Internet Banking: Relevance in a Changing World

Surprising, but true – Internet-based activity is not the preserve of the young “digital native” generation alone. A 2008 survey says that Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1976) uses Internet banking significantly more than any other demographic segment, with two thirds of Internet users in this age group banking online.

Gen X users have also professed their preference for applications such as Facebook, to share, connect and be part of a larger community.

This is some irony in this, since online banking, as we know it today, offers minimal interactivity. Unlike in a branch, where the comfort of two way interaction facilitates the consummation of a variety of transactions, the one way street of e-banking has only managed to enable the more routine tasks, such as balance enquiry or funds transfer.

It’s not hard to put two and two together. A clear opportunity exists for banks that can transform today’s passive Internet banking offering into one that provides a more widespread and interactive customer experience.

It is therefore imperative that banks transform their online offering, such that it matches the new expectations of customers. Moreover, Internet banking must journey to popular online customer hangouts, rather than wait for customers to come to it.

There are clear indications that the shift towards a “next generation” online banking environment has already been set in motion. It is only a matter of time before these trends become the norm.

Leveraging of Social Networks

Forward thinking banks are leveraging existing social networks on external sites to increase their visibility among interested groups. They are also deploying social software technology on their own sites to engage the same communities in two way discussions. Thus, their Internet banking has assumed a more pervasive persona – customers are engaging with the bank, along with its products and services even when they’re not actually transacting online.

Heightened visibility apart, banks can gain tremendous customer insight from such unstructured, informal interactions. For example, a discussion on the uncertain financial future among a group of 18 to 25 year olds could be a signal to banks to offer long term investment products to a segment that was previously not considered a target. Going one step further, a positive buzz around a newly launched service can create valuable word-of-mouth advertising for the business.

Collaborating through Web 2.0

The collaborative aspect of Web 2.0 applications has enabled banks to draw customers inside their fold more than ever before. Traditional methods such as focus group discussions or market research suffer from the disadvantages of high cost, limited scope and potential to introduce bias. Feedback forms merely serve as a post-mortem. In contrast, Web 2.0 has the ability to carry a vast audience along right from the start, and continue to do so perpetually. Thus, an interested community of prospects and customers participate in co-creating products and services which can fulfil their expectations.

The pervasiveness of Web 2.0 enables delivery of e-banking across multiple online locations and web-based gadgets such as Yahoo!Widgets, Windows Live or the iPhone. This means next generation online banking customers will enjoy heightened access and convenience

A New York based firm of analysts found that 15% of the 70 banks tracked by them had adopted Web 2.0, a number of them having done so within the last 12 months.

Standard Chartered Bank employees connect with their colleagues through Facebook and use the platform to share knowledge, clarify questions and participate in discussions on ongoing company activities.

Bank of America, Wachovia Bank and Commonwealth Credit Union have built a presence within interactive media to create awareness and keep up a dialogue with interested communities. They have employed a variety of methods, ranging from creating YouTube communities to launching campaigns on Current TV, a channel in which viewers determine content.

Personalisation of Online Banking

Vanilla e-banking divides customers into very large, heterogeneous groups – typically, corporate, retail or SME, with one type of Internet banking page for each. That’s in sharp contradiction to how banking organisations would like to view their clientele. Banks are moving towards customer-specificity, almost viewing each client as a “segment of one”, across other channels, and online banking is set to follow suit. For instance, a specific home page for home loan customers and another for private banking clients could well be a possibility in future.

Interestingly, National Bank of Kuwait had the foresight to do this several years ago – they enabled customers to determine which products they would view and access, and were rewarded with a dramatic increase in online transactions.

Money Monitor from Yes Bank allows customers to choose their landing page – for example, they can set “all transactions”, “net worth” or “portfolio” as their default view. Other features include the ability to categorise transactions as per customers’ convenience and the printing of custom reports.

Empowerment Online

Beyond doubt, Internet banking has created a more informed, empowered class of customers. This is set to climb to the next level once customers are allowed to proactively participate in many more transaction-related processes. The Internet has already made it possible for customers to compare product loan offerings, simulate financial scenarios and design custom retirement portfolios. Going forward, they would be able to consummate related transactions – which means, after comparing interest rates, they could originate a loan online, and once secured, they can begin to repay it online as well.

Portalisation

The emergence of Web 2.0 technology coupled with banks’ desire to personalise their e-banking to the highest degree is likely to result in “portalisation” of Internet banking. The idea of banking customers being able to create their own spaces online, filled with all that is relevant to them, is not that far-fetched. Customers can personalise their Internet banking page to reflect the positions of multiple accounts across different banks; they could include their credit card information, subscribe to their favourite financial news, consolidate their physical assets position, share their experiences with a group and do more – all from one “place”.

Money Monitor enables customers to add multiple “accounts” (from a choice of 9,000) to their page. Accounts could be savings or loan accounts with major Indian banks, or those with utilities providers, credit card companies, brokerage firms and even frequent flyer programs. Users can customise their pages as described earlier.

As banks seek to develop their Internet banking vision for the future, in parallel, they will also need to address the key issues of security and “due defence”. While it is every marketer’s dream to have customers work as ambassadors, adequate precaution must be taken to prevent the proliferation of malicious or spurious publicity. Therefore, before an individual is allowed to participate in a networking forum, he or she must have built up a favorable track record with the bank. The individual must be a recognized customer of the bank, having used a minimum number of products over a reasonable length of time. Qualitative information about the person’s interaction with the bank’s support staff (for example frequency and type of calls made to their call centre, outcome of such interaction and so on) may be invaluable in profiling the “right” type of customer who can be recruited as a possible advocate.

Collaborative Web 2.0 applications may necessitate opening up banks’ websites to outside technology and information exchange with third party sites, raising the spectre of data and infrastructure security. A robust mechanism of checks and balances must be built to ensure that the third party sites are secure, appropriately certified and pose no threat to the home banks’ sites. Likewise, before a third party widget is allowed to be brought on to a site, it must have passed through stringent security control.

Due diligence must be exercised before permitting users to place a link to another site to guard against the possibility of inadvertent download of malicious software, which could, in the worst case, even result in phishing originating from the banks’ sites.

It is equally important for a bank to guard its customers against invasion of privacy, data theft or misuse. The concept of portalisation envisages deploying technology to bring information from other banks’ or financial service providers’ websites into the home bank’s site. The home bank must ensure that its customers’ personal or transaction related information, which may be shared with the other providers, is not susceptible to leakage or outright misuse.

Offshore Internet Banking Advantages and Disadvantages

The topic of offshore internet banking is a hot one and one that is increasingly growing in popularity not only within the consumer banking community, but also the business or corporate banking sector.

The beauty of offshore online banking is that in addition to enabling you to conduct banking activities allowed by traditional and local brick and mortar businesses, it allows you more variety and flexibility in terms of your banking needs. For example, if you travel often, offshore online banking gives you the flexibility to conduct business on to go from anywhere, while ensuring that you have access to the type of currency if you need at a time you need it.

Having said that, not all banks offer online or internet banking services as this service costs the banks a significant amount of money. Programming sophisticated and secure systems require the effort of several full time computer engineers, full security and compliance departments, as well as heavy overhead to support the service on an ongoing basis.

Because there are so many variables involved in offering this service, offshore internet banking services vary from one financial institution to another. Some have better systems while others have work to do. A lot of this is predicated on the resources the bank has dedicated to this initiative, both in terms of quantity and quality.

Opening an Offshore Bank Account

Before diving further into this topic, I want to clarify that engaging in offshore internet banking is not about evading taxes. It is about mitigating risk of capital loss due to no fault of your own. So when considering a foreign jurisdiction in which to establish an offshore bank account, consider one that is politically stable and financially strong. In addition, it helps to select a jurisdiction that pays an attractive interest rate and has low to no income tax. Some of the most preferred jurisdictions over the years have been Switzerland, Cayman Islands, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Opening a personal bank account is usually a very personal activity. With offshore internet banking however, there are ways you can get started remotely without having to show up to the bank’s local office, saving a ton of time, money and mainly frustration.

One such way is by visiting a local bank’s branch in your domicile state, or home country. Many big banks that offer internet banking have a multi-national presence. Chances are good that your selected bank has a local branch near where you live, despite being headquartered in another offshore jurisdiction.

In other cases, there are international banks that may not have local branches near where you live, but are willing and able to establish an offshore bank account for you through email, snail mail, fax and telephone. There are usually a set of documents required by banks in order to execute this process. Therefore you can still open a foreign bank account with an offshore bank without having to leave your country, but it may come with a little more effort, and sometimes the struggle involved in communicating with someone overseas.

The Advantages of Offshore Internet Banking

Here are some advantages of offshore internet banking that you should know about.

Protection from sovereign risk – as mention already above, parking funds in foreign bank accounts mitigates the risk of loss of capital resulting from freeze or confiscation of funds by Governments without any fault of your own. This risk is less of a concern in a developed economy with a solid banking infrastructure such as the United States, but it is nonetheless an inherent risk that exists.

Tax benefits – many offshore jurisdictions have low to no income tax implications on interest income, or income from business activities.

