The Growing Risk of Financial Crime: How New Talent may Help to Tackle the Problem

Patrick Dahill, Financial Crime Consultant at MERJE

Financial crime is on the rise, with more than 50% of UK companies experiencing an attack in the last two years. According to new figures by Financial Fraud Action UK, financial fraud losses in the first six months of 2016 increased by a quarter on last year to reach £400 million. In terms of remote banking fraud – including mobile, online and telephone scams – losses totalled £70.6 million, up from £66.2 million last year.

An evolving beast

Financial crime is becoming increasingly sophisticated; the challenge for businesses lies in how to deal with new and emerging threats in a bid to protect both their organisation and customers. The threat of financial crime now ranges from the traditional – be it money laundering or bribery – to a growing range of new cybercrimes, which can be extremely difficult to monitor and prevent.

The ease of moving money, and the increasing volume of international money transfers, has been largely responsible for creating this environment, leading to tighter regulations with financial crime experts facing more accountability. Crucially, traditional banks and building societies are having to expand their in-house financial crime departments.

Financial crime and FinTech

It has also affected new players in the loans and payment market, particularly the FinTech industry. The advent of mobile payments, virtual currency trading, peer-to-peer (P2P) lending and crowdfunding presents new challenges. There have been several examples of FinTech companies being hit with financial scandals, such as Ripple Labs, which had to reach a settlement in excess of $1 million with the US Department of Justice and Treasury Department due to the absence of an effective anti-money laundering program. Perhaps most famously, Mt. Gox, who carried out one of the world’s first Bitcoin exchanges, had to file for bankruptcy in 2014 amid accusations of serious fraud.

The UK is one of the world’s leading FinTech hubs, with the industry employing over 61,000 people and generating £6.6bn in revenues. The UK has created a regulatory regime which is very conducive to growth in this area and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has reduced the barriers to entry for new fintech companies by offering UK-based start-ups tax breaks and funding schemes designed to generate growth.

As the FinTech space grows, so does the ability for criminals to move their money electronically to conceal and launder it, as well as the subsequent need for anti-money laundering and financial crime specialists.

A new kind of financial crime specialist

The culture engrained in these start-up FinTech companies is very different to that of traditional banks and building societies. They therefore require a different type of employee.

These small, entrepreneurial companies are looking for more dynamic and, most importantly, commercially aware individuals. They may not have as much experience as their more senior colleagues but are often considered more suitable to handle the ever-changing environment and challenges of today’s financial services sector.

This does however create challenges for organisations looking to hire the best talent available. Although these dynamic employees may well be better suited to the cultural environment of the organisation, it is proving difficult for many organisations to source candidates who have the proven track record of designing and building financial crime and AML functions.

Specialist recruitment organisations within the financial crime FinTech space are therefore proving more appealing to organisations looking to secure the best talent in the market. Their extensive networks of both experienced financial crime specialists and highly skilled, if more junior, financial crime professionals are ensuring that many of these FinTech businesses secure the best person for their position.

FinTech companies need to make sure that the right financial crime risk management controls are in place. Dealing with financial crime more effectively is another golden opportunity for them to gain an advantage over traditional players in the financial service sector.

Author: Dylan Jones

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