UK Finance Chairman Bob Wigley’s speech at the UK Finance Economic Crime Congress 2018, in association with LexisNexis Risk Solutions (Wednesday 12 November 2018).

“Welcome everyone to the UK Finance Economic Crime Congress 2018.

Tackling economic crime has never been higher on the agenda. From anti-money laundering, financial sanctions, anti-bribery and corruption, to terrorist financing and fraud prevention, it is a focus of the government, regulators and, of course, the banking and finance industry. And so, today’s Congress – our inaugural event on the subject – is very timely.

But first, let me tell you about a customer in her mid-80’s from Fife. I’ll call her Mary. Earlier this year, Mary visited her local bank branch and asked to withdraw £5,000 in cash from her savings account. The cashier immediately thought it unusual for Mary to want to take out such a large sum and so took her aside to a private area to speak to the branch manager.

It emerged that Mary had been approached by a group of rogue traders, insisting she withdraw the money to pay for work they hadn’t yet started. The branch manager immediately invoked the Banking Protocol – the ground-breaking rapid response scheme between bank branches and law enforcement. With a call through to 999, uniformed officers were down at the branch within minutes – speaking to Mary to assure her she didn’t need to withdraw the money. Mary’s £5,000 was safe – and she was delighted that her hard-earned money had been protected. This is just one of several thousand Banking Protocol calls made over the past two years.

UK Finance is incredibly proud to have led the development and implementation of this scheme. It has prevented almost £37 million of fraud during that time. And it has led to 336 arrests – six of those in Mary’s case.

The Banking Protocol is a prime example of how, as the trade body for the banking and finance industry, UK Finance is working hard to make our country a hostile environment for criminals. Mary’s case might sound small fry to some – but we all know that the proceeds of such scams do go on to fund terrorism, people smuggling and drug trafficking. And the impact on those who fall victim can be devastating.

At the beginning of November, I joined the Security Minister Ben Wallace at the unveiling of the government’s Serious and Organised Crime Strategy. Preventing criminals from laundering the proceeds of their illegal activity is at the centre of the strategy. As I said at the launch, effective collaboration by all the regulated sectors of the economy is exactly what is needed to stem the flow of illicit finance that underpins serious and organised crime. For as a country we are only as strong as our weakest link. And so, it is this collaborative approach which we are taking in tackling all elements of economic crime, part of our mission to make the UK the safest and most transparent place in the world to conduct financial business.

It is in this spirit that right now, UK Finance is hosting a team of civil servants from the Home Office, working hand in glove with the National Crime Agency to reform the SARs anti-money laundering system. It’s clear the existing regime could be improved – it generates 20 million alerts every year, all of which need investigating. But of the subsequent 400,000 reports to the NCA, many are of low value in terms of intelligence and information. So the review will ensure the system is refined to meet the needs of crime agencies, regulators, consumers and businesses. And it is through another public-private partnership that we are targeting the organised criminal gangs responsible for economic crime.

The Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit or DCPCU – the specialist police unit sponsored by the finance industry – has prevented over half a billion pounds of fraud since it was established in 2002. In the first half of this year alone, the Unit’s operations have disrupted seven organised crime groups – testament to the benefits of close cooperation between law enforcement and the banking industry.

In fact, we are taking this collaborative approach right across the landscape:

  • We brought together government officials and industry representatives from the finance, mining, construction, pharmaceutical and media sectors for a roundtable on anti-corruption.
  • We assisted in the development of a Magnitsky clause in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, highlighting the importance of transparency in beneficial ownership information.
  • We are providing the secretariat for the Payment Systems Regulator’s steering group on authorised push payment scams, working with consumer groups to better protect customers through a Voluntary Code.
  • And we are working closely with our members, the Bank of England, GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre to address the threat of cyberattack by creating a new Financial Sector Cyber Collaboration Centre which will proactively identify, analyse, assess and coordinate activities to mitigate systemic risks and strengthen the resilience of the UK financial sector.

Because a financial system which is recognised globally to be amongst the most resilient to external threats will continue to attract and retain international businesses – which is especially pertinent as we head towards Brexit. It is with this mindset of collaboration that we have approached today’s Congress too. It’s a privilege to be alongside such an impressive line up of speakers who will be sharing their considerable knowledge with us all.

We have four streams of content covering the full breadth of economic crime. So while you are taking part in the events today, think about Mary’s story. Because it is through the actions of all of us here today that we can help stop people like her from being the target of criminals. To continue the theme of collaboration, I’m delighted to say that joining us now is the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid.

Home Secretary, thank you for taking the time to speak to us all in what is certainly one of the busiest times in parliamentary history. I know you too recently called for close international cooperation in the fight against serious organised crime and cybercrime. And I am proud of our close engagement with HM Government, our work to reform the SARS regime and our collaboration to improve cyber protection for financial services firms – both of which I talked of earlier. Alongside our joint Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and our efforts to stem the flow of illicit funds and counter terrorism.

I strongly believe that as a country, this close relationship holds us in excellent stead for the future. Thank you for joining us Home Secretary.”

Bob Wigley speech at Economic Crime Congress – 12 December