middle East expect the cost of senior compliance staff to increase in 2016. The findings confirm that more than 84 percent of the Middle Eastern respondents expect the overall compliance budgets to hike throughout 2016.”
“Industry research reveals increased cyber-security threats in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, which we have seen manifest in the widespread banking malware in the UAE, phishing attacks in Saudi Arabia, and most recently the cyber-attacks of financial institutions in Qatar,” he added.
Mr. Najjar noted that effective compliance programs will continue to demand a balance of technology with human intervention to ultimately serve to manage the risks associated with operating in the region. “In 2016, compliance officers will have to think about how to do more for less. There is a growing need for compliance officers to anticipate regulatory change, think smarter about managing the associated risks and maintain the visibility of regulatory efforts at a high managerial level,” he said.
Hesham Tashkandi, Advisor to the Governor and Director, Consumer Protection Department, Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, said: “Saudi Arabia has a young population that is technology savvy. As technology evolves, our objective is to increase the visibility of financial transactions and protect the economy. We firmly believe in enhancing the integrity of the system through inclusion, integrity, as well as data and consumer protection.”
Dr. Badr El Banna, Regional Advisor, Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism for the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, International Monetary Fund, said: “MENA economies are mainly cash based which poses a serious challenge for regional regulators in terms of tracking the money. We have seen regional regulators coping well to ensure a smooth transition from cash transactions to electronic ones.”
“In 2016, we expect to see more countries engaging with risk national assessments. We also expect to see supervisory authorities rolling out regulations to combat terrorism financing,” he added.
Ali Baalawi, Senior Manager, Supervision, Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), said: “Among our key focus areas are conduct risk, crowd funding regulation as well as fintech which is a growing theme that regulators should seriously look at. As we see more transition to cloud storing, Cyber security becomes a real challenge for regional regulators.”
Abdulaziz Al Helaissi, CEO, Gulf International Bank, spoke about the impacts of de-risking as large international banks cease to do business with many financial insinuations. He noted that this has motivated many banks to invest more in compliance technology and developing the appropriate skillset.
Patrice Couvegnes, Managing Director, Banque Saudi Fransi, said: “Regional regulators have a responsibility to act as partners with financial institutions not only as a police watch entity.”
David Dew, Managing Director, Saudi British Bank, said: “Today, all banks have extensive KYC requirements over their clients’ dealings with potential sanctioned parties. That said, compliance knowledge is not only about having the appropriate systems, it is about the right people and their judgment.”