Business

Lender, others advocate use of tech to tackle fraud

Heritage Bank Plc, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Deloitte have called on internal auditors of banks to adopt the various digital technologies to prevent fraud and address the adverse impact of COVID-19 on the financial ecosystem.

They made the call at the just concluded 47th Quarterly Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria (ACAEBIN), which was organised and hosted virtually by Heritage Bank. Speaking at the event, the MD/ CEO of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, stressed that for improved banking operations and safer financial system for stakeholders, internal auditors must be dynamic and quick to adopt various digital measures. He cited PwC’s, Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020, which put the total cost of cybercrimes at $42 billion.

Sekibo, who spoke on the theme, “Elevating Internal Audit’s Role in the Face of Emerging Risks and Opportunities,” said: “While it was sufficient for yesterday’s auditor to understand regular and routine banking practices such as credit, treasury, etc., in his traditional assurance role, for him to be relevant in harnessing the opportunities in today’s business world, he must become versed in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data analytics, fraud management, regulatory pronouncements and forensics. Also, having equipped himself, he must present balanced, objective audit reports to Executive Management while striking the right balance between the assurance and consulting responsibilities.”

Similarly, in her keynote address, titled, “Elevating Internal Audit Role In The Face Of Emerging Risks and Opportunities,” Ibukun Beecroft, Partner Risk Advisory at Deloitte, noted that while the banking industry in Nigeria today has adopted various digital measures to keep business running and delivering services to customers, there was need for Internal Audit (IA) positioned to provide the required assurance and consulting services in the face of the changes and attendant risk, particularly increased cyber-risks.

Citing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s 2018 Financial Stability Report, she stated that lenders recorded 25,029 confirmed cases of fraud and this resulted in a loss of N2.21 billion, adding that more than 90per cent of fraud cases in 2018 were perpetrated via technologically driven channels.

“As Internal Auditors, the knowledge of technology would enable us identify gaps in our core banking applications and other applications and provide relevant recommendations to eliminating loopholes that may serve as an avenue for potential fraud,” Beecroft said. She advised auditors on the need to focus on advanced technologies and risk management operations in line with the Three Lines of Defense (3LOD) churned out by the Institute of Internal Auditors, which create opportunities for IA and its future role. She warned that the everchanging landscape and evolving risks in the banking industry could render the current internal audit plan obsolete. According to her, internal auditors should reprioritise the audit plan as soon as possible to provide assurance over the most consequential risks while being cognisant of the impact on operations.

“To take advantage of these changes and disruptions, auditors need to rethink their role by adapting to and embracing change, enabling the IA function to become more agile, nimble, and forward-looking, thus driving change through the 3LOD,” Beecroft stated. Also, the Director Internal Audit Services at PwC, Yetunde Oladeji, who spoke on the theme, “Elevating IA’s role to meet today’s emerging risks,” advised that the banking sector should be dynamic and prioritse digitization and flexibible workforce strategies, as these, according to her, would determine the sector’s ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances in order for it to survive and thrive.

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