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Thomson Reuters inaugurates 9th Annual Compliance and Anti-Money Laundering Seminar

SAMA Gov. Ahmed Abdulkarim Alkholifey speaks at the Compliance and Anti-Money Laundering seminar in Riyadh on Monday. (AN photo)
RIYADH: Thomson Reuters on Monday inaugurated the ninth Annual Compliance and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Seminar in Riyadh, held in association with the Saudi Institute of Finance under the patronage of Dr. Ahmed Abdulkarim Alkholifey, governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) and chairman of the Anti-Money Laundering Permanent Committee (AMLPC).
During the opening ceremony, Alkholifey launched a new website for the AMLPC that will be used to enhance collaboration between various AML parties and entities.
AML is a major challenge facing the international community, he said. “Recent years have witnessed rapid growth in money-laundering crimes and diversity in their methods. We also are all aware of the economic, social and security consequences of money-laundering crimes, as they not only affect the country in which they are perpetrated, but also the economies and security of many other jurisdictions.”
He added: “To combat this epidemic, countries tend to apply international standards. Nevertheless, places with poor records in security and control, and high rates of crime and corruption, can constitute safe havens for perpetrators of this crime.”
Alkholifey said the AMLPC represents and promotes the Saudi role in regional and international forums concerned with AML by participating in events and working papers.
“Due to the serious effects of money-laundering crime on the economy, SAMA practices its regulatory and supervisory role by issuing from time to time instructions and amending certain regulations in compliance with international standards and requirements.”
He said: “There is a need to adhere to AML rules... and adopt a risk-based approach that aims to better understand and mitigate threats and vulnerabilities. (This) approach would make greater use of human and financial resources to effectively detect, prevent and control operations and report suspicious activities, and subsequently safeguard financial institutions against exploitation for illegal operations.”
Alkholifey added: “The AMLPC, which comprises a number of concerned authorities, has prepared an action plan with important steps to improve the legislative environment and enhance the effectiveness of AML measures. The AMLPC is now reformulating certain provisions of the AML Law, and they are expected to be issued soon.”
He said the AMLPC also seeks to finalize a national risk assessment, by which risk sources and degrees will be identified to direct resources toward the most vulnerable areas and ensure the development of measures commensurate with the degree of risk.
Nadim Najjar, Thomson Reuters managing director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), said: “The compliance role has significantly evolved over the past few years. Today’s compliance professionals require a repertoire of competencies such as agility, the ability to learn quickly and perform under pressure, critical thinking, and they should have a good head for details. According to the Thomson Reuters MENA financial crime report, 65 percent of compliance officers indicated that their compliance investment had increased over the past two years, while 63 percent indicated that they expected investment to continue to increase over next two years.”
He added: “More than 86 percent of respondents are concerned about cyber-crime, and 46 percent lack confidence in their financial crime programs. Around 75 percent of respondents are confident that their technological solutions are operating as required, while 45 percent desire better analytical and data management functionality from their technology.”
Najjar concluded: “Looking forward, we believe that compliance will become part of the fabric of business rather than a ‘bolt on’ function. It will help accelerate time-to-market for new products and help reduce operating costs. We also expect pre-built compliance frameworks or end-to-end systems to be embedded into workflows and automatically maintain compliance and provide an early-warning system.”
Haitham Alghulaiga, acting director general of the Institute of Finance, said: “The institute has been playing a very active role in spreading awareness about the regulatory mechanism that governs the financial and banking practice in Saudi Arabia. We created a medium to exchange ideas and engage between supervisory bodies and the financial sector.”
He added: “We continue to focus on strengthening the Saudi financial sector by enhancing the skill set of our human resources and rolling out specialized training programs. We also offer several training courses in the area of compliance and AML, which have attracted a significant number of industry stakeholders.”
He said: “Authorities are faced with the challenge of constantly combating AML crimes, especially in a rapidly changing regulatory landscape. It is imperative that we continue to raise awareness of the impacts of regulation on the economy in general and the financial sector in particular.”
Bettina Roth of the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) spoke about the benefits of financial technology (Fintech) and the importance of setting up the appropriate infrastructure and educational systems for a vibrant Fintech industry.
Bryan Stirewalt, managing director of supervision at the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), said financial literacy is a key prerequisite for regulators in order to pave the way for a better Fintech industry.
Dr. Nasser Saidi, founder and president of Nasser Saidi & Associates, said: “Fintech startups are being established in the UAE, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. I believe Saudi Arabia can play a more active role on this front. It can be a hub for startups and attract Fintech firms, especially as we see more Arab millennials using digital services.”
Abdulaziz Al-Helaissi, CEO and board member of the Gulf International Bank, said: “SAMA is a very active regulator. They are watching and looking at the market, new payment technologies and gauging what Fintech companies really require. Banks should focus on revisiting their long-term strategies to meet the requirements of the rapid digital change. A regulator can find a way to help banks finance SMEs (small and medium enterprises) by minimizing potential risks.”
Soren Nikolajsen, managing director of Alawwal Bank, said regulators could use new technologies more effectively, adding that around 97 percent of bank transitions are today done through ATMs, mobile and online.
“The Saudi banking industry is well-capitalized and well-funded. Although we saw slow growth rates last year, it is notable that Saudi banks continued to generate good profits.”

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