Higher Interest Rates – because many offshore banks operate with low costs, they can afford to offer higher interest rates compared to larger multi-national names. In fact, in developed economies like in Europe and North America, regulatory compliance requirements is seen by many as form of taxation on banks, thereby increasing overhead costs and lowering interest rates.

On Demand Access to Statements – offshore internet banking gives you instant access to your statements where you can view your activities on a real time basis. This includes past and pending deposits and withdrawals. You can therefore access your account balance at anytime.

Money Management – with offshore internet banking you can transfer funds between accounts across the globe instantly. Offshore banks have inventories of various currencies and can help you fulfill banking transactions in multiple countries. You can schedule automatic payments to vendors to release automatically.

There are several other advantages to offshore internet banking. You can open offshore trading accounts and establish offshore brokerage accounts to conduct trading and investment activity (there can be tax advantages to this). Conducting transactions online is not only mostly free, but also very efficient. Transaction time online is simply much less. You can also have streams of income potentially directly deposited straight into your offshore online bank account.

From a personal finance perspective, downloading banking activity from your offshore online bank account is easy and can be done instantly. Most online banking platforms are designed to feed information into financial or personal accounting software or to spreadsheets like Excel. Individuals can save a significant amount on accountant fees just by utilizing this feature. Not to mention more intimate knowledge and management of their own finances.

For those looking for anonymity, offshore online bank accounts also allow you to conduct banking anonymously as per bank secrecy guidelines.

The Disadvantages of Offshore Internet Banking

Merely establishing an offshore bank account can be a reason for the Government to put more focus on your activities. After all, many use offshore internet banking as a mechanism to conduct illegal activity and evade taxes. Some specific disadvantages of offshore internet banking as a result of conducting business through foreign bank accounts are the following:

Knowledge of Internet – There is a certain level of internet savvy required to be able to navigate your way through offshore internet banking platforms to ensure you are getting exactly what you want. This is a big reason why some elderly shy away from conducting banking online.

Deposit Timeline – Because many banks do not have the technology to be able to collect deposits remotely, you may have difficulty depositing all your proceeds. While many banks have developed electronic scanning technology, others have yet to catch up. There is no consistency to say the least.

Security / Fraud Implications – because banking is conducted online, offshore internet banking exposes you to the risk of network intrusion or breach. Because information is transferred electronically and stored in various databases, breaches can cause private and sensitive information to leak out into the wrong hands. But then again, this is no different than losing your check book if compared to traditional brick and mortar banking.

Spam Mail – offshore online banking also means that you will receive emails from the foreign bank you have your offshore bank accounts with. Internet predators recognize this as an opportunity for phishing, or fish for private and sensitive information. Many times you may see an email in your inbox from what seems like your foreign banking institution. However it is not. These are phishing emails hoping for you to login and enter your personal information such as login and password.

TIPS: Here are a few tips to avoid falling for phishing scams. First, when you receive an email from your bank, call them to verify that they sent the email. Second, instead of opening the email they sent you, visit the bank’s website directly and see if you can conduct what’s asked of you on their site by you logging in directly rather than clicking a login link in an email message.

Third, if you were to open the email and click on any link in it for whatever reason, once the link takes you to a website where you are required to enter personal information, look for security symbols such as an https URL address or a padlock on the lower right hand side corner of the web browser. There are other security measures as well that can be visible spotted. Read online for more on this topic.

Financial Security – some offshore bank locations are not very financially secure or stable. For example, during the global economic crisis of 2008, many savers lost money parked in offshore bank accounts in some destinations such as Iceland. I don’t mean to scare you by any means as this situation is rare, and in most cases those who suffer losses are compensated in some way over time. However, know that this inherent risk exists. Always look for deposit insurance. The bigger the allowance the better.

Credibility by Association – as I’ve already mentioned, offshore internet banking has negative connotations attached to it, often associated with money laundering, use of illegal monies, untaxed monies and support of illegal causes. Offshore bank accounts at times are tied to crime rings and terrorists. What does this mean for you? Although you may engage in offshore banking legally and legitimately, understand that there will be closer scrutiny over you by the Governments.

Access Restrictions – offshore banks are in destinations far away from you, therefore more difficult and expensive to access. In many countries, communication in person is preferred to communicating over phone, email and snail mail, therefore internet banking can get a bit difficult and frustrating. I see this trend slowly changing with banks understanding the need to communicate at all levels and mediums to satisfy a global audience.

Impact Of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) On The Banking Industry Of Pakistan

A Karachi-based banker receives the latest update on stocks from his counterpart in Hong Kong in a blink of an eye. That information is then relayed to a customer in Doha who then orders electronics made in Chengdu transported across the proposed CPEC route and then by sea on a bulker ship to its final destination. The breakneck pace and the astonishing volumes at which goods, information, and money move from one part of the world to another is conquering inhospitable terrains, exploring new sea lanes, defying traditional methods of communication, taking the world online, and exploiting untapped energies. Global interconnectedness through trade has always and is constantly determining, redesigning, and reshaping human life at a scale never imagined before. London shoppers buy garments made in Pakistan. Chinese watch American TV seasons. Arabs use software developed in Silicon Valley to instigate an earth shattering revolution. The overbearing influence of international trade on human lives is remarkable in the truest sense of the word. Both literally and otherwise, international trade is having a great impact on the way humans conducted life and business.

But the idea of global interconnectedness is not new, in fact, it can be traced back to the time of Han Dynasty in 221 BCE when all of China came under one supreme rule. About the same time, the conquests of Alexander established a veritable contact between the Western and Eastern societies widening existing road networks and creating new trade routes. Over the course of next several centuries, a gigantic web of trade networks emerged which spanned continents drawing from China silk, tea, porcelain, and jade while gold and glass wares travelled from Rome, the western terminus of the famous Silk Road. Along the way, many items were picked up from many regions and local kingdoms of Middle East and India which eventually benefited the local populations also. The trade links formed along the breadth and width of the 5000 miles long Silk Road were commercial, cultural, technological, but also financial in nature. The goods, technologies, and even diseases of all kinds were exchanged; such was the power of international trade. Back then, the roads were long, treacherous, and unpredictable. And crossing the inhospitable terrains was incredibly dangerous but the huge demand for goods led to the creation of a complex web of trade networks which were duly supported by local financial moneylenders and money-exchangers backed by local governments and fiefdoms.

The long-awaited revival of the old Silk Road (as enshrined in the One Belt, One Road Project of China) has the potential to genuinely alter the world economics like never before in history. This largest ever financial undertaking since the Marshall Plan by USA for Europe post World War II will include over 60 countries and most likely to generate $ 2.5 trillion dollars in trade, if the regional plan works according to the design. This regional pact promises to economically benefit the countries included in it by linking them to global trade networks. Imagine a good chunk of that trade passing through Pakistan and affecting the life and finances of ordinary Pakistanis. This life altering, game-changing, golden goose transformed into a trade route is called China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The $ 46 billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an important part of this OBOR project which connects the Western parts of China and Central Asian Republics to the Gawadar port in the Arabian Sea. The deep sea port of Gawadar is strategically located just outside the Strait of Hormuz and near the main shipping route of global oil trade and it is the closest trade route to the landlocked Central Asian Countries which have enormous natural resources and untapped market potential. And Pakistan stands to benefit from all that because this CPEC is not just a trade route but a complete project for life which includes energy projects, railroads, 25 industrial zones, and cross border fiber optics which will connect Pakistan with the world both on technological and trade fronts.

Developing countries struggle in the wake of hindered access to markets, lack of finance, and limited infrastructure at home to support economic activities. In that context, the CPEC promises to take Pakistan straight into the international foray where big players play.

But here is the kicker: when the global trade fever kicks in through the CPEC, then Pakistan must be ready to welcome it.

The ability to meet the challenges of international trade head-on and that too with great success will largely depend on Pakistan’s banking & financial sector’s readiness in adjusting to the new trade environment.

The influence and impact of local and domestic players and a whole host of homebred economic forces may ratchet down with the increased international trade moving feverishly back and forth and back again across the CPEC routes. Pakistan’s banks will have to calibrate their strategic position in order to be able to take advantage of the money movements resulting from increased trade passing through the country.

Increased integration through increased trade and more of international trade passing through the proposed CPEC routes will create a new set of challenges, opportunities, and risks for the Pakistani banking and financial sector offering financial services to local businesses and their foreign affiliates, to the government and investors at home and abroad.

If history offers any guidance, then it is a known fact that Pakistan’s economy never really depended on huge trade volumes (with the current trade volume hovering at about $ 80 billion) as so much as it will do in near future. For once, the central bank of Pakistan (State Bank of Pakistan) in particular will have to use interest rate swings to keep inflation in check, and others banks may have to make considerable adjustments in their positions by administering some radical and some not so radical but smart changes and tweaks here and there in their financial offerings to meet the changing dynamics of the new trade environment in Pakistan. The economic shocks resulting from the new trade environment can be both positive and negative depending on how they are confronted. Therefore, adjustments have to be made accordingly which could result in a great earning opportunity for many.

