When the Titanic left for its maiden voyage, it took to the open seas missing one crucial asset: the key to the locker containing binoculars for the crow’s nest lookout. So for all the crews’ efforts, squinting into the distance as the ship ploughed onwards, they were too late to spot the enormous iceberg that would fate the ship to sink.
With the recent April anniversary of the Titanic’s demise, this story is an important lesson for businesses facing similarly sizeable sanctions risks in the pre-trade environment.
Crossing the Atlantic
Thanks to the rise of mobile and internet banking, firms are facing larger volumes of transactions than ever before, and the increasingly global scale of trading means banking services must be available round-the-clock.
While monitoring outgoing transactions might be manageable, it can be more difficult to maintain oversight of incoming transactions that could be originating from any number of questionable sources. This is where dangerous transactions can slip through the cracks and firms may accidentally find themselves trading with sanctioned entities.
Like crossing the Atlantic, it’s a mammoth challenge for financial institutions investing in securities to oversee and ensure all transactions comply with the rising tide of global sanctions.
All Hands on Deck
To deal with this growing demand as well as intense regulatory pressure, firms have increased their spend on compliance by putting more people on deck. The trouble is that very little is improving. In fact, with the recent spate of high profile banks implicated in money laundering scandals, it seems to be getting worse.
This is because, in reality, it is an impossible task for banks to be able to manually monitor all transactions in a comprehensive way, no matter the people thrown at the task. There are simply too many transactions taking place, and the bad guys are always a few steps ahead.
In short, the reason so many teams of manual compliance officers are failing is because they are really only seeing the tip of the iceberg. The people or companies who are personally named, like Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska as a recent example, are easy to find, but it’s everything that they own that is hiding beneath the surface, ready to catch banks out.