Banking and financial institutions in Tunisia faced the risk of international sanctions

The CBF (Banking and Financial Council), formerly known as the Tunisian Professional Association of Banks and Financial Institutions (APTBEF), organized an awareness day for banking and financial institutions on the topic “Preventing non-compliance risks for financial institutions : from constraint to opportunity “.

In collaboration with the specialized international law firm Ashurst LLP (5th firm in the world with 1,600 lawyers), the event saw the participation of a panel of leading international experts. They addressed highly topical issues in the world and in Tunisia, in particular economic sanctions, the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, CSR and human rights and also the fight against corruption.

“These are issues we have been working on a lot for a few years. They require regular updates. We have organized ourselves in such a way that there is continuous supervision to protect ourselves from existing risks, ”said Ms. Mouna Saaied, general delegate of the CBF, at the beginning of the meeting.

“Banking and financial institutions in Tunisia need to be aware of the international regulations in place to avoid being marginalized, or even disrupting their relationships with their correspondent banks,” he also indicated.

Addressing risks effectively

The current context, characterized by international instability, exposes financial institutions exponentially to economic risks. In recent months, and in particular with the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the importance of the prevention system of economic sanctions within financial institutions has proved essential to protect against the application of European or American regulations that could have repercussions on companies. , regardless of where they are in the world.

Paul Charlot, attorney of the Paris Bar, senior associate in the Ashurst Dispute Resolution department, highlighted, during his speech, the risks to which financial market players may be exposed with regard to compliance in a broad sense.

“In recent years, I have seen a paradigm shift revealed by the condemnation of some financial institutions by banking regulators or authorities that rely on the extraterritorial enforcement of their rights,” he explained. “A number of correspondent banks are increasingly devaluing financial institutions, especially those based in Africa.”

Indeed, the European and American sanctions in place are likely to have an impact on the activities of financial institutions in Tunisia and their consequences can be formidable. “Compliance departments need to structure themselves and put the appropriate systems in place to allow these risks to be effectively addressed,” warned Mr. Charlot.

A decline in profitability and the volume of transactional business

Sami Slama, financial expert of the CFC Partners firm, for his part pointed out that in Africa the national risk management system is medium-low term with a score of 6.85 / 10 (10 being the riskiest).

The main risks of the continent, according to Mr. Slama, are that the African economy is mainly based on liquidity (cash economy) and informal activity. Another important point in Africa, the virtual absence of texts that legislate on virtual activities, in other words cryptocurrency (of which 2 to 3% are of recycled origin or financial wars).

Addressing the correspondence banking issue, the CFC Partners expert announced that, according to a World Bank study, 22% of the Tunisian banks surveyed acknowledged that they have lost correspondence banking relationships due to their deferral policies. risking. This leads to a drop in profitability and transactional business volume.

Standardization of CSR practices: a great challenge

With regard to the issue of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), Cristian Mocanu, Secretary General of COFICERT, a French certification body dedicated to financial and extra-financial certifications and also an expert in CSR, recalled the unprecedented commitment in this area registered today with all financial actors.

In contrast to the fight against financial crime embodied by the oversight of the GAFI which standardized practices on an international scale, Mr. Mocanu indicated that for CSR the rules were very heterogeneous and very regional. “This makes the exercise even more complicated and in the face of public pressure that has been growing steadily in recent times, we must be able to put in place effective CSR management systems”.

Regarding the legal framework, and in the face of the multiplicity of existing laws, the expert considered that the standardization of CSR practices was an important issue to be able to govern them globally, in particular for non-financial reporting. And this under pressure from the public but also from public authorities. “According to a global survey, 50% of today’s investors or wealth managers are willing to divest their holdings that are not responsible. In other words, they do not favor a social and ethical approach in the governance of a company, ”he said.

Detect and address corruption issues

The issue of anti-corruption and governance was also extensively discussed during the day. For the occasion, the CBF had invited Christian Levesque, international expert in anti-corruption management and governance ISO 37001 and 37000.

Transparency and trust being the cornerstones on which the credibility of any organization is based, the ISO 37001 standard has become a solution for loyal institutions and companies that do not want to be seriously discredited by corruption.

ISO 37001 is the international standard for preventing, detecting and addressing corruption problems. It is based on the adoption of an anti-corruption policy, on the designation of a person in charge of supervising compliance with anti-corruption measures, on the development of training, on the risk assessment and on the exercise of a duty of diligence towards the projects and associated subjects. the activities.

“The real change in observed practices will take time,” Levesque warned. “In the face of active or passive corruption, it is not a question of one or two years, it is a question of generations with the necessary continuous improvement”.

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