Staying ahead of the game

The rise of digital comes with its own risks, says Hala Bou Alwan of HBA Consultancy

How can HBA Consultancy help firms during the current crisis?

Hala Bou Alwan Consultancy is a specialised firm committed to deliver training and advisory expertise. We provide experience and support in fields such as compliance, anti-money laundering, counter-terrorist financing, FATF recommendations, sanctions, cybersecurity, corporate governance, anti-bribery and corruption, third party risk, corporate social responsibility, diversity, inclusion, company secretary roles, board evaluation and business ethics.

Across public and private sectors, in many instances the current crisis has shaken the governance and compliance, anti-financial crimes and cyber security areas. Usually with panic comes confusion, lack of structure and sometimes a lack of professional discipline. In addition to this, this lockdown gives the criminals lots of ‘me time’ to be even more creative, hence more crimes.

During this crisis, our role at HBA is to empower individuals with the relevant knowledge to stay aware and ahead of the game. We are aware that in some cases despite the readiness, breaches will happen, our role here is to guide on how to mitigate and counter the risks with as minimum damage possible and make sure it won’t re-occur.

With rise of fintech, artificial intelligence and virtual assets, what do firms need to keep in mind?

Firms need to be always aware that despite its positive impact and wide advantages, it certainly presents challenges in several areas, which need to be dealt with on a proactive and ongoing basis. Especially with anti-money laundering and sanctions due to the anonymity issues associated with it. Also depending on the firm’s business, its rise presents a wide range of additional risks whether in the area of online gambling, illegal cross borders’ payments, terrorist financing, trafficking of illegal goods and services (like dark web offerings), and facilitating unlicensed businesses. In addition to the fact that it provides hackers with attractive targets for financial fraud and identity theft and can definitely create market manipulation and many more.

How do firms deal with compliance during this time of crisis?

Firms need not to complicate and overthink the process. Fintechs and virtual asset providers should undergo their regular compliance mitigating measures and risk based approaches in a much proactive pace given the criminal creativity during these times. This should be included in the compliance program, monitoring plan, policies and procedures, governance implementations and execution plans. They should also abide by FATF standards, especially what was discussed in its recent plenary in February 2020.