12 June 2017
Athens, Greece

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017

BF Greece 2017 – Securing the future

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017The first SWIFT Business Forum in Greece took place at the Hilton Hotel Athens and attracted more than 200 senior member of the Greek financial industry. Under the theme “Securing the future,” the agenda for the day covered a wide range of topics including Greece’s economic outlook, the evolution of the European payments market, financial crime compliance and cyber-security.

Opening the forum, Erika Toso, Head of South East Europe, SWIFT, told delegates that the day was all about them, about their community and about finding common solutions to common challenges. “We are living a unique moment in history. We are shaking up the way we do business, sources of revenue are changing, regulation is at an all-time high and new entrants are coming in to challenge the way things are done,” she said.

Competing in a digital economy

The opening keynote speech was delivered by Markos Zachariadis, Assistant Professor of Management & Information Systems, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, who spoke about the digital transformation journey in the financial industry. Zachariadis explained that while many other sectors (telecommunications, film, hotels, transport…), the transformation of the banking sector is now and we are living through it. After running through the main drivers of change in financial services,  Zachariadis cited SWIFT as a paradigm of how technology was introduced in a particular area and completely revolutionised the banking sector as it moved from the use of telex to a secure network that was automated, standardised and where manual intervention was reduced to a bare minimum for exception handling. The success of this model then led to the evolution of SWIFT over time, and the growth rates that it has seen over the past 40 years.

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017He went on to speak about how banks can create a competitive advantage once everyone has reached the same levels of automation. “By delivering a better user experience, for example, by creating valuable content. Where Apple and the iPhone got it right is that they managed to create a huge amount of content that other brands such as Blackberry and Nokia couldn’t create,” he said. “So what is it that makes platforms so outstanding? A platform is a business model that creates value by creating interaction between external producers and consumers. The platform is the core, it sits in the middle and it reduces the friction in the buying and selling. It needs an open infrastructure with a set governance structure. It enables fast growth by eliminating gatekeepers, unlocks new sources of value creation and supply and creates economies of scope rather than scale. And the greater the value created, the larger a network grows and the better your platform curation can become given the amount of data that you are able to collect.”

Zachariadis said that PSD2 is leading the banking sector in the direction of the bank as a platform. “The idea is that you have a bank, a solid infrastructure with a resilient core, reliable technology and high security, a banking licence, customers, the right compliance controls and so on. With all of that you can then rely on others to add value to your platform,” he said. “Banks already have full banking licences allowing them to operate in different jurisdictions. They also have trust and brand equity.”

The idea is that you have a bank, a solid infrastructure with a resilient core, reliable technology and high security, a banking licence, customers, the right compliance controls and so on. With all of that you can then rely on others to add value to your platform,” he said. “Banks already have full banking licences allowing them to operate in different jurisdictions. They also have trust and brand equity.

Markos Zachariadis, Assistant Professor of Management & Information Systems, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick

In closing, he quoted Ginny Rometti, CEO of IBM, who said that “Digital is the foundation but NOT the destination… you need to take digital business and add digital intelligence.” Beyond automation and even digitization there is cognitive and the move from automating to “informating” (Zuboff, 1988; The Age of the Smart Machine): leveraging data resources, providing intelligence to customers and creating new products through analytics, artificial intelligence and Machine Learning.

Greece – an economic outlook

The second keynote speech of the day was delivered by Dimitris Malliaropulos, Chief Economist – Director of Economic Analysis and Research at the Bank of Greece. Starting with the big picture, Malliaropulos said that Greece has come a long way since the beginning of the sovereign debt crisis. The primary balance has improved by about 14 percentage points of GDP and last year the government managed to achieve a primary surplus of 4.2% of GDP primary balance. There has also been a decline in current account deficits and labour cost competitiveness has improved and gone back to the levels of 1995. All of this was done, however, by internal devaluation – reducing wages and salaries, he explained. At the same time, exports have increased and the tradeable sector has gained a higher share in the economy, as it has declined less than the non-tradeable sector.

On a less positive note, whilst the recession is over, the Greek economy has been trapped in stagnation since 2014.  “We have faced very strong headwinds,” said Malliaropulos. “The long negotiation of the second review hit the economic climate and hence growth. The second headwind, in 2016, was the fiscal overperformance of 4.2%, which was much higher than the 0.5% target. Cutting expenditure and increasing taxation is at the cost of the real economy. Had the government not achieved this huge surplus, the economy would have grown 2 to 2.5%.”

We have faced very strong headwinds,” said Malliaropulos. “The long negotiation of the second review hit the economic climate and hence growth.

Dimitris Malliaropulos, Chief Economist – Director of Economic Analysis and Research at the Bank of Greece

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017Despite GDP stagnating, the labour market is picking up and has seen employment grow at healthy rates since 2014, driven mainly by higher job mkt flexibility and past structural reforms. Nevertheless, unemployment remains very high at 22.5%, consumers remain pessimistic, disposable income continues to decline, consumers are highly leveraged with loans and most new jobs created are part time.

