Collaboration is key to fighting financial crime and supporting financial system stability. With regulators, among peers, and across our institutions, we must work together.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought out the criminal opportunists in 2020. Regulatory agencies around the world reported increases in fraud due to pandemic-related scams starting as early as February 2020. And the U.S. Federal Trade Commission reported that Americans have lost over $169 million to COVID-19 and stimulus fraud through October 28, 2020.
In order to counter these scams, financial institutions must be able to react with speed and flexibility, without dramatically increasing operational budgets or detracting from the customer experience. And the stakes are high. Aside from reputational and business losses, money laundering and financial crime impact the global financial system in its entirety and can help perpetuate crimes against humanity, such as human trafficking.
According to the United Nation’s (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime, about 2% to 5% of global GDP, approximately $2 trillion, is laundered through the global financial system annually. Cybersecurity Ventures believes cybercrime could cause $6 trillion in damage annually by 2021.
We can use the current circumstance as a catalyst to build financial crime and risk management best practices that protect us in the future. The key is collaboration. Three key parties have to work well together to protect consumers and financial institutions: regulators, internal teams and the industry at large.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that only 1% of illicit money flowing through the financial system is seized or frozen by law enforcement. Current systems are largely ineffective, The Wall Street Journal reported, because they lack useful real-time feedback on specific cases and types of potential crime.
It’s time to stop being compliant but ineffective. Rather than being a box-checking exercise, regulatory compliance can effectively lower financial crime risk, achieving its intended purpose by focusing on outcomes.
Regulators around the world are advocating for the use of technology to effectively manage risk, and they themselves are using innovation to uncover suspicious activities.
Financial leaders should encourage and work with regulators to understand how technology can increase the efficacy of compliance efforts. It’s not “us” versus “them.” If anything, the pandemic has shown regulators’ resolve to work across the aisle. And regulators have not asked financial institutions to sink or swim on their own.
Many regulators are allowing experimentation or supporting innovation hubs to help financial institutions monitor and deter financial crime in real time. And many government bodies like the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the UK National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have published new and evolving scams to facilitate monitoring and detection.
Regulators and financial institutions are both managing unique, pandemic-driven circumstances. In truth, we have always been on the same side. Once we focus on our mutual goals – protecting people and organizations – then we can collaborate more openly and effectively; and not only on process, but on fighting financial crime.