Friday, August 22, 2008

Using the right technology to combat money laundering

Published: Friday August 22, 2008

Acting executive director of the Financial Services Commission (FSC) George Roper is urging the financial sector to use the necessary technology to prevent breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act such as money laundering.

Roper was speaking at the launch yesterday by Half-Way Tree, St Andrew-based software company SymSure Limited, which has already sold its products to financial institutions in Jamaica, the Caribbean, Latin America and as far away as Australia, assisted by Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI).

He said that financial institutions need to exercise great care in ensuring that clients were not operating as unregulated financial organisations (UFOs).

"The country is depending on you to prevent Jamaica's image being tarnished, to prevent us being seen as a nation that spawns numerous illegal ponzi schemes. You have duties and responsibilities under the Proceeds of Crime Act to report any suspicous activity that you see to the Financial Investigations Division (FID). Faithfully report any cash transactions that are above the prescribed thresholds and use technology where you can assist in carrying our that objective," he told the audience at the launch held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston yesterday.

However, he declined to comment as to whether an investigation would be launched into the financial sector's dealings with UFOs. Both he and Sharon Crooks, FID chief technical director, who also attended the event, said their organisations would be considering the adoption of AML.

"We will certainly be evaluating whether it can be used and certainly if others (financial institutions) are using it so that we can have a collective effort with everyone using the same system, which wil be more efficient," Crooks told Caribbean Business Report.

"We will have to look at its feasibility for use in government and once we can afford to use it I think it would be the most economic and efficient for us, which is why we are here today."

AML functions as a plug-in to the existing SymSure Monitor framework, which helps companies monitor risk and provides employees with their own personal dashboard which notifies them of irregularities. Should an employee not take action then the 'threat' level will be escalated and superiors notified.

GraceKennedy's financial arm is among several local clients of SymSure including Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB), City of Kingston Credit Union (COK) and the National Housing Trust (NHT). GraceKennedy Risk Manager Lee-Ann Steele previously told Caribbean Business Report that AML has successfully automated what used to be a manual checking process which forced analysts to work 12-hour days, including on weekends.

"Everything is evidence including attachments, documents - everything," explained SymSure managing director Andrew Simpson. AML will also prevent employees playing "poker" with company finances quipped Marlon Cooper, managing director of sister company Symptai Consulting.

Also attending the launch was recently recruited SymSure Chairman Robert Gordon, a Canadian former Vice-President with software giants Oracle. He is based at the company's sales and marketing office in Toronto while the software development team will remain based in Jamaica, said Simpson.

Developing locally but marketing as a Canadian company was necessary, he explained as presenting SymSure as 'Jamaican software' would be commercial suicide until the country achieves a greater level of respect within the industry.

But said Gordon, Symsure "will be one of the finest software developers in the world".

The response from financial institutions at the launch was encouraging with several appointments scheduled with the larger companies, said Simpson.

Source: Jamaica Observer

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