The contrasting snapshot of Pakistan’s current trade environment juxtaposed with the picture of trade likely to emerge in near future offers a great insight into what the local businesses and financial & banking sector might have to deal with when billions of dollars of trade starts to pass through Pakistan. It is important to understand this because the CPEC is going to touch Pakistan on many levels. Pakistan’s current business environment is characterized by a massive shortfall of electricity which can reach as much as 5 million kilowatts in the summers. This electricity shortage acts as a bottleneck in the process of industrialization of underdeveloped economies which means that production lines and factories come to a grinding halt due to lack of energy. Many companies, banks, private businesses, government offices, and even the shopkeepers & students especially only those who have the means are forced to use private generators when the light goes out. But all that is about to change: the Neelum-Jehlum Hydropower plant which is the largest ever overseas power plant undertaking by any Chinese firm will alleviate 15% of electricity shortage. It will generate 45 billion Rupees or $ 400 million in revenues. It is just one of the 22 projects which are included in the CPEC. Thus, the CPEC is truly a game changer as it possesses the ability to get the infrastructure ready for integrating Pakistan with the international trade regimes.

The improvement in the macro environment is evidently in the pipeline with substantial investments taking place in the infrastructural development which if supported by the banking sector and small improvements in the basic micro infrastructure stands to give huge advantage to Pakistan on the back of three major global trends promising to alter fortunes of Pakistan for the better now and forever which include investments from China coming in, the return of Iran into the international economy, and the low oil prices.

Therefore, the new trade environment of Pakistan will be made up of the results of the CPEC which will offer greater, seamless, and hassle-free access to Central Asia Countries where the potential for business, banking, and trade is immense and the markets there virtually untapped, untouched, and not fully exploited or explored. This means that the trade volumes are going to skyrocket, or break the ceiling, or simply exceed expectations as new markets are explored and regional economies get ready for more consumption. Thus, the prospect of making some serious moolahs on the back of the CPEC is too alluring to ignore for both businesses and banks.

Where there is increased trade, there is a trail of money to be found, and there must be a bank nearby. And all trades since the ancient times required a most secure method for all kinds of financial transactions. And that is where banks jump right into the foray big time. Even in the old days when trade was happening through the Silk Road, local money lenders and money exchangers acting as small bankers were offering some kind of safety and security to the financial transactions taking place along the route. The safety and security of financial transactions is as important as giving a real boost to international trade.

There are two important things: first and foremost, no country can ever grow quickly and persistently over a long period of time by staying disconnected from the international trade. And second of all, no country can become a thriving economy on the back of trade without the active backing of an equally robust and thriving banking sector facilitating that trade.

In any trade environment, the most important thing for an exporter is to get paid and for an importer to get his goods. If the exporter is not getting paid, then he is sending gifts. The banks can facilitate the trade by offering guarantees and other financial services to both exporters and importers in Pakistan. The payment methods if made secure and mediated by banks can help both the trade and bank. The international trade has many payment methods which include Cash-in-Advance, Letters of Credit, Bills of Exchange or Documentary Collections, and Open Account etc. Cash in advance method is best for exporters and riskier for importers. However, LCs or letters of credit is considered to be the most reliable and secure method available to international traders which is basically a guarantee given by a bank on behalf of the importer that if the terms of the LC are met by the exporter, the exporter will get his agreed payment. Billions of dollars of trade in USA is made secure by LCs offered by their banking sector. Documentary Collections or Bills of Exchange is another product which banks offer and is available to international traders. In this method of payment, a bank is nominated which receives the shipping documents from the exporter and once the importer comes in with the money, the goods can be claimed and picked up by the importer. Even in the open account payment method, banks are used as intermediaries between international traders.

Therefore, the biggest question that confronts Pakistani banking sector is this: are they ready for what is about to hit them? Because there could be 1001 ways to make real wampum once the CPEC gets underway. Sooner rather than later, Pakistan’s trade environment will be truly global. The banks will have to offer new financial services or old financial offerings into a newly designed package but at an unprecedented scale and magnitude. The bank will to adjust to new trade environment taking shape in the country because it is no secret that international trade slows down if the financial banks are unable to offer secure payment methods.

According to the estimates of World Trade Organization, around 80 percent of world trade is backed up by financial offerings and credit guarantees offered by the banks. The reason is fairly simple: everyone wants to be on the safer and beneficial side when the trade happens. The exporter wants to receive payment as soon as the goods are delivered and the importer wants to keep his money with him until he has received the goods because there is an element of risk involved in international trade. Thus, the role played by banks in facilitating global trade is huge. For the developing countries, this role played by banks assumes greater significance because the growth of developing countries greatly depends upon trade volumes which are likely to stay strong and persistent if the banking sector is able to meet the demand for LCs, payment guarantees, and other insured financial services and help keep the wheels of trade moving along smoothly and surely. That is how the banking sector stands to benefit from the shifting trends in the trade environment of Pakistan which will be soon connected with the economies of the world that matter.

Pakistani banks will be able to explore new ways for making more revenues for themselves and for traders by forging new and unbreakable alliances with the corporate world, make cross border financial agreements, taking their services worldwide, and facilitating the trade so that the trade could move seamlessly across the borders.

Pakistani banks will have to find ways to offer cost effective solutions to international traders. The banks must offer these services in an efficient manner on an absolutely new scale and manage its own operations in a way that the banks can stay competitive and truly global over the coming decades. Their offerings of LCs and Bills of Exchange must be more efficient, robust, and really good if not better than those offered by international bankers. Pakistani banks can automate their financial services in the wake of the new trade environment.

The banks in Pakistan can make use of the latest technology which helps in automatically classifying LCs as they are generated in the form of invoices, purchase orders, agreements, and other certificates facilitating cross border trade. This wholehearted adoption of technology is going to put Pakistani banks on par with the rest of the banks in the world but will also prove to be less cumbersome, cost effective, and time saving. This in turn will help boost the trade big time. Pakistani banks will also have to ensure accuracy of their data in order to ensure compliance regulations. This can be done by the use of intelligent technology which helps in ensuring timely extraction, validation, and screening of the data and documents submitted with the banks. These are some of the things that banks in Pakistan must possess if they wish to improve their financial services for the facilitation of trade and also position themselves to better manage the trade happening and passing through the country. The adoption of the right kind of technology, better positioning of trade financial services, and making right adjustments to the scale and magnitude of the expected trade will definitely put Pakistani banks on the world map that helped the country become more competitive both globally and regionally.

The new Silk Road is estimated to generate $ 2.5 trillion in trade over the next ten years and some of that trade will pass through the proposed CPEC routes. China imports 60% of its oil from the Gulf and 48% of China’s oil is transported via tanker ships which have to travel 16,000 kilometers for up to three months through the Malaka Straits and through the South China Sea which is fast becoming a contested region marked by competing claims to the sea lanes. That makes the trade through that route somewhat unsafe, uncertain, and ridden with untoward risks. And due to this ensuing uncertainty Gawadar Port offers a much less expensive alternative route which offers savings worth billions of dollars. Just in terms of numbers, CPEC once fully underway will add two percentage points to the GDP growth of Pakistan which will effectively take the GDP beyond 6% growth rate annually. That figure in itself speaks volumes about the sheer money potential of this proposed project. It has the potential to bring in huge influxes of money which would definitely force the banking industry to grow.

In the wake of CPEC, a great number of opportunities are coming to Pakistan. The need for strategic management, strategic budgeting, forecasting, planning, overall project accounting, investment banking, new and improved financial services are going to surge. The sectors of shipping, storing, transportation, and finance are going to jack up with huge financial appetite requiring more innovative and improved fast-paced financial and banking services on a larger than life scale. The need for taxation and streamlining of the taxation regime post CPEC will be undeniably great.

Anti-money laundering specialists, branch managers, financial analysts, CFOs, financial consultants, tax managers, financial management, banking consultants, investment bankers, trade marketers, and trade accountants will be in great demand over the next decade. Financial services and financial and banking sector will be in full swing once the trade through CPEC begins to flourish.

Increasing trade is the key to alleviating abject poverty, boosting economic activities and achieving shared prosperity. Evidence shows that countries open to trade and with better access to markets and better financial support infrastructure and regime for businesses and trade are able to provide more opportunities to their people to become successful businessmen, bankers, traders, and entrepreneurs. With enhanced participation in world economy, Pakistan stands a chance to become a major world economy.

Pakistani banks can learn a lesson or two from the banks of China and India. 3 out of top ten banks in the world are Chinese. They got to the place where they are today by actively supporting the international trade and offering products that helped in transforming local traders into world beaters.This happened because in order to ensure double digit economic growth, Chinese banks stepped up their game and grew exponentially in order to provide funds and credit for China’s rapid economic development. Banks in India are reaching out to the remotest areas through a wide network of branch banking.

Risky investments are likely to go up as soon as the trade along the CPEC jumps into proper action. In a short span of time, economic wheels will start to roll with increased trade gyrations. With the increased privatization and undiscovered investment opportunities emerging in the economy, Pakistani banks could very well be looking at a rosy fiscal picture. Even an ordinary fruit exporter could be looking the way of the investment bankers to suggest ways for more financing opportunities for improving trade with the CARs.

In the wake of what is about to happen, Pakistani banking industry can do a few things to meet the ensuing challenges of CPEC: mobilizing savings through a wide network of branch banking; transforming savings into capital formation which could become the basis for more economic prosperity and development; finance the industrial sector and boost the capital markets; promote entrepreneurship by underwriting shares of new or existing companies; and help people acquire new skill sets in order to be able to better cope with the impending changes and major alterations expected to be caused by the new trade environment in Pakistan.

