FIBA Conference review: Latest banking issues discussed

This year marked the ninth edition of the prestigious conference organised by the Florida International Bankers Association in Miami, held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami. The Cayman Islands Financial Services Association reports in this first part of a two-part series.

In his opening remarks, Ramon Usategui, FIBA’s president, announced that the conference had 900 attendees from 41 countries across four continents. He directed the many representatives of the US government present to take notice of these impressive numbers as a demonstration of the industry’s commitment to training and education in the areas of compliance, anti-money laundering and counter terrorism finance.

Usategui also said that, because of that same interest demonstrated by the industry, FIBA has established, in partnership with the Florida International University, an AML Institute that offers programmes at several levels from short courses to Associate Degrees to Bachelor degrees, providing career progression for those working in this field.

Usategui also mentioned FIBA’s proposed concept of Team USA by which the government and private sector work together in creating a safer banking industry that keeps the bad guys out while maintaining the competitiveness of Florida’s banking business. This balanced concept was highly praised by many speakers and attendees, and appears to be achieving great success.

Chairman of the Conference Clement Vasquez-Bello started his speech by listing some of the issues on the horizon of the banking industry. These include new rules on AML confidentiality to be issued by FINCEN, a new AML inspections manual to be issued in September 2009, and a new format for Swift transactions in November 2009 which will require additional disclosure of information.

He also informed attendees that last year more than 130 BSA/AML enforcement actions were brought by government agencies against financial institutions and their customers, advising that this trend will not slow down anytime soon and that compliance with the multitude of laws, rules and regulations will continue to be a fundamental part of any bank’s business plan.

The timing of the conference coincided with the announcement of the actions taken by the Securities and Exchange Commission against the Stanford Group for allegedly defrauding billions from its customers and of the settlement between UBS and the Department of Justice, touted by many as the first crack at Switzerland’s banking secrecy. And as if these conditions alone were not difficult enough to deal with, even in a more normal economic environment, the deepening financial crisis was obviously still at the forefront of every attendee’s mind.

Eduardo D’Angelo P. Silva, who represented the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association at the conference, commented: “FIBA has always organised a highly interactive conference, with attendees asking questions and bringing up real-world situations they face in their jobs. This year, the vast majority of questions started with the words: ‘Given the present financial crisis…’ or similar. It is clear that everyone is concerned with the consequences of what has been an unprecedented turn of events.”

As with previous editions of the conference, professionals in attendance were informed of the most recent developments in the legal and regulatory environment affecting the international financial industry in Florida and, by extension, the whole of US, Latin America and Caribbean markets. However, it was noted that this year’s financial crisis, and the fact that many financial institutions are having to reduce operations and cut costs in response to it, is presenting a huge additional challenge to the industry in its efforts to comply with the myriad of requirements imposed on it over the last few years. Practical advice was also presented in relation to how the mortgage crisis can affect the work of compliance professionals and how cases of financial crime and fraud are expected to rise 

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Eduardo D’Angelo P Silva

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