November 14,2016

MENA Financial Crime Compliance Group (MENA FCCG) launches

After months of preparation, the first meeting of the MENA Financial Crime Compliance Group (MENA FCCG) took place in Bahrain, on the 25-26th of September 2016.

This meeting saw 11 banks: Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Arab Bank, Al Baraka Banking Group, Bank ABC, Bank Audi s.a.l, Bank Muscat, Boubyan Bank, the Commercial Bank of Qatar, Emirates National Bank of Dubai, Mashreq Bank and the National Bank of Egypt, coming together to inaugurate the group, each with the full endorsement from their respective Chairmen.

The voluntary group comprises of 16 senior compliance officers, from eight MENA countries, including; Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE.

The group marks a significant milestone for MENA banks as they seek to bring collective action in the fight against money laundering and terrorist finance in the region.

The group is presided over by Wissam H. Fattouh, Secretary General for the Union of Arab Banks. The UAB will also be an ongoing strategic partner of the group. For the first two years Michael Matossian, Chief Compliance Officer and EVP of Arab Bank was nominated to act as the Deputy Chair. The group includes Thomson Reuters as a technical Advisor.

MENA financial institutions are moving forward in attempt to align with international best practices. The speed and volume of MENA regulatory change is moving at a high pace. In 2008, there were 8,704 regulatory alerts while in 2015 that figure jumped dramatically to over 43,000 alerts, or one every 12 minutes. According to the 2016 Thomson Reuters MENA Financial Crime Report, about 50 % of compliance officers have significantly increased their spending over the last two years and 52 % expect a significant increase in compliance spending in the next two years.

The group offers ample opportunity to share thoughts and insights for better financial crime detection and prevention. Working collectively, the MENA FCCG will provide increased visibility to the global community, and will increase the confidence of international bodies that organizations in this region understand their concerns and are working together to make MENA a safer, more secure, and place to do business. “MENA FCCG symbolizes a commitment to creating an active and transparent dialogue that will evidence how financial institutions in this region are working together, and dealing effectively and positively, with the unique challenges they face in the Middle East and North Africa”, said Wissam H. Fattouh.

MENA FCCG will act as a link, and an essential feedback channel, between the private sector and other international bodies and regulators such as the Wolfsberg Group and FATF.

“Everyone can agree financial institutions are critical gatekeepers against financial crimes” said Michael Matossian, Deputy Chair of the MENA FCCG. “Neither the financial crime nor the financial systems are bound by borders and therefore, the benefits that we can reap through collaboration should also seek to transcend borders. Working together we will make a collective impact.”

One of the important goals of the group is to embark on financial crime awareness initiatives and produce best practice guidelines. This will include arranging for free training webinars for MENA compliance professionals in collaboration with Thomson Reuters. Further, guidance and research papers developed by the group will be posted on the group website, which will become operational during the first quarter of 2017.
The next meeting is scheduled for 6–7 of February 2017, in Dubai, UAE, following the 11th MENA Regulatory Summit.