Saudi Arabia seminar focuses on cybersecurity threats, money laundering

The 8th Compliance & Anti Money Laundering Seminar was held Monday in collaboration with the Saudi Arabia Institute of Finance.

The 8th Compliance & Anti Money Laundering (AML) Seminar in Saudi Arabia, hosted by Thomas Reuters, was held Monday in collaboration with the Saudi Arabia Institute of Finance.

While addressing attendees at the opening session, Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) Vice Governor Abdulaziz Al Furaih highlighted that SAMA anticipates obtaining a full membership at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June 2018.

“Regional regulates have taken tremendous steps against money laundering," Al Furaih said. "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 MENA managing director, said the findings of a Thomson Reuters Global Cost of Compliance report confirm that more than 84 percent of the Middle Eastern respondents expect the overall compliance budgets to hike throughout 2016.

“Industry research reveals increased cybersecurity 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 cyberattacks of financial institutions in Qatar,” Najjar said.

The compliance programs will continue to call for the balance of human intelligence collaborating with technological advances to address the risks of operating in the regions, Najjar said.

“In 2016, compliance officers will have to think about how to do more for less,” Najjar said. “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.” 

Hesham Tashkandi, adviser to the governor and director of the SAMA Consumer Protection Department, 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," Tashkandi said. "We firmly believe in enhancing the integrity of the system through inclusion, integrity, as well as data and consumer protection.”

Large banks have halted business with many financial entities, noted Gulf International Bank CEO Abdulaziz Al Helaissi as he spoke on the effects of eliminating risks. The lack of business has encouraged many banks to invest more in building needed skills and easy-to-use, innovative technology.

“Among our key focus areas are conduct risk, crowd-funding regulation as well as fintech (financial technology), which is a growing theme that regulators should seriously look at,” Ali Baalawi, senior manager of supervision at Dubai Financial Services Authority, said. “As we see more transition to cloud storing, cybersecurity becomes a real challenge for regional regulators.”

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