The banking sector is another weak spot, said Malliaropoulos, with two key issues: liquidity and asset quality. Bank funding conditions are gradually improving, but deleveraging continues and non-performing loans (NPLs) remain the biggest challenge.

Malliaropoulos ended his speech with a summary of the economic outlook for Greece. “In the short term, provided that the second review closes soon, positive momentum is expected to continue over the short and medium term and public consumption and investment are expected to support economic activity in 2017. Part of the fiscal over-performance in 2016 can be used to increase expenditure or reduce taxation and private consumption is expected to rebound modestly, driven by continuing gains in employment. Exports are also expected to increase further, driven by past gains in competitiveness and stronger global growth.” With all of this, and with structural reforms improving growth potential, if the economy can be balanced and steered towards a “new growth model” the long-term outlook is also positive.

The Greek crisis – tremendous success or magnificent failure?

Following Malliaropoulos’ presentation, he was joined on stage by Ilias Lekkos, Chief Economist, Piraeus Bank, Peter Sanfey, Deputy Director, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBDR) and Nikolaos Vettas, Director General, Foundation for Economic & Industrial Research (IOBE) for a panel discussion moderated by journalist Antonios Papayannides.

Vettas was optimistic about Greece’s future. He argued that the Greek crisis has been in some ways a tremendous success, but in others a magnificent failure since it has all happened through a deep recession “But it is not part of the European plan to leave Greece behind,” he stated. “Greece is going to be the success story of next 10-15 years and has the opportunity to become a rising star. I’m optimistic.” 

It is not part of the European plan to leave Greece behind. Greece is going to be the success story of next 10-15 years and has the opportunity to become a rising star. I’m optimistic.

Nikolaos Vettas, Director General, Foundation for Economic & Industrial Research (IOBE)

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017“This government and the next have a very difficult task,” said Vettas, who went on to say that the economy needs to be redirected in a way to become less dependent on the state and more outward looking. Another area for attention is the viability of the political system in a democratic country that does not operate in a normal manner since it has now been years that the Greek government has had no control over fiscal policy, over the banking system and over public enterprises and has hence had no sense of ownership.

Lekkos explained that there are many tensions between the objectives set by the ECB and what would make sense for the government. In the banking industry, for example, banks can’t compete on rates as the rates are set by the ECB for the whole sector. These tensions, however, are not unique to the Greek banking sector.

Sanfey was very encouraged by the levels of optimism, which he also shared. “I think there is reason for optimism,” he said. “We are even more optimistic in the short term than some. We are here at the request of the Greek government to bring investment to the Greek economy to help the recovery. It’s a temporary arrangement. We very much want to be a partner for private sector businesses here. There is a lot of pent up interest in investing in Greece. Some of it hesitant because of all the noise about the second review, but if that can be cleared up I think there will be a healthy increase in investment.” 

SWIFT 2020 – responding to market needs

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017Thierry Chilosi, Head of Pricing and Competition, SWIFT gave delegates an overview of market trends and explained how SWIFT is responding to those trends, with a recap of the cornerstones of the SWIFT 2020 strategy, and details of SWIFT’s priorities for 2017. Talking about market trends and drivers for change, Chilosi talked about evolving societal demands, geopolitical challenges, ever increasing cyber threats, regulatory pressure, technological evolution and competition from new entrants, especially in the payments space.

Moving on to SWIFT’s 2020 strategy, he explained that there are parts of the strategy that are more and less visible to the outside world.  Amongst the more visible initiatives are the Customer Security Programme, the Financial Crime Compliance product portfolio, SWIFT gpi, ISO 20022 and  real-time payments, but what’s under the surface is also extremely important - SWIFT’s core products and services, its undisputed five 9s promise and its unrivalled platform architecture. 

In the last part of his speech, Chilosi focused on SWIFT’s three main priorities for 2017: Security, internal and external; running and growing the business (operational performance, traffic growth) and; innovation and evolving the business (SWIFT gpi, market infrastructures, Financial Crime Compliance). “Security has always been high on our agenda but it has become even more important,” he stated, talking about the Customer Security Programme (CSP), which focuses on five mutually reinforcing strategic initiatives, and three related enablers - communications, community engagement and the development of an assurance framework. 

Security has always been high on our agenda but it has become even more important.

Thierry Chilosi, Head of Pricing and Competition, SWIFT

Financial crime compliance – the challenge of complying with new regulations

The next session focused on the challenges that banks face in complying with new regulation and the unintended consequences that arise from derisking. To debate the topic were Spiros Goumas, Deputy General Manager, Head of Group Compliance, Eurobank Ergasias S.A., Michael Oratis, Group Compliance Officer, Alpha Bank, Nelly Tzakou-Lambropoulou, General manager retail Banking, National Bank of Greece and Nicolas Stuckens, Head of Sanctions Compliance Services, Banking & Compliance Group, SWIFT, who moderated the discussion.

