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MEETING THE GROWING DEMAND FOR ISLAMIC BANKING

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Steve Troop

Well positioned to meet the growing demand for Islamic banking, Barwa Bank is Qatar’s fastest growing Shari’ah compliant banking service provider, established in Doha and licensed & regulated by the Qatar Central Bank. The bank provides a full range of Shari’ah-compliant banking services including retail, corporate and commercial banking, private banking, real estate finance, structured finance, investments and asset management.

MEETING THE GROWING DEMAND FOR ISLAMIC BANKING 3

Barwa Bank has grown significantly in both size and stature since it was established in 2008; it now has six branches in Qatar, and has integrated three acquisitions –The First Investor, First Finance and First Leasing – in its first four years of operation. One of the major factors behind Barwa Bank’s continued growth is its differentiation and its commitment to service as a point-of-competition. As a recent entrant to a very congested market-place “there is no appetite for another ‘me-too’ bank” says Steve Troop, CEO, Barwa Bank and added that, “We are relatively small and turn our size to our advantage. We have a flat hierarchy and are more nimble because we don’t have layers of management. This allows us to deliver the consistently high quality service standards that our customers have come to expect.”

Steve Troop

Steve Troop

Barwa Bank looks to challenge the widespread misconception that Islamic finance involves an implicit trade-off between, on one hand, Shari’ah compliance and on the other, sophistication and service excellence in the delivery of financial services. It aims to deliver on both. “We aspire to a leading role in Shari’ah compliant banking through innovative products and services that meet customer needs. We may not be the largest but we want to be the best and the most recommended” said Troop.

The bank enjoys strong relationships with major companies in Qatar, and is playing an important role in financing the country’s infrastructural projects and development in line with Qatar’s 2030 vision. Mr Troop continued, “Qatar offers an extremely dynamic business environment with a great deal of potential and opportunity for a bank like ours to flourish. As a local bank, we are at the centre of this evolving economy through our relations with major corporates and the developing SME sector as Qatar places increasing emphasis on the future and reduced dependence upon the hydrocarbon sector.”

New business initiatives have played a part in this growth as the bank builds on its established presence in Corporate and Retail banking, and continues to diversify. The successful debut of the Bank’s Private Banking proposition in 2012 has been coupled with major investment in its Treasury & Capital Markets capacity and capability. Troop said that Barwa Bank has been fortunate enough to secure an excellent team, which has been focusing its expertise on the sukuk markets. “We have had lead management roles in a number of very high profile transactions and we have been active traders of sukuks on behalf of our investors. So that has certainly helped build our business in this growth sector.”

Barwa Bank’s elevated profile has gained significant recognition both domestically and regionally, a development reflected in both customer acquisition volumes and a number of prestigious industry awards recognising its innovative products, outstanding service and exceptional growth. Recently announcing its financial results, Barwa Bank recorded strong growth in both balance sheet and profitability, with profits of QAR 447 mn for the nine months ended 30th September 2013 up from QAR 279 in the same period last year, an 60.21% improvement, year-on-year.

‘Our financial performance for the first nine months of this year has been very encouraging and builds on the earnings momentum we achieved last year.  We look forward to further growth, our continuing contribution to the development of the Qatari economy and Shari’ah compliant financial services, as well as creating value for our customers and shareholders” concluded Mr Troop.

Banking

Mastercard Delivers Greater Transparency in Digital Banking Applications

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Mastercard Delivers Greater Transparency in Digital Banking Applications 4
  • Mastercard collaborates with merchants and financial institutions to include logos in digital banking applications
  • Research shows that ~25% of disputes could be prevented with more details

As more businesses turn to digital payments, and the number of connected devices grows, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: consumers are demanding more clarity around what they bought and who they bought it from.

Most everyone has experienced the frustration of trying to decipher confusing and brief purchase descriptions when reviewing online statements. This confusion forces cardholders to contact their banks unnecessarily to dispute unrecognized transactions, adding extra steps for consumers and generating an array of costs for merchants and banks.

A new initiative from Mastercard and managed by Ethoca, the company’s collaborative fraud and dispute resolution technology, aims to eliminate this confusion and improve the customer experience. All merchants are encouraged to visit www.logo.ethoca.com and upload their logos for inclusion in online banking and payment apps. The merchant logos will be linked to corresponding transactions, adding clear visual cues to help cardholders quickly identify legitimate purchases. Participating merchants are provided an opportunity to simultaneously extend their brand presence as well as eliminate expensive and time-consuming chargebacks. This program is also available to all financial institutions.