Banking Fraud – Prevention and Control

Banking Fraud is posing threat to Indian Economy. Its vibrant effect can be understood be the fact that in the year 2004 number of Cyber Crime were 347 in India which rose to 481 in 2005 showing an increase of 38.5% while I.P.C. category crime stood at 302 in 2005 including 186 cases of cyber fraud and 68 cases cyber forgery. Thus it becomes very important that occurrence of such frauds should be minimized. More upsetting is the fact that such frauds are entering in Banking Sector as well.

In the present day, Global Scenario Banking System has acquired new dimensions. Banking did spread in India. Today, the banking system has entered into competitive markets in areas covering resource mobilization, human resource development, customer services and credit management as well.

Indian’s banking system has several outstanding achievements to its credit, the most striking of which is its reach. In fact, Indian banks are now spread out into the remotest areas of our country. Indian banking, which was operating in a highly comfortable and protected environment till the beginning of 1990s, has been pushed into the choppy waters of intense competition.

A sound banking system should possess three basic characteristics to protect depositor’s interest and public faith. Theses are (i) a fraud free culture, (ii) a time tested Best Practice Code, and (iii) an in house immediate grievance remedial system. All these conditions are their missing or extremely weak in India. Section 5(b) of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 defines banking… “Banking is the accepting for the purpose of lending or investment, deposits of money from the purpose of lending or investment, deposits of money from the public, repayable on demand or otherwise and withdraw able by cheque, draft, order or otherwise.” But if his money has fraudulently been drawn from the bank the latter is under strict obligation to pay the depositor. The bank therefore has to ensure at all times that the money of the depositors is not drawn fraudulently. Time has come when the security aspects of the banks have to be dealt with on priority basis.

The banking system in our country has been taking care of all segments of our socio-economic set up. The Article contains a discussion on the rise of banking frauds and various methods that can be used to avoid such frauds. A bank fraud is a deliberate act of omission or commission by any person carried out in the course of banking transactions or in the books of accounts, resulting in wrongful gain to any person for a temporary period or otherwise, with or without any monetary loss to the bank. The relevant provisions of Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Indian Contract Act, and Negotiable Instruments Act relating to banking frauds has been cited in the present Article.

EVOLUTION OF BANKING SYSTEM IN INDIA

Banking system occupies an important place in a nation’s economy. A banking institution is indispensable in a modern society. It plays a pivotal role in economic development of a country and forms the core of the money market in an advanced country.

Banking industry in India has traversed a long way to assume its present stature. It has undergone a major structural transformation after the nationalization of 14 major commercial banks in 1969 and 6 more on 15 April 1980. The Indian banking system is unique and perhaps has no parallels in the banking history of any country in the world.

RESERVE BANK OF INDIA-ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL OBJECTIVE

The Reserve Bank of India has an important role to play in the maintenance of the exchange value of the rupee in view of the close interdependence of international trade and national economic growth and well being. This aspect is of the wider responsibly of the central bank for the maintenance of economic and financial stability. For this the bank is entrusted with the custody and the management of country’s international reserves; it acts also as the agent of the government in respect of India’s membership of the international monetary fund. With economic development the bank also performs a variety of developmental and promotional functions which in the past were registered being outside the normal purview of central banking. It also acts an important regulator.

BANK FRAUDS: CONCEPT AND DIMENSIONS

Banks are the engines that drive the operations in the financial sector, which is vital for the economy. With the nationalization of banks in 1969, they also have emerged as engines for social change. After Independence, the banks have passed through three stages. They have moved from the character based lending to ideology based lending to today competitiveness based lending in the context of India’s economic liberalization policies and the process of linking with the global economy.

While the operations of the bank have become increasingly significant banking frauds in banks are also increasing and fraudsters are becoming more and more sophisticated and ingenious. In a bid to keep pace with the changing times, the banking sector has diversified it business manifold. And the old philosophy of class banking has been replaced by mass banking. The challenge in management of social responsibility with economic viability has increased.

DEFINITION OF FRAUD

Fraud is defined as “any behavior by which one person intends to gain a dishonest advantage over another”. In other words , fraud is an act or omission which is intended to cause wrongful gain to one person and wrongful loss to the other, either by way of concealment of facts or otherwise.

Fraud is defined u/s 421 of the Indian Penal Code and u/s 17 of the Indian Contract Act. Thus essential elements of frauds are:

1. There must be a representation and assertion;

2. It must relate to a fact;

3. It must be with the knowledge that it is false or without belief in its truth; and

4. It must induce another to act upon the assertion in question or to do or not to do certain act.

BANK FRAUDS

Losses sustained by banks as a result of frauds exceed the losses due to robbery, dacoity, burglary and theft-all put together. Unauthorized credit facilities are extended for illegal gratification such as case credit allowed against pledge of goods, hypothecation of goods against bills or against book debts. Common modus operandi are, pledging of spurious goods, inletting the value of goods, hypothecating goods to more than one bank, fraudulent removal of goods with the knowledge and connivance of in negligence of bank staff, pledging of goods belonging to a third party. Goods hypothecated to a bank are found to contain obsolete stocks packed in between goods stocks and case of shortage in weight is not uncommon.

An analysis made of cases brings out broadly the under mentioned four major elements responsible for the commission of frauds in banks.

1. Active involvement of the staff-both supervisor and clerical either independent of external elements or in connivance with outsiders.

2. Failure on the part of the bank staff to follow meticulously laid down instructions and guidelines.

3. External elements perpetuating frauds on banks by forgeries or manipulations of cheques, drafts and other instruments.

4. There has been a growing collusion between business, top banks executives, civil servants and politicians in power to defraud the banks, by getting the rules bent, regulations flouted and banking norms thrown to the winds.

FRAUDS-PREVENTION AND DETECTION

A close study of any fraud in bank reveals many common basic features. There may have been negligence or dishonesty at some stage, on part of one or more of the bank employees. One of them may have colluded with the borrower. The bank official may have been putting up with the borrower’s sharp practices for a personal gain. The proper care which was expected of the staff, as custodians of banks interest may not have been taken. The bank’s rules and procedures laid down in the Manual instructions and the circulars may not have been observed or may have been deliberately ignored.

Bank frauds are the failure of the banker. It does not mean that the external frauds do not defraud banks. But if the banker is upright and knows his job, the task of defrauder will become extremely difficult, if not possible.

Detection of Frauds

Despite all care and vigilance there may still be some frauds, though their number, periodicity and intensity may be considerably reduced. The following procedure would be very helpful if taken into consideration:

1. All relevant data-papers, documents etc. Should be promptly collected. Original vouchers or other papers forming the basis of the investigation should be kept under lock and key.

2. All persons in the bank who may be knowing something about the time, place a modus operandi of the fraud should be examined and their statements should be recorded.

3. The probable order of events should thereafter be reconstructed by the officer, in his own mind.

4. It is advisable to keep the central office informed about the fraud and further developments in regard thereto.

Classification of Frauds and Action Required by Banks

The Reserve Bank of India had set-up a high level committee in 1992 which was headed by Mr. A… Ghosh, the then Dy. Governor Reserve Bank of India to inquire into various aspects relating to frauds malpractice in banks. The committee had noticed/observed three major causes for perpetration of fraud as given hereunder:

1. Laxity in observance of the laid down system and procedures by operational and supervising staff.

2. Over confidence reposed in the clients who indulged in breach of trust.

3. Unscrupulous clients by taking advantages of the laxity in observance of established, time tested safeguards also committed frauds.

In order to have uniformity in reporting cases of frauds, RBI considered the question of classification of bank frauds on the basis of the provisions of the IPC.
Given below are the Provisions and their Remedial measures that can be taken.

1. Cheating (Section 415, IPC)

Remedial Measures.

The preventive measures in respect of the cheating can be concentrated on cross-checking regarding identity, genuineness, verification of particulars, etc. in respect of various instruments as well as persons involved in encashment or dealing with the property of the bank.

2. Criminal misappropriation of property (Section 403 IPC).

Remedial Measure

Criminal misappropriation of property, presuppose the custody or control of funds or property, so subjected, with that of the person committing such frauds. Preventive measures, for this class of fraud should be taken at the level the custody or control of the funds or property of the bank generally vests. Such a measure should be sufficient, it is extended to these persons who are actually handling or having actual custody or control of the fund or movable properties of the bank.

3. Criminal breach of trust (Section 405, IPC)

Remedial Measure

Care should be taken from the initial step when a person comes to the bank. Care needs to be taken at the time of recruitment in bank as well.

4. Forgery (Section 463, IPC)

Remedial Measure

Both the prevention and detection of frauds through forgery are important for a bank. Forgery of signatures is the most frequent fraud in banking business. The bank should take special care when the instrument has been presented either bearer or order; in case a bank pays forged instrument he would be liable for the loss to the genuine costumer.

5. Falsification of accounts (Section 477A)

Remedial Measure

Proper diligence is required while filling of forms and accounts. The accounts should be rechecked on daily basis.

