The Association of Corporate Investigators (“ACi”) recently hosted a dedicated event to bring together investigations practitioners in the banking industry. The goal was to discuss some of the key issues for banking investigators under the multiple pressures of increased fraud activity, sweeping new sanctions, and wider economic malaise.
The keynote speech by Colin Bell, CEO of HSBC Bank plc, confirmed what all in the industry knew to be true. Demand for banking investigations is rising, and this work now sits within the fabric of the industry as a key control function.
The agenda for the rest of the day was varied, given the huge remit of banking investigators. Topics included
- How individuals are incentivised to report wrongdoing under the SEC whistleblower programme
- How banks are improving data sharing with law enforcement to receive intelligence as well as support police investigations; and
- How best to measure the success of investigations
One session which prompted much discussion centred around the simple question of whether investigative interviews should be recorded or not. It quickly transpired that there were a wide range of views on the practicality and usefulness of recording interviews. Issues such as data security, losing rapport with the subject, and cost result in no industry consensus on whether to record interviews. Opinions were also split across investigators on either side of the Atlantic, as well a split between lawyers and former law enforcement.
Another key session discussed investigations involving crypto assets. Compliance team leaders Magdalena Boskic and Katerina Androutsou from Sygnum Bank spoke with FRA partner Charlie Steele about specialist forensic tools that can assist with analysis of cryptocurrency transactions. The audience received a live demonstration of how to trace the movements of a crypto asset through different customer wallets. The audience saw the clear benefit of these tools but there was still scepticism about how easy it would be for investigators to identify the real UBOs of the assets once they were traced.
The event closed with an insight into the human impact of banking investigations. Cecilie Fjellhøy was a victim of the romance fraudster Shimon Hayut, known as the “Tinder Swindler”. The audience heard from her how she struggled to make financial institutions understand what she was going through as they took action against her for fraudulent loans taken out in her name. This was a poignant reminder of the importance of effective banking investigations, and also that investigators need to pay attention to the wellbeing of those caught up in their work.