Mastercard Delivers Greater Transparency in Digital Banking Applications 5

A recent Ethoca-commissioned Aite Group study of the US market revealed that 96% of consumers want more details that help them easily recognize purchases, and nearly 25% of all transaction disputes could be avoided by delivering these details – including logos. It’s estimated that global chargeback volume will reach 615 million by 2021, fueled in large part by frustrated consumers turning to the dispute process unintentionally.

“With greater digital dependency, having real-time purchase details is critical for consumers, merchants and card issuers alike,” said Johan Gerber, executive vice president, Cyber and Security Products at Mastercard. “We continue to collaborate with industry partners to bring clarity and simplicity before, during, and after transactions. By enriching transaction details, merchants can alleviate friendly fraud, reduce chargebacks and improve the customer experience.”

This endeavour is part of comprehensive efforts to deliver the most efficient, safe, and simple payment experience from the minute a consumer begins browsing to once they’ve made the purchase. This includes Click to Pay, Mastercard’s one-click checkout experience, to the integration of biometrics to secure both digital and physical transactions, and Ethoca’s full suite of consumer digital experience solutions.

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Banking

AML and the FINCEN files: Do banks have the tools to do enough?

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AML and the FINCEN files: Do banks have the tools to do enough? 6

By Gudmundur Kristjansson, CEO of Lucinity and former compliance technology officer

Says AML systems are outdated and compliance teams need better controls and oversight

The FinCEN files have shown that it’s time for a change in AML. We must take a completely new approach in order to catch up with the speed of innovation in financial crime.

Despite what you’ll read in news headlines, we can’t lay all of the blame for anti-money laundering failures at the doors of the banks. The majority of compliance teams are doing what they can, and what they are being asked to do.

Historically, AML has, in large part been a box-checking exercise. Banks have weaved through mountains of false alerts, investigated cases, sent SARs, and then got on with business as usual. In some jurisdictions, banks can‘t even interfere with customers under investigation, in fear of jeopardizing cases.

But the sentiment towards banks’ responsibility in AML is changing. They are increasingly looking at AML as a corporate social responsibility issue and even a competitive advantage. Banks are looking to protect their brands from the horrors of an AML scandal, and as such are taking a more proactive approach.

They are also throwing a lot of money at the problem. Deutsche Bank claims to have invested close to $1 billion in improved AML procedures and increased its anti-financial crime teams to over 1,500 people. Most big-brand banks have a similar story to tell.

With reputation on the line, better AML controls can become good business.

So where does the problem lie?

From the thousands of SARs discovered in the FinCEN files, lack of customer oversight is evident. Banks need to establish a method of knowing their customers through their actions across the organization and beyond the organizational walls. By doing so, banks can better understand AML and compliance risk, which gives them the necessary tools to bar customers from doing business or limiting their activity.

While banks are striving to better enforce regulations by pouring money and resources into CDD and transaction monitoring, forming this type of intelligent customer overview might be the real solution. Proper Customer Due Diligence and customer risk monitoring can only be achieved by continuously tracking customer behaviour and transactional networks. With the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence – that is now possible.

But, the reality for compliance teams is they are hindered by outdated technology in their risk assessment and transaction monitoring systems and because of this, banks are fighting a steep, uphill battle against serious organised crime.

In 2019, the Bank of England issued a statement that claimed: “existing (money laundering) risks may be amplified if governance controls do not keep pace with current advancements in technological innovation.”

I know from my time working as a senior compliance technology officer that many traditional AML systems are inefficient, slow and labour intensive, and often lead to inaccurate outcomes. In fact, most of the systems pre-date the iPhone, so they are using last-generation technology and techniques to detect criminal activity.

In short, legacy AML systems are not fit-for-purpose. Legacy vendors built them for the box-checking world of the past, and they are focused on one suspicious transaction at a time – rather than looking at ‘bad actors’ in the financial system, and patterns in their behaviour.

As launderers constantly evolve their techniques to circumvent rule-based or simple statistical detection, the AML systems market has not kept up. There is a dire need for innovation.