6. Theft (Section 378, IPC)

Remedial Measures

Encashment of stolen’ cheque can be prevented if the bank clearly specify the age, sex and two visible identify action marks on the body of the person traveler’s cheques on the back of the cheque leaf. This will help the paying bank to easily identify the cheque holder. Theft from lockers and safe deposit vaults are not easy to commit because the master-key remains with the banker and the individual key of the locker is handed over to the costumer with due acknowledgement.

7. Criminal conspiracy (Section 120 A, IPC)

In the case of State of Andhra Pradesh v. IBS Prasad Rao and Other, the accused, who were clerks in a cooperative Central Bank were all convicted of the offences of cheating under Section 420 read along with Section 120 A. all the four accused had conspired together to defraud the bank by making false demand drafts and receipt vouchers.

8. Offences relating to currency notes and banks notes (Section 489 A-489E, IPC)
These sections provide for the protection of currency-notes and bank notes from forgery. The offences under section are:

(a) Counterfeiting currency notes or banks.

(b) Selling, buying or using as genuine, forged or counterfeit currency notes or bank notes. Knowing the same to be forged or counterfeit.

(c) Possession of forged or counterfeit currency notes or bank-notes, knowing or counterfeit and intending to use the same as genuine.

(d) Making or passing instruments or materials for forging or counterfeiting currency notes or banks.

(e) Making or using documents resembling currency-notes or bank notes.

Most of the above provisions are Cognizable Offences under Section 2(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

FRAUD PRONE AREAS IN DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS

The following are the potential fraud prone areas in Banking Sector. In addition to those areas I have also given kinds of fraud that are common in these areas.

Savings Bank Accounts

The following are some of the examples being played in respect of savings bank accounts:

(a) Cheques bearing the forged signatures of depositors may be presented and paid.

(b) Specimen signatures of the depositors may be changed, particularly after the death of depositors,

(c) Dormant accounts may be operated by dishonest persons with or without collusion of bank employees, and

(d) Unauthorized withdrawals from customer’s accounts by employee of the bank maintaining the savings ledger and later destruction of the recent vouchers by them.

Current Account Fraud

The following types are likely to be committed in case of current accounts.

(a) Opening of frauds in the names of limited companies or firms by unauthorized persons;

(b) Presentation and payment of cheques bearing forged signatures;

(c) Breach of trust by the employees of the companies or firms possessing cheque leaves duly signed by the authorized signatures;

(d) Fraudulent alteration of the amount of the cheques and getting it paid either at the counter or though another bank.

Frauds In Case Of Advances

Following types may be committed in respect of advances:

(a) Spurious gold ornaments may be pledged.

(b) Sub-standard goods may be pledged with the bank or their value may be shown at inflated figures.
(c) Same goods may be hypothecated in favour of different banks.

LEGAL REGIME TO CONTROL BANK FRAUDS

Frauds constitute white-collar crime, committed by unscrupulous persons deftly advantage of loopholes existing in systems/procedures. The ideal situation is one there is no fraud, but taking ground realities of the nation’s environment and human nature’s fragility, an institution should always like to keep the overreach of frauds at the minimum occurrence level.

Following are the relevant sections relating to Bank Frauds

Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860)

(a) Section 23 “Wrongful gain”.-

“Wrongful gain” is gain by unlawful means of property to which the person gaining is not legally entitled.

(b) “Wrongful loss”

“Wrongful loss” is the loss by unlawful means of property to which the person losing it is legally entitled.
(c) Gaining wrongfully.

Losing wrongfully-A person is said to gain wrongfully when such person retains wrongfully, as well as when such person acquires wrongfully. A person is said to lose wrongfully when such person is wrongfully kept out of any property, as well as when such person is wrongfully deprived of property.

(d) Section 24. “Dishonestly”

Whoever does anything with the intention of causing wrongful gain to one person or wrongful loss to another person, is said to do that thing “dishonestly”.

(e) Section 28. “Counterfeit”

A person is said to “counterfeit” who causes one thing to resemble another thing, intending by means of that resemblance to practice deception, or knowing it to be likely that deception will thereby be practiced.

BREACH OF TRUST

1. Section 408- Criminal breach of trust by clerk or servant.

2. Section 409- Criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent.

3. Section 416- Cheating by personating

4. Section 419- Punishment for cheating by personation.

OFFENCES RELATING TO DOCMENTS

1) Section 463-Forgery

2) Section 464 -Making a false document

3) Section 465- Punishment for forgery.

4) Section 467- Forgery of valuable security, will, etc

5) Section 468- Forgery for purpose of cheating

6) Section 469- Forgery for purpose of harming reputation

7) Section 470- Forged document.

8) Section 471- Using as genuine a forged document

9) Section 477- Fraudulent cancellation, destruction, etc., of will, authority to adopt, or valuable security.

10) Section 477A- Falsification of accounts.

THE RESERVE BANK OF INDIA ACT, 1934

Issue of demand bills and notes Section 31.

Provides that only Bank and except provided by Central Government shall be authorized to draw, accept, make or issue any bill of exchange, hundi, promissory note or engagement for the payment of money payable to bearer on demand, or borrow, owe or take up any sum or sums of money on the bills, hundis or notes payable to bearer on demand of any such person

THE NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENTS ACT, 1881

Holder’s right to duplicate of lost bill Section 45A.

1. The finder of lost bill or note acquires no title to it. The title remains with the true owner. He is entitled to recover from the true owner.

2. If the finder obtains payment on a lost bill or note in due course, the payee may be able to get a valid discharge for it. But the true owner can recover the money due on the instrument as damages from the finder.

Section 58

When an Instrument is obtained by unlawful means or for unlawful consideration no possessor or indorse who claims through the person who found or so obtained the instrument is entitled to receive the amount due thereon from such maker, acceptor or holder, or from any party prior to such holder, unless such possessor or indorse is, or some person through whom he claims was, a holder thereof in due course.

Section 85:

Cheque payable to order.

1. By this section, bankers are placed in privileged position. It provides that if an order cheque is indorsed by or on behalf of the payee, and the banker on whom it is drawn pays it in due course, the banker is discharged. He can debit his customer with the amount so paid, though the endorsement of the payee might turn out to be a forgery.

2. The claim protection under this section the banker has to prove that the payment was a payment in due course, in good faith and without negligence.

Section 87. Effect of material alteration

Under this section any alteration made without the consent of party would be void. Alteration would be valid only if is made with common intention of the party.

Section 138. Dishonour of cheque for insufficiency, etc., of funds in the account.

Where any cheque drawn by a person on an account maintained by him with a banker for payment of any amount of money to another person from out of that account for the discharge, in whole or in part, of any debt or other liability, is returned by the bank unpaid. either because of the amount of money standing to the credit of that account is insufficient to honour the cheque or that it exceeds the amount arranged to be paid from that account by an agreement made with that bank, such person shall be deemed to have committed an offence and shall, without prejudice.

Section 141(1) Offences by companies.

If the person committing an offence under Section 138 is a company, every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to, the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.

SECURITY REGIME IN BANKING SYSTEM

Security implies sense of safety and of freedom from danger or anxiety. When a banker takes a collateral security, say in the form of gold or a title deed, against the money lent by him, he has a sense of safety and of freedom from anxiety about the possible non-payment of the loan by the borrower. These should be communicated to all strata of the organization through appropriate means. Before staff managers should analyze current practices. Security procedure should be stated explicitly and agreed upon by each user in the specific environment. Such practices ensure information security and enhance availability. Bank security is essentially a defense against unforced attacks by thieves, dacoits and burglars.

PHYSICAL SECURITY MEASURES-CONCEPT

A large part of banks security depends on social security measures. Physical security measures can be defined as those specific and special protective or defensive measures adopted to deter, detect, delay, defend and defeat or to perform any one or more of these functions against culpable acts, both covert and covert and acclamations natural events. The protective or defensive, measures adopted involve construction, installation and deployment of structures, equipment and persons respectively.

The following are few guidelines to check malpractices:

1. To rotate the cash work within the staff.

2. One person should not continue on the same seat for more than two months.

3. Daybook should not be written by the Cashier where an other person is available to the job

4. No cash withdrawal should be allowed within passbook in case of withdrawal by pay order.

5. The branch manager should ensure that all staff members have recorder their presence in the attendance registrar, before starting work.

Execution of Documents

1. A bank officer must adopt a strict professional approach in the execution of documents. The ink and the pen used for the execution must be maintained uniformly.

2. Bank documents should not be typed on a typewriter for execution. These should be invariably handwritten for execution.

3. The execution should always be done in the presence of the officer responsible for obtain them,
4. The borrowers should be asked to sign in full signatures in same style throughout the documents.

5. Unless there is a specific requirement in the document, it should not be got attested or witnessed as such attestation may change the character of the instruments and the documents may subject to ad volrem stamp duty.

6. The paper on which the bank documents are made should be pilfer proof. It should be unique and available to the banks only.

7. The printing of the bank documents should have highly artistic intricate and complex graphics.

8. The documents executed between Banker and Borrowers must be kept in safe custody,

CHANGES IN LEGISLATIONS AFTER ELECTRONIC TRANSACTIONS

1. Section 91 of IPC shall be amended to include electronic documents also.

2. Section 92 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 shall be amended to include commuter based communications

3. Section 93 of Bankers Book Evidence Act, 1891 has been amended to give legal sanctity for books of account maintained in the electronic form by the banks.

