March 30, 2015
Thomson Reuters Releases 2014 Financial Crime Report For Middle East & North Africa
- 85% expect anti-crime & compliance activities to increase
- 6% believe compliance policies will stay the same in the short term
- 75% confirm that compliance related costs will continue to rise
- 57% question the ability of their compliance policy to prevent illicit activity
Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals, today released the findings of a financial crime report covering the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in 2014. The report, conducted in collaboration with Deloitte, is the first of its kind in MENA.
According to the survey, compliance departments are juggling competing priorities. Findings show that reputation is still critical for compliance divisions and confirm that compliance officers are investing in technology rather than skills to help them meet their compliance challenge. Furthermore, practitioners cited the low levels of confidence in existing compliance programs across MENA markets and highlighted the increasing demands on budget and resources in the compliance field.
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.
Nadim Najjar, Managing Director, Middle East and North Africa, Thomson Reuters, said: “It is increasingly evident that compliance needs to become central to operations, not merely a back office function, and continuing communication between the compliance function and both internal and external stakeholders is crucial in this respect.”
He added: “Whilst the future of financial crime management appears to be in the use of technology, businesses in the MENA region need to ensure they are not overly reliant on it. The low levels of confidence are noteworthy particularly given the majority of the respondents are responsible for setting and guiding corporate compliance policy.
“In 2015, compliance officers will have to think about how to do more for less. More will be expected of them, yet it will become increasingly difficult to stay abreast of the changing demands of the regulatory environment. We look forward to tracking the progress of financial crime management by organizations across the MENA region in next year’s survey,” Najjar noted.
Humphry Hatton, CEO, Deloitte Corporate Finance Limited, said: “This year is perhaps of greater importance than ever given the international and regional regulatory developments that increasingly dominate the headlines of the business world. Since last year, we have seen an increased regulatory focus on financial crime issues, and in areas such as sanctions, record fines on institutions as well as both the emergence of new sanctions regimes and the prospect of the lifting of existing ones.”
He noted: “Anti-Money Laundering regulations are being enforced as never before, leading to a second wave of compliance focus by institutions, particularly in the financial services sector. Keeping abreast of these new regulations is now a major challenge and impacts not only risk and compliance professionals but increasingly is central to commercial and strategic decision-making.”
Hala Bou Alwan, Head of Advisory and Education Services at Thomson Reuters, said: “MENA companies are not investing in a sustainable manner. It’s one thing to have a cutting edge technology and the most up-to-date processes that mimic corporate policies in more developed economies, but if you do not have the skills that can properly manage those processes and confidently make critical decisions, you will undoubtedly lack confidence in your compliance policy.”
Speaking about the important of future proof compliance policies, she concluded that this requires an understanding of the context within which an organization operates as well as an insight into the regulators’ expectations.
More than 160 practitioners involved in compliance across the corporate and financial sector in the MENA region responded anonymously to the survey, which began in November 2014, reflecting the broad range of businesses present in the region.
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