Cleaning up the Digital Ecosystem: Tackling Money Laundering in a Borderless World

Ro PaddockBy Ro Paddock - Head of AFC

Global lockdowns forced all sectors of society to find new, technologically driven ways of continuing daily activities. The result – a permanent reshaping of consumer behaviour, a resetting of expectations and an acceleration towards digitalising everything from commerce and entertainment to banking.

The number of digital transactions skyrocketed, with McKinsey revealing an online spending increase of 30 percent to $347 billion in the first six months of 2020 over the same period in 2019. This acceleration to digital increased the digital transactions value to $767 billion in 2020, up 22 percent from the previous year.

While the growing uptake in digital payment methods is largely a positive thing, criminals capitalised on new opportunities. Fraudulent hotspots emerged in the pandemic, where criminals were finding gaps in the fraud-fighting system. Criminals had responded fast and employed increasingly sophisticated methods to trick the system. It triggered a growth in the cost to protect financial institutions. In Europe alone, LexisNexis Risk Solutions estimates that the annual cost of financial crime compliance was $137 billion in 2020.

Responding to the Current Situation

In early July 2021, the UK House of Lords Industry and Regulators Committee held two evidence sessions exploring the regulatory costs faced by the UK’s heavily burdened financial sector. The committee considered the cost of anti-money laundering rules for businesses and consumers, and how these could be mitigated following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. They discussed the disproportionate cost of anti-money laundering controls on small businesses and considered the idea of a shared services model that streamlines the process, taking cost out of the system and increasing efficiency from a consumer perspective.

The committee also highlighted the challenges created by information-sharing restrictions that prevent firms from piecing together the different networks they see and helping law enforcement close down vulnerabilities across the digital ecosystem. Essentially, you need a network to defeat a network, but without information sharing law reforms, the creation of such a network will be vastly limited.

Financial Crime Knows no Limits

Technological advancements mean that information can flow freely through a borderless transnational digital network, creating a platform on which criminals in any nation state can commit digital financial crime across the world. Hotspots in crime are emerging across Europe, but the link between detecting cases and prosecution is not yet strong enough. As touched on earlier, a key issue contributing to this is the lack of communication, data sharing and therefore transparency between law enforcement agencies in different jurisdictions.

The goal is to have a safe, secure future in the digital ecosystem, but if information on known fraudsters is not shared across all relevant governing and regulatory bodies, then no one is safe from fraudsters. In order to accomplish this, we must harness consistency, collaboration, and communication across Europe and the whole digital landscape. Only by doing that can we build a repository of known fraudsters that is shared with different financial entities so that they can be kept out of the ecosystem for good.

Read the full article onFintech Review .

Gabriele Rosati
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