85% of compliance professionals in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region surveyed by Thomson Reuters said that they have been investing in technology rather than skills over the last two years.
The survey, which examined the anti-financial crime technology used by a variety of businesses in that region, also found that less than 6% of the survey participants believed that their current infrastructure was reliable and their compliance policy at present should remain the same.
Also, as this region is more at risk for money laundering and terrorism, in comparison to other parts of the world, MENA companies are being forced to invest in technologies to fight financial crime and businesses are under greater pressure to provide this.
There have been reports that several businesses in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been fined by the US and local regulators in recent years for breaching sanctions against Iran. UAE banks have also been banned by the government from doing business with organisations including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State and the Houthi movement, which is currently been fighting for control of Yemen.
Cyber attacks have also been prevalent in this region and in August 2012 Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Aramco was targeted in an attempt to stop oil and gas production. Furthermore, just months after this, RAKBANK RAKB.AD and Bank Muscat BMAO.OM revealed that cyber criminals had stolen customer debit and credit card information.
The survey results showed that the top priority for most companies operating in MENA is anti-money laundering with 83% of those surveyed stating that they had policies in place to combat this. Second to this, fraud was a priority for 73% of firms, with sanctions a close third at 67%, counter-terrorism financing was important to 63% and 56% said corruption was a priority. However, only 33% of firms admitted to having cyber crime policies in place.
57% of those surveyed questioned the ability of how their current financial crime technology operated in order to prevent illicit activity, when compared to domestic and international regulatory requirements. The survey indicates that the general consensus from businesses surrounding the subject of MENA financial crime is that technology needs to be invested in to be able to combat crime.
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