4. Section 94 of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1939 shall be amended to facilitate electronic fund transfers between the financial institutions and the banks. A new clause (pp) has been inserted in Section 58(2).

RECENT TRENDS OF BANKING SYSTEM IN INDIA

In the banking and financial sectors, the introduction of electronic technology for transactions, settlement of accounts, book-keeping and all other related functions is now an imperative. Increasingly, whether we like it or not, all banking transactions are going to be electronic. The thrust is on commercially important centers, which account for 65 percent of banking business in terms of value. There are now a large number of fully computerized branches across the country.

A switchover from cash-based transactions to paper-based transactions is being accelerated. Magnetic Ink character recognition clearing of cheques is now operational in many cities, beside the four metro cities. In India, the design, management and regulation of electronically-based payments system are becoming the focus of policy deliberations. The imperatives of developing an effective, efficient and speedy payment and settlement systems are getting sharper with introduction of new instruments such as credit cards, telebanking, ATMs, retail Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) and Electronic Clearing Services (ECS). We are moving towards smart cards, credit and financial Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) for straight through processing.

Financial Fraud (Investigation, Prosecution, Recovery and Restoration of property) Bill, 2001

Further the Financial Fraud (Investigation, Prosecution, Recovery and Restoration of property) Bill, 2001 was introduced in Parliament to curb the menace of Bank Fraud. The Act was to prohibit, control, investigate financial frauds; recover and restore properties subject to such fraud; prosecute for causing financial fraud and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Under the said act the term Financial Fraud has been defined as under:

Section 512 – Financial Fraud

Financial frauds means and includes any of the following acts committed by a person or with his connivance, or by his agent, in his dealings with any bank or financial institution or any other entity holding public funds;

1. The suggestion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who does not believe it to be true;

2. The active concealment of a fact by one having knowledge or belief of the fact;

3. A promise made with out any intention of performing it;

4. Any other act fitted to deceive;

5. Any such act or omission as the law specially declares to be fraudulent.
Provided that whoever acquires, possesses or transfers any proceeds of financial fraud or enters into any transaction which is related to proceeds of fraud either directly or indirectly or conceals or aids in the concealment of the proceeds of financial fraud, commits financial fraud.

513(a) – Punishment for Financial Fraud

Whoever commits financial fraud shall be: (a) Punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term, which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.

(b)Whoever commits serious financial fraud shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years but shall not be less than five years and shall also be liable for fine up to double the amount involved in such fraud.

Provided that in both (a) and (b) all funds, bank accounts and properties acquired using such funds subjected to the financial fraud as may reasonably be attributed by the investigating agency shall be recovered and restored to the rightful owner according to the procedure established by law.

CONCLUSION

The Indian Banking Industry has undergone tremendous growth since nationalization of 14 banks in the year 1969. There has an almost eight times increase in the bank branches from about 8000 during 1969 to mote than 60,000 belonging to 289 commercial banks, of which 66 banks are in private sector.

It was the result of two successive Committees on Computerization (Rangarajan Committee) that set the tone for computerization in India. While the first committee drew the blue print in 1983-84 for the mechanization and computerization in banking industry, the second committee set up in 1989 paved the way for integrated use of telecommunications and computers for applying technogical breakthroughs in banking sector.

However, with the spread of banking and banks, frauds have been on a constant increase. It could be a natural corollary to increase in the number of customers who are using banks these days. In the year 2000 alone we have lost Rs 673 crores in as many as 3,072 number of fraud cases. These are only reported figures. Though, this is 0.075% of Rs 8,96,696 crores of total deposits and 0.15% of Rs 4,44,125 crores of loans & advances, there are any numbers of cases that are not reported. There were nearly 65,800 bank branches of a total of 295 commercial banks in India as on June 30, 2001 reporting a total of nearly 3,072 bank fraud cases. This makes nearly 10.4 frauds per bank and roughly 0.47 frauds per branch.

An Expert Committee on Bank Frauds (Chairman: Dr.N.L.Mitra) submitted its Report to RBI in September 2001. The Committee examined and suggested both the preventive and curative aspects of bank frauds.

The important recommendations of the Committee include:

o A need for including financial fraud as a criminal offence;

o Amendments to the IPC by including a new chapter on financial fraud;

o Amendments to the Evidence Act to shift the burden of proof on the accused person;

o Special provision in the Cr. PC for properties involved in the Financial Fraud.

o Confiscating unlawful gains; and preventive measures including the development of Best Code Procedures by banks and financial institutions.

Thus it can be concluded that following measures should necessarily be adopted by the Ministry of Finance in order to reduce cases of Fraud.

o There must be a Special Court to try financial fraud cases of serious nature.

o The law should provide separate structural and recovery procedure. Every bank must have a domestic enquiry officer to enquire about the civil dimension of fraud.

o A fraud involving an amount of ten crore of rupees and above may be considered serious and be tried in the Special Court.

The Twenty-ninth Report of the Law Commission had dealt some categories of crimes one of which is “offences calculated to prevent and obstruct the economic development of the country and endanger its economic health.” Offences relating to Banking Fraud will fall under this category. The most important feature of such offences is that ordinarily they do not involve an individual direct victim. They are punishable because they harm the whole society. It is clear that money involved in Bank belongs to public. They deposit there whole life’ security in Banks and in case of Dacoity or Robbery in banks the public will be al lost. Thus it is important that sufficient efforts should be taken in this regard.

There exists a new kind of threat in cyber world. Writers are referring it as “Salami Attack” under this a special software is used for transferring the amount from the account of the individual. Hence the culprits of such crimes should be found quickly and should be given strict punishment. Moreover there is requirement of more number of IT professionals who will help in finding a solution against all these security threats.

ENTREPRENEURIAL CHALLENGES – The Case of Royal Bank Zimbabwe Ltd

Industry Shake-up

In December 2003 Mzwimbi went on a well deserved family vacation to the United States, satisfied with the progress and confident that his sprawling empire was on a solid footing. However a call from a business magnate in January 2004 alerted him to what was termed a looming shake- up in the financial services sector. It appears that the incoming governor had confided in a few close colleagues and acquaintances about his plans. This confirmed to Mzwimbi the fears that were arising as RBZ refused to accommodate banks which had liquidity challenges.

The last two months of 2003 saw interest rates soar close to 900% p.a., with the RBZ watching helplessly. The RBZ had the tools and capacity to control these rates but nothing was done to ease the situation. This hiking of interest rates wiped out nearly all the bank’s income made within the year. Bankers normally rely on treasury bills (TBs) since they are easily tradable. Their yield had been good until the interest rates skyrocketed. Consequently bankers were now borrowing at higher interest rates than the treasury bills could cover. Bankers were put in the uncomfortable position of borrowing expensive money and on-lending it cheaply. An example at Royal Bank was an entrepreneur who borrowed $120 million in December 2003, which by March 2004 had ballooned to $500 million due to the excessive rates. Although the cost of funds was now at 900% p.a., Royal Bank had just increased its interest rates to only 400% p.a, meaning that it was funding the client’s shortfall. However this client could not pay it and just returned the $120 million and demonstrated that he had no capacity to pay back the $400 million interest charge. Most bankers accepted this anomaly because they thought it was a temporary dysfunction perpetuated by the inability of an acting governor to make bold decisions. Bankers believed that once a substantive governor was sworn in he would control the interest rates. Much to their dismay, on assuming the governorship Dr. Gono left the rates untamed and hence the situation worsened. This scenario continued up to August 2004, causing considerable strain on entrepreneurial bankers.

On reflection, some bankers feel that the central bank deliberately hiked the interest rates, as this would allow it to restructure the financial services sector. They argue that during the cash crisis of the last half of 2003, bank CEOs would meet often with the RBZ in an effort to find solutions to the crisis. Retrospectively they claim that there is evidence indicating that the current governor though not appointed yet was already in control of the RBZ operations during that time period and was thus responsible for the untenable interest rate regime.

In January 2004, after his vacation, Mzwimbi was informed by the RBZ that Royal had been accommodated for $2 billion on the 28th of December 2003. The Central Bank wanted to know whether this accommodation should be formalised and placed into the newly created Troubled Bank Fund. However, this was expensive money both in terms of the interest rates and also in terms of the conditions and terms of the loan. At Trust Bank, access to this facility had already given the Central Bank the right to force out the top executives, restructure the Board and virtually take over the management of the bank.

Royal Bank turned down the offer and used deposits to pay off the money. However the interest rates did not come down.

During the first quarter of 2004 Trust Bank, Barbican bank and Intermarket Bank were identified as distressed and put under severe corrective orders by the Central Bank.

Royal Assault

Royal Bank remained stable until March 2004. People who had their funds locked up in Intermarket Bank withdrew huge sums of funds from Royal Bank while others were moving to foreign owned banks as the perception created by Central Bank was read by the market to mean that entrepreneurial bankers were fraudsters.

Others withdrew their money on the basis that if financial behemoths like Intermarket can sink, then it could happen to any other indigenously controlled bank. Royal Bank had an advantage that in the smaller towns it was the only bank, so people had no choice. However even in this scenario there were no stable deposits as people kept their funds moving to avoid being caught unawares. For example in one week Royal Bank had withdrawals of over $40 billion but weathered the storm without recourse to Central Bank accommodation.

