Up to $3.5 trillion per year – that’s how much financial crime costs the world. That’s more than the GDP of the UK. And financial crime takes a human toll. People suffer. They lose savings, jobs and sometimes much more.
Evaluating the role of technology in financial crime is an important piece of the puzzle. It is an elusive and rapidly evolving issue. Criminals are not going to wait for us to catch up.
New technologies have increased the speed of individual financial crimes. Phishing, for example, can happen with the click of a button. Financial crimes are not just faster, but they are more numerous than ever and technology has become a vector for novel criminal activity. It is important to identify why those crimes have arisen. The answer lies in the positive relationship between technological advances and value creation. Organisations are making money in new ways. Criminals have responded creatively.
It all comes back to trust. As this report makes clear, every financial crime is an abuse of trust. This is where professional accountants can make their mark. Technology cuts both ways: it is a vector for crime, but it is also a tool for creating tremendous value and protecting it from financial criminals. But tools alone are not enough to fight crime. People will make the difference, and professional accountants, as widely trusted actors, are at the centre of the action in every organisation.
The profession has always stood out for its independence and scepticism. Our challenge is to adapt – and keep adapting – to a continuously changing economic and technological environment. We are up to the challenge, and we embrace it.
We can act. Technology will empower professional accountants to add more value and add it in new ways. They can make a strong case that ‘know your client’ (KYC) checks are not just a compliance function. And professional accountants can, and should, stake out realistic expectations for their roles, and advocate agile standard-setting that keeps pace with change. The profession is at the heart of this fight as no one else is, in both the private and public sectors.
Professional accountants are at the centre of human responses to financial crime, through their professional work and public voice. Political borders are less relevant than ever to criminal activity. A piecemeal response won’t cut it. The world needs global action and cooperation. This report serves as a compelling call to action for the accountancy profession to lead the way in fighting financial crime.
CEO, International Federation of Accountants (IFAC)