19 November 2021

Absa’s Financial Crime expert talks risk, counter fraud and how you can remain protected

“The nightmare of a fraud attack is enough to keep any Head of FinCrime up at night.” – Collin Dubignon, Head of Financial Crime, Absa Bank Seychelles

Why should we care about fraud? Fraud costs billions in damages to companies, governments and individuals each year.

It also severely affects the quality of life of its victims resulting in job losses, the loss of savings and investments, weakened trust in public institutions and a significant strain on resources.

As part of Fraud Awareness Week 2021, Collin Dubignon, Head of Financial Crime at Absa Bank Seychelles talks about his time in the field and why the world of counter fraud is becoming more relevant for every financial institution in the post COVID era.

How long have you worked at Absa Bank Seychelles and what are the responsibilities of your current title?

I’ve been with the bank since 2008, so close to 14 years now and held many positions within the Operations function. These include Payments, Governance and Control, Fraud Management and my current position as Head of Financial Crime.

What exactly does a Head of Financial Crime at Absa Seychelles do?

Well, I’m currently in charge of five portfolios that includes Business Continuity Management, Physical Security, Forensic Investigations, Financial Crime and Fraud Management.

My role is to direct and improve the design and execution of key portfolios that support Anti Money Laundering, Sanctions, Anti Bribery and Corruption and Fraud Risk Management across the bank.

So effectively, what I do is provide expertise on financial crime and fraud management. This means overseeing the establishment of fraud processes, procedures and controls, carrying out best practices in the industry as well as representing the Absa Seychelles Fraud team and our mission across the business.

Being the Head of Financial Crime also means I have to remain updated on the latest industry trends and emerging fraud threats.

What is a normal day like for you?

I’m not quite sure there’s a normal day as the Head of Financial Crime and that’s why I love what I do! Despite planning my day ahead of time - I always need to be prepared for unexpected.

The first hour of my day usually consists of me checking in with my team for any important issues that would require urgent attention.

That’s when we usually discuss any unusual or suspicious transactions or non-compliance matters that come up. I could be in the office attending an important meeting one moment, and the next, in the middle of handling a fraud matter.

Despite the hectic days, we make sure that our guard is never down and every day means giving attention to details.

How do you stay organised? What tasks do you prioritise?

What I’ve found when faced with challenging work, is focusing on one item at a time rather than trying to do too many things at once. Priorities also change throughout the day and I often have to reassess my goals.

Work calendars and planners have become an essential part of my day. It helps immensely with the tracking and reporting process. Schedules and deadlines make my job easier and a big part of my responsibility is to delegate tasks to my team.  I don’t like procrastination. I think what is more effective is prioritising work based on importance and urgency. Always consider effort, constantly review and be realistic above all.

What keeps you up at night or worries you the most about your job?

Fraud keeps me up at night.

It’s always a hot topic and the exposure is real in almost any industry. Fraudsters are evolving and constantly discovering new methods of acquiring a personal gain.

The nightmare of a fraud attack is enough to keep any Head of FinCrime up at night. Knowing that we have some of the best systems in place to protect against common fraud helps me rest a little a little easier.

What keeps me hopeful about my job is that there are still people on the frontline of the fight against fraud. Banks like Absa Seychelles know the importance of educating their customers and the public on how to spot financial fraud.

Fraud Awareness Week is the perfect medium to get this message across and this entire week the bank is posting Fraud Awareness messages and tips on social media to help us spread the message.

How is technology currently being used to fight fraud?

This is a pretty cool topic especially in light that Absa Seychelles is the leading Seychellois bank in technology.

Nowadays when fraud is suspected, AI (Artificial Intelligence) apps can be used to flag transactions for further investigation.

These AI models are instrumental in helping banks improve their internal security and speed up fraud detection in real-time.

The AI also learns from the analyst and when suspicious transactions are detected, also learns to avoid trends that do not necessarily lead to fraud. The machine learning is used to analyse and predict behaviours at a granular level of a transaction and this leads to a bigger picture of what is actually happening, making fraud detection faster and easier.

What advice can you give our customers to prevent them from falling into fraud traps?

What you need to remember at all times is to keep your personal details secure and NEVER share them with anyone.

We don’t often think much about this in Seychelles but it’s really important to be mindful of how much personal information you share on social media. Fraudsters are getting bolder and even in a fairly unaffected country like ours, your information can be used in identity theft.

Always look out for security tips shared by your bank over social media, leaflets and posters and for those who enjoy online shopping, be sure of the authenticity of the websites you visit before entering your card details.

If your information has been leaked and you think you are at risk, contact your bank immediately. They are there to advise you and tell you what you can do in this situation.

Keeping an eye on your bank account will allow you to quickly identify any suspicious transactions and alert your bank immediately.

These tips don’t guarantee that you will never be a victim of financial fraud but what they will do is make you more aware of it and help you avoid major financial losses.