At this time, newspaper reports indicating some leakage of confidential information started appearing. When confronted, one public paper reporter confided that the information was being supplied to them by the Central Bank. These reports were aimed at causing panic withdrawals and hence exposing banks to depositor flight.

Statutory Reserves

In March 2004, at the point of significant vulnerability, Royal Bank received a letter from RBZ cancelling the exemption from statutory reserve requirements. Statutory reserves are funds, (making up a certain percentage of their total deposits), banks are required to deposit with the Central Bank, at no interest.

When Royal Bank began operations, Mzwimbi applied to the Central Bank – then under Dr Tsumba, for foreign currency to pay for supplies, software and technology infrastructure. No foreign currency could be availed but instead Royal Bank was exempted from paying statutory reserves for one year, thus releasing funds which Royal could use to acquire foreign currency and purchase the needed resources. This was a normal procedure and practice of the Central Bank, which had been made available to other banking institutions as well. This would also enhance the bank’s liquidity position.

Even investors are sometimes offered tax exemptions to encourage and promote investments in any industry. This exemption was delayed due to bungling in the Banking Supervision and Surveillance Department of the RBZ and was thus only implemented a year later, consequently it would run from May 2003 until May 2004. The premature cancellation of this exemption caught Royal Bank by surprise as its cash flow projections had been based on these commencing in May 2004.

When the RBZ insisted, Royal Bank calculated the statutory reserves and noted that, due to a decline in its deposits, it was not eligible for the payment of statutory reserves at that time. When the bank submitted its returns with zero statutory reserves, the Central Bank claimed that the bank was now due for the whole statutory reserve since inception. In effect this was not being treated as a statutory reserve exemption but more as a penalty for evading statutory reserves. Royal Bank appealed. There were conflicting opinions between the Bank Supervision and Capital Markets divisions on the issue as Bank Supervision conceded to the validity of Royal’s position. However Capital Markets insisted that it had instructions from the top to recall the full amount of $23 billion. This was forced onto Royal Bank and transferred without consent to the Troubled Banks Fund at exorbitant rates of 450% p. a.

FML Saga

When FML was demutualising, the executives were concerned about the possibility of being swallowed by its huge strategic partner, Trust Holdings. FML approached Royal Bank and other banks to act as buffers. The agreement was that FML would fund the deal by placing funds with Royal Bank so that Royal would not fund it from its balance sheet.

Consequently FML would leave the deposits with Royal Bank for the tenor of the loan. The deal was consummated through Regal Asset Managers and was to mature in December 2004, at which time it was anticipated that the share price of First Mutual would have blossomed, allowing Royal Bank to harvest its investment and exit profitably. The deal resulted in Regal Asset Managers owning 57 million FML shares. Royal Bank gave FML some securities in the form of treasury bills as collateral for the deposit.

The Reserve Bank and the curator wrote off this investment because at that time FML was suspended at the ZSE. However the fact that it was suspended did not invalidate its value. Recent events have shown that this investment has generated huge capital value for Regal Asset Managers as the ZSE rebounded. Yet the curator valued this investment negatively. Around March 2004 there had been a contagion effect at FML due to the challenges at Trust Bank. This resulted in the forced departure of the FML CEO and chairman. FML was suspended from the local bourse as investigations into the financing structure of Capital Alliance’s acquisition were carried out. Because of the pressure brought to bear on FML, it wanted to withdraw the deposits held by Royal Bank, contrary to the agreement. FML could not locate and return the treasury bills that had been provided as collateral by Royal. Royal Bank suspected that these had been placed with ENG, another asset management company which collapsed in December 2003. A public row broke out. Royal Bank executives sought counsel from Renaissance Merchant Bank, which had brokered the deal, and the Chairman of the ZSE, who both agreed with Royal that the deal was legitimate and FML had to honour the agreement. At this stage FML sought court intervention in an attempt to force Royal Bank into liquidation. Even the curator contested the FML position resulting in his taking it for arbitration. Royal’s position remained that if FML fails to return the securities then it will not get the funds.

Royal bank directors claimed political interference on the issue. The Royal Bank executives believe that the governor, against his better judgment, decided to act against Royal Bank under the pretext of the political pressure. In retrospect, the political support for cracking the whip at Royal gave credence to the rumour that the governor had an underlying agenda in taking Royal and merging it into ZABG because of its strong branch network.

Royal Bank had been warned by friendly RBZ insiders that if it ever accessed the Troubled Bank Fund it would be in trouble, so it sought to avoid this at all costs.

However on 4th August 2004, Royal was served with papers that effectively placed it under the curator. Interestingly, the curator’s contract was signed two days earlier. Until this time no depositor had ever failed to withdraw his deposits from Royal Bank.

The lack of credibility of the Reserve Bank in handling this case is exposed when one considers that some banks were given more than eight months to stabilise under curators, e.g. Intermarket and CFX Banks, and were able to recover. But Royal and Trust Bank were under the curator for less than two months before being amalgamated. The press raised concerns about the curators assuming the role of undertaker rather than nurse, and hence burying these banks.This seemed to confirm the possibility of a hidden agenda on the part of the Central Bank.

Victor Chando

Chando was an excellent financial engineer who set up Victory Financial Services after a stint with MBCA. He had been the brains behind the setting up of the predecessor of Century Discount House which he later sold to Century Holdings. Royal Bank initially had an interest in discount houses and so at inception had included Victor as a significant shareholder. He later acquired Barnfords Securities which Royal intended to bring in-house.

Victory Financial Services was involved in foreign currency dealings, using offshore companies that bought free funds from Zimbabweans abroad and purchased raw materials for Zimbabwean corporations. One such deal with National Foods went sour and the MD reported it to the Central Bank. On investigations the deal was found to be clean but the RBZ went ahead to publish that he was involved in illegal foreign currency transactions and linked this to Royal Bank. However this was a transaction done by a shareholder as an account holder, in which the bank had no interest. What confused matters, was that Victory Financial Services was housed in the same building as Royal Bank.

After failing to nail Chando to any criminal charges, the Central Bank issued an order for Royal Bank to force him out as a shareholder and board member. It is ridiculous that the Central Bank would vet who is a shareholder or not in banks – particularly when the people had no criminal records.

Negotiations with OPEC were underway for it to take over Chando’s shareholding. The Reserve Bank was aware of these developments. OPEC would then help in the recapitalisation as well as open up lines of credit for the bank.

The Arrest

In September 2004 the executive directors of Royal Bank, Mzwimbi and Durajadi, were arrested on five allegations of fraudulently prejudicing the bank. One of the charges was that they fraudulently used depositors’ funds to recapitalise the bank.

Three of the charges after police investigations were dropped, as they were not true. The two remaining charges were:

a) a conflict of interest on loans that were made available to the directors. The RBZ alleges that they did not disclose their interests when companies controlled by them accessed loans at concessionary rates from the bank. However the enterprising bankers dispute these charges, as they claim the Board minutes prove that this interest was disclosed. Even the annual financial statements of the bank acknowledge that they accessed loans as part of their employment contract with the bank.

b) money was owed to Finsreal Asset Management. However Mzwimbi argues that Finsreal actually owes them money and not the other way round. Royal Bank shareholders needed to inject money for recapitalisation of the bank and were requested to deposit their funds with Finsreal Asset Management. Since some had not paid their portion of the recapitalisation by the due date, Royal Financial Holdings, which had an account with Finsreal, paid the money on behalf of the shareholders – who were then indebted to Royal Financial Holdings. Somehow the RBZ confused this transaction as the bank’s funds and therefore accused the

shareholders of using depositors’ funds to recapitalise.

By retrospectively analysing the court case wherein the Royal Bank executive directors are accused of defrauding the bank it appears that the RBZ created a falsehood in order to frustrate the bankers. The curator who initially refused to take a stand before the RBZ appointed Independent Appeal, has in court clearly testified that no monies were stolen from the bank by the directors and that the curator did not (contrary to RBZ assertions) recommend charges against the bankers. In January 2007 the former executive directors of Royal Bank were acquitted by the High Court on the remaining criminal charges after the prosecution failed to present a convincing argument.

Royal Bank assets were sold by the curator to ZABG barely two months after being placed under the curator, without any audited financial statements. The speed at which an agreement of sale was reached is astonishing. The owners of Royal Bank went to court and, after a protracted legal struggle, the court ruled that the assets were sold illegally and hence the sale was “illegal and of no force or effect and therefore null and void”. The court then directed that the owners should appeal to the Central Bank for a determination of the actions of the curators. The Central Bank begrudgingly set up an “independent panel” to adjudicate the case. Strangely ZABG continued to trade on the illegal assets.

The panel advised that the appeal by Royal bank be rejected as it would be difficult to disentangle it from ZABG. They also cited the fact that ZABG had some contractual obligations with third parties who may not want to do business with Royal bank. This strange ruling fails to explain why these considerations were not made when the amalgamation was done. The ruling also redefined the agreements between the curator of Royal bank and ZABG as not being an “agreement of sale” even though the parties which entered into the agreement clearly intended it to be viewed as such. This was a way of circumventing the Supreme Court ruling that the agreement of sale was null and void.

