• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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CBN advocates SWIFT’s sanctions screening to Nigerian banking community


The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is implementing Swift’s Sanctions Screening service and is mandating use of the hosted service by the country’s banking community in order to strengthen the Nigerian financial market and ensure it meets global best practices for financial crime compliance.

SWIFT Sanctions Screening is a hosted subscription service that filters messages in real time and checks against customers’ selected sanctions lists. Once active, the Sanctions Screening service automatically routes messages in certain predefined categories to a centrally hosted filter where the messages are matched against a client’s choice of sanctions lists. Sanctions Screening combines a highly sophisticated screening engine with SWIFT’s security, resilience and reliability to create a world-class shared service. The screening engine checks for possible matches from sanctions lists information using logical tests to detect anagrams, inversion of letters, missing letters, misspellings, abbreviations and phonetic similarities.

Suleiman Barau, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, says: “With financial crime becoming more prevalent globally, it is now one of the biggest challenges facing the world’s financial industry and every bank must play a role in combating this challenge. Central Bank of Nigeria wants to ensure that Nigeria’s financial community adheres to global best practice and complies with all international regulations. Implementing SWIFT’s Sanctions Screening is an essential element of this strategy.”

The Central Bank aims to complete the implementation by the commercial banks in Nigeria by the end January 2015. To assist the country’s commercial banks to meet this deadline, the CBN has created a Sanctions Screening Service Committee, comprising 15 people from various departments, including operations, IT, legal, treasury and payments. The Committee will work with the Nigerian banking community and SWIFT.

The move can also be seen as pursuant to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Payment System Vision 2020 (PSV2020), which calls for a “Nationally Utilised and Internationally Recognised” payments system and provides a robust platform to support Nigeria’s continued economic growth.

Christian Sarafidis, Deputy Chief Executive, EMEA, SWIFT, says: “SWIFT is delighted to support the Nigerian financial services community as it works towards its 2020 vision and implements global best practice in terms of new regulations. We are expanding our footprint in Africa to reflect the dynamism of the continent and particularly the rapid growth of Nigeria.”

Sanctions Screening recently surpassed the 230-customer milestone just two years after its introduction as the first solution in SWIFT’s financial crime compliance services portfolio. In Africa, there are currently more than 60 customers – now including seven central banks – using Sanctions Screening with more new customers in the pipeline.

Like Nigeria, several other countries have seen broad take-up of Sanctions Screening as part of a community approach to addressing concerns about financial crime and meeting global regulations, including Angola, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

“Sanctions compliance is complex and expensive, and the penalties for non-compliance can be very severe,” says Hugo Smit, Head of Africa South, SWIFT. “SWIFT’s Sanctions Screening is cost-effective and easy to implement. It requires no hardware or software and no operational maintenance of multiple lists that change regularly and provide our customers with a peace-of-mind that their compliance solution meets international industry standards. SWIFT is committed to developing such solutions that address industry challenges.”

Banks using the Sanctions Screening service can send their transactions to a screening engine, which filters the messages in real time and checks against the banks’ selected sanctions lists. The service covers the majority of the messages used in cross-border financial transactions and is expected to support all types of financial messages, including Single European Payment Area (SEPA) payments, in 2015.