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A Credit-risk Approach to Financial Crime Risk: The Future of Correspondent Banking in Ghana

Macroeconomic Bulletin A Credit-risk Approach to Financial Crime Risk: The Future of Correspondent Banking in Ghana
FRI, 17 NOV 2023 LISTEN

Introduction to Correspondent Banking

Correspondent banking may sound like a term straight out of a financier’s dictionary, but its implications ripple through the entire economy, touching the lives of both businesses and individuals. Essentially, it’s the process by which banks provide services to each other, including cross-border transactions and large-scale currency exchanges. Think of it as a global network of financial institutions collaborating to facilitate international trade and business.

For a country like Ghana, whose economy is increasingly integrating with the global market, correspondent banking is not just a convenience but a necessity. It enables local businesses to expand beyond borders, allows for the inflow of foreign investment, and supports the country’s developmental initiatives by ensuring that international trade is executed smoothly.

Moreover, the remittances sent home by Ghanaians working abroad, which significantly contribute to the country’s GDP, are also processed through these channels. Thus, correspondent banking isn’t just a cog in the wheel of commerce; it’s the very axle on which the wheel turns, driving economic growth and prosperity in Ghana.

The Data-Driven Approach
In a world where data is king, the financial sector is no exception to its reign. In correspondent banking, data isn’t just numbers and figures; it’s a narrative that tells a story about risk, trust, and opportunity. By adopting a data-driven approach, Ghanaian banks can scrutinise their correspondent relationships and transactions with unprecedented precision.

Using data allows international banks to gauge the financial crime risk posed by their local counterparts. This is not just about compliance but about safeguarding the institution's financial health. By employing sophisticated analytics, banks can discern patterns that may indicate risky behaviour, such as money laundering or fraud.

Furthermore, standardised risk scoring is a common language, equipping banks to compare notes with peers and regulators. Such scores can transform subjective guesswork into an objective assessment, enabling banks to make informed decisions about whom to do business with and on what terms. This is critical in a world where financial crimes are not just local but part of a complex global tapestry.

Building Trust Through Transparency
Transparency in banking is akin to daylight in architecture; it reveals the structure's integrity. For correspondent banks, transparency is the cornerstone of trust. Local banks can securely and efficiently share information on their operations, governance, and risk management practices through regulated and standardised risk scoring as a common language. This allows local banks to solidify partnerships and attract international business.

Case studies around the globe have demonstrated the power of transparency. For example, banks that have embraced open and standardised communication have seen an upswing in investor confidence and customer loyalty. They have also managed to easily navigate regulatory scrutiny, avoiding the pitfalls that befall opaque institutions.

In Ghana, where the banking sector is rapidly evolving, transparency is not just a best practice but a strategic advantage that can set institutions apart in the fiercely competitive global marketplace. It’s about building a reputation that crosses oceans and borders.

Risk Management in Correspondent Banking

In the intricate web of global finance, managing risk in correspondent banking is akin to navigating a ship through a sea of uncertainties. For Ghanaian banks, identifying and mitigating financial crime risks is paramount to maintaining not just their own safety, but the financial security of the nation. Foreign banks that act as correspondent banks to our local banks do the same. It involves meticulously pricing the risk of each correspondent relationship, a task that calls for both precision and foresight.

Banks must employ strategies that include rigorous due diligence, ongoing monitoring, and the application of advanced analytical tools. By doing so, they can detect early signs of potential risks, from money laundering to terrorist financing, and act swiftly to prevent them.

Implementing these strategies ensures compliance with international standards and secures the reputation of Ghana’s banking sector as a citadel of integrity in the global financial arena. And that is why it is so crucial for our local banks to adopt standardised risk scoring as a common language. This will eliminate the subjective guesswork of some, if not most, correspondent banks that lead to unfairly higher corresponding banking fees.

Regulatory Compliance and International Standards

Regulatory compliance in the financial sector is not just about ticking boxes; it’s about upholding standards that maintain the sanctity of the global financial system. Ghana’s adherence to international compliance standards showcases its commitment to fighting financial crime and fostering a stable economic environment.

The Ghanaian regulatory landscape is shaped by local oversight and international mandates, creating a robust framework for banks. This comprehensive regulatory tapestry ensures that Ghanaian banks are not just local players but are also credible actors on the international stage, capable of attracting and conducting global business with confidence and integrity.

The Role of Technology and Innovation

The banking sector’s evolution is being propelled by technology and innovation, particularly in Ghana, where digital transformation is rewriting the rules of finance. Advancements in financial technology are providing banks with tools to enhance security, improve customer experience, and expand their services.