Unless systems are updated, banks can continue to file suspicious activity reports (SAR), but if bad actors can conduct their business ‘as usual’ and shuffle money around the globe to hide its malicious origin, the effectiveness of a SAR is significantly diminished.

What’s the solution?

I believe we need to rethink our entire approach to AML. We need to empower compliance departments with better controls and oversight, and move away from outdated, traditionally rule-based systems and towards a modern, AI-enabled, behavioural approach.

While the bad guys have learnt how to evade rule-based systems, they find it extremely difficult to get around AI algorithms that search for anomalies in behaviour. The advancement of AI algorithms, especially in the field of deep learning, provide an opportunity for banks to detect more complex and evasive money laundering networks.

So the answer is to establish continuous automated risk monitoring and implement a workflow system that provides money laundering risk scores for customers.

The latest AI software could kickstart a new age of customer AML risk-based overview. Instead of relying on static and self-reported KYC data, AI systems can analyse behaviour over a period of time and compare it with peer-groups and past actions. It provides compliance teams with a continuous risk-rating of their customers, actor insights and summaries to facilitate efficient and thorough investigations, and an organizational-wide overview.

Recent advancements in AI have not only made the above possible, but also practical. Our latest Human AI models contextualize and explain the appropriate data, making it easier for banks to spot sophisticated crime.

By looking at AML not simply as a box-ticking exercise, but as a competitive advantage that can increase customers’ trust in their financial institutions, banks have a lot to gain. Moving towards behaviour-based AML systems is a move towards making money good.

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Banking

Local authorities and business networks play a key role in small business success, and must be protected during COVID rebuild

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Local authorities and business networks play a key role in small business success, and must be protected during COVID rebuild 7
  • 23% of UK’s top performing businesses have been supported by local enterprise partnerships and growth hubs
  • Similarly, 30% of Britain’s strongest businesses have obtained external finance in the last 3 years
  • New findings come as part of an independent, holistic study into small business success, commissioned by Allica Bank to support British businesses

A new study, commissioned by business bank, Allica Bank, shows that a high level of engagement and interaction with external institutions and resources, is central to SMEs’ prospects of success.

The study analysed data from over 1,000 companies and ranked their success on a scale that evaluated factors including productivity, growth, consistency and outlook. To measure SMEs’ external engagement, survey respondents were asked whether or not they had engaged with local enterprise partnerships, growth hubs, or external financial advisers, as well as whether they had obtained credit or sought re-financing advice, in the last three years.

The benefit to small businesses in making the most of external resources are clear to see, with a quarter (23%) of the UK’s top performing SMEs – those in the top tenth percentile – actively engaging their local enterprise partnership or growth hub in the last three years. This compares to just 16% of all other small businesses. With such a clear benefit to businesses, these external networks must not only be protected but prioritised by any Government plans to rebuild the economy post-COVID.

Similarly, of the top performing SMEs in the country, 30% have obtained external credit in the past three years, compared to less than a quarter (24%) of all other businesses. This figure drops even further for the weakest performing businesses – those in the ninetieth percentile – where just 12% of businesses have obtained external financial support in recent years.

Chris Weller, Chief Commercial Officer, Allica Bank, said:

“At Allica Bank we understand that no two businesses are the same. We also know that no-one knows a business as well as its owners and managers. But they can’t be expected to be experts on everything.

“In the UK there is a wealth of external advice and support for small businesses and we urge each and every business out there to tap in to the external resources around them. Third-parties, such as business clubs, chambers of commerce, local enterprise partnerships and trade bodies, can be invaluable sources of advice and further resources. And although they have excelled in their given field, business owners may still lack knowledge in many other areas of running and growing a business. Therefore, engaging with third parties can give business owners the kinds of insight – and fresh perspectives – they need to succeed.

“As the economy and the country comes to terms with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important these vital SME resources are protected and given the funding they need to continue providing invaluable insight and support to small businesses up and down the country.”

Allica Bank’s SME Guide to Success identified six ‘rules to success’ that were more likely to be displayed by top-performing SMEs compared to their counterparts. The full report contains a wealth of additional data and insight into each of these topics.

As part of its mission to empower small businesses, Allica Bank is making the findings freely available and running a series of free online workshops with relevant partner organisations for businesses to attend.

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