NGO says regulators can't stop high-tech fraudsters by themselves

  • Regulators scramble to catch up with fast-paced financial innovations and need help from the banking and fintech sectors, said Anselmo Teng, an NGO official and former chairman of the Macau Monetary Authority.
  • Hong-Kong based NGO seeks to identify threats to worldwide financial security such as money laundering, illicit transfers and terrorist funding,

Regulators are behind the curve in the fight against cybercrime in the digital economy and can't stop high-tech fraudsters alone, says an NGO official and former chairman of the Monetary Authority of Macau.

"The challenge for financial stability is huge, not just (for) any particular country, but also regionally and globally," Anselmo Teng, co-chair of the Alliance for Financial Stability with Information Technology (AFS-IT), told CNBC at the East Tech West in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China.

"Regulators worldwide have to do something about it, but they can't do it alone," Teng said. "They have to work with the industry, the banking sector as well as the technology companies, to come up with good solutions to address this problem."

Cybercriminals exploit new openings as regulators scramble to keep up with financial innovations such as digital payments and robotics in the fund management industry. But Teng is hopeful about growing efforts to protect worldwide financial security.

"At some point in time, it (became) generally regarded that regulators are behind the financial innovation developments," Teng said. "They have been since catching up with this problem."

As an example, he points to an AFS-IT international forum held in Hong Kong in May that bought together leaders from fintech, the banking sector and government regulators, leading to the creation of a workgroup to raise digital KYC (Know Your Customer) standards and develop other safeguards.

"They are open to what the tech firms will say about compliance requirements or regulatory requirements when they develop products on their own or in cooperation with financial institutions," Teng said. "That's a very positive note."

Created in March, AFS-IT is a Hong Kong-based NGO that identifies threats to such as money laundering, illicit transfers and terrorist funding, according to its official website.

"We only started in March this year; we have to move things step-by-step. But instead of just focusing locally, we moved to the region — at least to start with the Asian countries," he said.

Ultimately, cybercrime is a crossborder challenge that demands a global set of protocols for all regulators to follow, Teng said.