But the panel did not explain how this disposal of the assets should be considered if it was not a sale.

Consequently the major shareholders of Royal appealed to the Minister of Finance who upheld the RBZ decision. Mzwimbi and his colleagues have therefore appealed to the courts. In the meanwhile there was a failed attempt to sell the disputed assets by ZABG despite the outstanding legal challenge. Just ice delayed is justice denied.

Mzwimbi and his team have been denied access to all bank records and yet are expected to defend themselves. As he characteristically puts it, “We are going into this fight blind folded and our hands bound, while fighting someone who has armour and a sword.”

Around 2002-3 there were press reports indicating that the ruling party/state wanted to have a stake in the profitable banking sector. A minister of government at the time of the arrest confirmed this to Mzwimbi and his team. Another bank, NMB, had allegedly been assaulted and the major shareholders were told to dispose of their shareholdings to certain politically connected persons. They refused and had to leave the country after some trumped up charges were preferred against them. Unfortunately, the governor faced resistance and the politicians distanced themselves. One indigenous banker reported how he was summoned to the Central Bank governor’s office and informed that he should leave the country, as his bank would be closed. This banker credits Royal Bank’s resistance to being manipulated as the reason why his own bank survived. The bank was placed under curatorship on 4th August 2004. Mzwimbi had secured potential investors for the recapitalisation of the bank just before the deadline of 30th September 2004. Three days before that deadline, Mzwimbi met the curator and explained in detail the position for the recapitalisation exercise. Investors who had shown interest and were in advanced negotiations were OPEC, Fidelity Insurance and some South African investors. He further asked the curator to request the Central Bank for an extension of about a week. The very next day he was arrested on the pretext that he was about to leave the country. Mzwimbi and his team believe that his arrest at that critical stage was meant to intimidate the would-be investors and result in the failure to recapitalise. This lends credence to the view that the decision to acquire the bank and amalgamate it in ZABG had already been made. The recapitalisation would have scuppered these plans. Notably, other banks were given an extension to regularise their recapitalisation plans.

Shakeman Mugari reported that the central bank has in principle agreed to enter into a scheme of arrangement with Royal, Trust and Barbican banks which could see the final resolution of this issue. He argues that the central bank disregarded the value of securities that the banks had pledged to the central bank for the loans. If these are factored in, then the bank shareholders have some significant value within ZABG. If this scheme had been consummated it would have protected RBZ officials from being sued in their personal capacity for the loss of value to shareholders. From the article it appears like a memorandum of agreement had been signed to effect a reduction of Allied Financial Services’ share in ZABG while the former banks’ shareholders will take up their share in proportion to the value of their assets. This seems to indicate that the central bank has noted a weakness in its arguments.

If this proves true Royal Bank could regain a fairly big stake of ZABG due to its assets which included the real estate and its paper assets which had been undervalued.

The legal hassles show that entrepreneurs in volatile environments face unnecessary political and legal challenges. The rule of law in these countries is sometimes nonexistent. The legislative and political environments, instead of supporting investors, pose serious challenges to entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs in these environments have to assess the associated risk in setting up their enterprises. However a new breed of entrepreneurs who do not fear the vicissitudes of political interference is making a difference. Entrepreneurs recognise that the environment is a constraint but can be manipulated until worthwhile opportunities are exploited for commercial value. These entrepreneurs choose not to be victims of the environment.
Assault on Entrepreneurs’ Character

The information asymmetry whereby the Central Bank played its case in the public press while the accused bankers had no right of response created a false impression, in the minds of the populace, of entrepreneurs being greedy and unscrupulous.

The Central Bank accused Jeff Mzwimbi and Durajadi Simba of siphoning funds from the bank. An example appeared in a press article in which it was alleged that the sale of Barclays Bank branches to Royal Bank was annulled and the refunded funds were remitted to Mzwimbi and Durajadi at Finsreal Asset Managers and not Royal Bank’s account. This was a clear case of deliberate misinformation as the Central Bank was aware of the truth. Royal Bank had included the purchase of the Bulawayo Barclays Bank branch building which Barclays Bank would lease a portion of from Royal Bank. When Royal Bank fell short at the Interbank Clearing House, it renegotiated with Barclays. This was after Royal was threatened that if it did not clear this amount it would be placed into the Troubled Bank Fund – which carried severe penalties.

The result was that Barclays refunded the amount paying it directly to Royal’s Central Bank account. The RBZ acknowledged receiving these funds. How can they now accuse the founding shareholders of siphoning the same funds which went directly to the RBZ account? Mzwimbi insists that Barclays can easily testify to this.

The RBZ also alleged that Mzwimbi and Durajadi withheld information from their CVs on application for the bank licence and hence questioned their integrity. They claimed that Mzwimbi withheld information on his involvement with a failed bank, UMB. But the business plan for Royal Bank which was filed with RBZ clearly states this involvement. The Central Bank would have these records anyway. They also queried Durajadi’s source of funds and cast aspersions on the net worth statement. Yet Durajadi had been involved in Zimbabwe Trust and a transport business with his brother, which gave him sufficient net worth value.

The RBZ contends that the Board of Royal Bank failed to comply with a directive to recapitalise by 29th July 2004. Royal Bank executives and Board state categorically that they never received this directive. Mzwimbi and his team argue that this is misinformation, as all banks were required to have recapitalised by 30th September 2004.

The regulators also allege that the balance sheet of Royal Bank had a deficit of $140 billion, which the bankers dispute. If one were to consider the disputed $23 billion for statutory reserves and the $20 billion as accommodation from the clearing house, this would amount to $77 billion with interests. However with the undervaluing of the assets and the $160 billion which was written off as uncollectible, there would be no negative balance sheet. The contention of the Royal Executives is that the curator, at the behest of the Reserve Bank, deliberately tampered with the accounts to provide a reason for the take-over. This may be validated by the fact that the curator’s balance sheet kept changing whenever he was challenged and he increased the write-offs, even of funds that had since been collected. Since Royal and Trust Banks were amalgamated into ZABG, the bank is still profitable, without any recapitalisation having been carried out. The very fact that this new amalgamated bank can operate for this long from insolvent banks’ capital without recapitalising lends credence to the argument of the Royal Bank’s owners.

The entrepreneurs contend that they were dealing with a Central Bank which was determined to see them sink and not to protect the integrity of the banking system. This environment was not conducive to survival and it amplified normal weaknesses which could have been resolved in the course of normal business.

Entrepreneurial Determination

Mzwimbi and his colleagues refused to give up under challenging situations. Despite intimidation they took the Central Bank to court and refused to budge until justice was done. They were presented with numerous opportunities to quit the country but would not.

It is reported that they have not given up on their dream. They have set up Royal Financial Services in Kenya, despite the challenges in Zimbabwe. Indeed a sign of perseverance. Press reports indicated that they are in negotiations with Trust Bank so that once they win their case they can merge and continue their operations in Zimbabwe. Trust did not confirm or deny this. The more likely scenario however is that both Trust and Royal could reach a compromise with the central bank resulting in them taking up equity in ZABG subject to an independent revaluation exercise of the assets which were taken over.

Entrepreneurial Principles

The entrepreneurial journey is fraught with risk but can be very rewarding. Some lessons that can be learned from the case study are as follows:

• Entrepreneurs take calculated risk. Mzwimbi did not use all his resources in the bank but left his shareholding in Econet intact. He also sought to diversify his wealth by keeping some investments with FML and Screen Litho. This has been the mainstay of his wealth creation strategy. The disaster that befell the bank did not completely wipe him out because of this prudent investment strategy.

• Entrepreneurs learn from their experiences. Mzwimbi’s vast experiences taught him critical lessons. His international banking experience enabled him to see the emerging trends as Barclays and Standard Chartered withdrew from country towns, creating a route for his entry strategy. His work with Econet taught him perseverance as he and his colleagues fought legal battles with government for the award of the licence. Little did he know that this was just training ground for the battle of his life – the battle for Royal Bank.

• Entrepreneurs need to continuously scan the environment for threats and opportunities. Whereas Mzwimbi and his team were good at noticing the emerging positive trends in the environment at inception, they failed to pick the changes in the regulatory environment when the new governor came on board.

• Entrepreneurial strategy emerges and therefore entrepreneurs should be flexible. Although Royal Bank had a plan to grow at a steady pace, when the opportunity arose to acquire other branches cheaply the entrepreneurs seized the opportunity.

• Entrepreneurs are faced with credibility challenges as customers, regulators and suppliers test the credibility of newcomers. Royal Bank minimised this by recruiting experienced and well known personnel in the market. However the lack of institutional shareholders led to credibility gaps with some corporate clients.

• Entrepreneurs need to craft into their organisations both managerial and leadership competences to ensure both the ability to exploit opportunities (entrepreneurial activity) and sustainable company performance (strategic management). The more contemporary view of entrepreneurship transcends just the venture creation and now encompasses strategic growth. Although Mzwimbi was an excellent leader he needed a strong and powerful manager to consolidate the gains and create solid systems to sustain the rapid growth. Leaders thrive on change while managers thrive on handling complexity and creating order.

• Business is built on relationships as these help in the scanning of the operating environment e.g. critical information about opportunities and threats was obtained from close relationships