In Ghana, where mobile phone usage is widespread, banking has leapt from the traditional model to one accessible with just a few taps on a smartphone. This has increased financial inclusion and opened up a new realm of possibilities for banking services.

The future of banking in Ghana looks both technologically advanced and more inclusive, with technology as an enabler for broader economic participation. As previously detailed, a regulated, standardised language is essential to lowering correspondent banking fees and removes guesswork from foreign banks assessing the risk of doing business with local banks.

When privately engaged, some companies I collaborate with offer regulated and standardised financial crime risk ratings, intelligence, and analytical tools to small, medium, and global banks. In a tech-heavy Ghanaian financial sector, it is prudent to internally apply data-driven analysis to rate your local banks' financial crime risk profiles through industry-wide standardised scoring and bring the credit-risk approach to financial crime risk.

If one were to, say, engage for regulated and internationally standardised ratings products, it's a win-win. If you score high, you now KNOW you don't need to pay that extra on correspondent banking fees that you've been paying. If you score lower, you KNOW what to do to reduce the correspondent banking fees you've been paying. There's no downside. Besides, conversations with a bank in, for instance, Japan, will go a lot smoother when correspondence is via an industry-wide standardised and regulated language.

Fostering Inclusivity and Diversity in Finance

A financial sector that mirrors the diverse tapestry of society is not only just but also robust. Inclusivity and diversity are more than buzzwords; they are essential to a resilient banking system. Ghana’s financial sector recognises the value of different risk management and decision-making perspectives.

By encouraging a culture of inclusivity by efficiently engaging correspondent banks all around the globe, banks can tap into a wider pool of talent and ideas, fostering innovation and creativity. This approach helps design products and services catering to a broader demographic, ensuring that finance serves the entire community and not just a select few. In a world where diversity is strength, Ghana’s banking sector stands to benefit immensely from such a progressive stance.

The Numerical Landscape of Ghana's Banking Sector

Diving into the numbers offers a fascinating glimpse into the strength and potential of Ghana’s banking industry. Here are some compelling facts and figures:

  • GDP Contribution: The financial services sector contributes significantly to Ghana’s GDP, indicating its pivotal economic role.
  • Mobile Connections: Since one person can use numerous networks simultaneously, Ghana recorded 44 million mobile connections in January 2023, down from 45 million the previous year. This represents 140% of the country's entire population.
  • Mobile Money Transactions: With over 80% of Ghanaians owning mobile phones, mobile money transactions have seen an exponential rise, accounting for a substantial portion of all financial transactions in the country.
  • Banking Penetration: The percentage of Ghanaians with bank accounts has been steadily increasing, a testament to the growing trust and expanding reach of the banking sector.
  • Digital Infrastructure Investment: Investment in digital banking infrastructure has surged, with millions allocated to fintech solutions, enhancing the customer experience and security.
  • Financial Inclusion: Efforts towards financial inclusion have decreased the unbanked population, bringing more citizens into the formal banking fold.

Moving Forward with Resilience
As we chart the course of Ghana’s correspondent banking sector, the journey is marked by embracing data-driven decision-making, steadfast adherence to regulatory compliance, and the innovative spirit of technological advancement. The sector is poised to meet international standards and set new benchmarks in financial integrity and inclusion.

The path ahead is one of resilience and adaptability, with banks leveraging technology, transparency, and inclusivity to shape a dynamic and robust financial landscape. This forward momentum is critical in fostering a banking sector that is resilient in the face of global challenges and responsive to the needs of a diverse clientele, driving economic growth and stability in Ghana.

I hope you found this article to be an enjoyable read. Your feedback is highly valued and appreciated. I welcome your suggestions for topics you want me to address or provide insights on. You can schedule a meeting with me at your convenience through my Calendly at calendly.com/maxwellampong. Alternatively, you may connect with me through various channels accessible on my Linktree page at https://linktr.ee/themax.

Wishing you a highly productive and successful week ahead!

Dr. Maxwell Ampong is the CEO at Maxwell Investments Group . He is an Honorary Curator at the Ghana National Museum, the Official Business Advisor with the General Agricultural Workers’ Union of Ghana (GAWU) under Ghana’s Trade Union Congress (TUC), and an Executive Ambassador at the Zongo & Inner-Cities Development Secretariat (ZICDS). He has a keen focus on relevant economic topics and general perspective pieces.

Dr. Maxwell Ampong
Dr. Maxwell Ampong

Independent Contributing AuthorPage: MacroeconomicBulletin

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