26 September 2016
Reporter: Becky Butcher

Sibos: Not innovating would be criminal

Banks should not see the threat of cyber crime as a reason to shy away from innovation but rather as an incentive to develop financial technology further, Gottfried Leibbrandt, CEO of SWIFT, told attendees at Sibos 2016 in Geneva.

Speaking in the opening plenary session, Leibbrandt named three key topics of the conference as security, financial crime compliance and global payments.

With regards to cyber crime, he noted that it is no coincidence that the threat has increased at the same time as major innovation in the industry. The so-called ‘internet of things’ has led to a “breeding ground” for cyber crime, including fraud and espionage.

However, Leibbrandt described this threat as a ‘disease’ comparable to those that emerged, and quickly spread, when humans first settled in cities en masse.

These early city dwellers “changed an existential threat into a manageable nuisance”, he said. Banks must treat cyber crime in the same way, stepping up innovation in order to protect themselves and the industry.

Leibbrandt outline three parts to minimising the threat: first, banks need to make sure their own environment is secure, maintaining “basic hygiene” of secure passwords and maintaining up-to-date virus protection software.

Second, when deadline with counterparties these basic steps are important but not sufficient, and banks must be prepared to manage those relationship with maximum transparency.

Finally, the community as a whole must “share and prepare” to make information available to others within the global business, to ensure that others can prepare for similar style attacks.

Stressing that “we have to move forwards” rather than turn back the clock on innovation, Leibbrandt noted that fintech is transforming the landscape, and technology is being developed for combatting cybercrime.

He warned, however, that fintech start-ups could “eat our lunch” unless banks innovate themselves.

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