All speakers agreed that derisking can be both a good thing and a bad thing, arguing that it is healthy when banks decide they have taken on more risks than they can manage and have a calculated approach to derisking, but unhealthy when they adopt a machete approach rather than using a scalpel to perform targeted surgery. “Derisking is a market failure,” said Guomas. “We are not succeeding in doing it properly. International trade and finance isn’t promoted by exclusion and the amputation approach is a radical, quick and dirty solution to the problem.”

Derisking is a market failure,” said Guomas. “We are not succeeding in doing it properly. International trade and finance isn’t promoted by exclusion and the amputation approach is a radical, quick and dirty solution to the problem.

Goumas, Deputy General Manager, Head of Group Compliance, Eurobank Ergasias S.A.

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017Tzakou-Lambropoulou explained that increased capital requirements and AML regulations have resulted in derisking, the effects of which can be felt in both Greece and Cyprus. Stuckens added that derisking is pushing some relationships into nesting activity, with money being pushed towards channels that are less controlled, less easy to monitor, and create more risk for the industry. One of the unintended consequences of new regulations is that people who traditionally lack means of identification, such as refugees, who remit money back to their home countries, are very hard to accommodate and are being turned away by the banking industry. So rather than financial inclusion, we have financial exclusion.

Citing a UK study, Goumas stated that the cost of serving a current account has increased from around 80GBP per year to almost 300, due to compliance demands which are a priority for everyone but which are not being approached in a structured way. “When you build a new product, compliance, regulation and risk should be built in from the outset. It has to be a part of standard business processes,” added Tzakou-Lambropoulou.

When you build a new product, compliance, regulation and risk should be built in from the outset. It has to be a part of standard business processes.

Nelly Tzakou-Lambropoulou, General manager retail Banking, National Bank of Greece

 “We are going into unchartered territory,” said Guomas about the risk-based approach that is the first principle of the financial action taskforce. “Cutting down on relationships or having whole countries excluded just because of one incident, ends up with all players in a category being treated in the same way, which does not make sense. You can manage risk if there is truthfulness and transparency. The risk-based approach means that you have to track special categories and relationships over a long period of time. It’s not an easy task.” 

Looking forward, the panellists agreed that if we have learned anything from the past, it is that only through cooperation can we move to the next step. And the people who should foster that cooperation, other than the banks themselves, are the regulators. Credit was given to the Bank of Greece for being very vigilant, very cooperative and very pragmatic and for having done a superb balancing job. The Greek Banking Association has also played a major role in fostering cooperation and bringing the banks together to discuss things in unity. Last but not least, the management teams of the systemic banks have also been critical in supporting the actions of the state and helping all parties reach a point where they can see much better days ahead.

Harnessing new technology for the future of banking

Building on Zachariadis’ keynote speech, the second panel discussion of the day, which was moderated by Paolo Zaccardi, Chief Executive Officer, Kubique, looked at how the banking industry can make the most of new technologies.

Picking up on what Zachariadis had said about “the bank as a platform,” Anestis Petridis, Group Chief Information Officer, Eurobank Ergasias argued that “you need to rethink the way that you interact with your customers and the way that you service their needs. You also need to reach out to the start-ups and couple the approach with a cohesive IT strategy that seeks to reshape infrastructure across all layers.”

Jiannis Delis, General Manager, Group Chief Digital Officer, Piraeus Bank added that in a digital economy, it follows logically that the banks, which play a significant role in the economic cycle, must “get digital” too. “It is natural for banks to be present where the economy evolves and where transactions take place - everywhere that real economic activity happens. We need to identify where the customer need will be. We need to understand our customers’ behaviours and be where we are needed,” he said. 

It is natural for banks to be present where the economy evolves and where transactions take place - everywhere that real economic activity happens. We need to identify where the customer need will be. We need to understand our customers’ behaviours and be where we are needed.

Jiannis Delis, General Manager, Group Chief Digital Officer, Piraeus Bank

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017Elias Gagas, Chief Digital Officer, Payment Components Ltd addressed what he called “the elephant in the room,” PSD2, which he defined as both an opportunity and a threat. “Since it’s a regulation, you might as well forget the threat part and focus on making it an opportunity,” he went on to say. “You need a strategy that is multi-layered and gradually prepare for it. Within the next 2 years the banks will need to be in the PSD2 era of open APIs. So you need to start creating an ecosystem of internal resources, projects and external partners and collaborators and then travel this path. A good number of banks are realising that it’s a serious endeavour and are investing in what needs to be done. Those that are lagging behind either don’t understand the extent of the scope or simply don’t have the resources to do anything about it.”

You need a strategy that is multi-layered and gradually prepare for it. Within the next 2 years the banks will need to be in the PSD2 era of open APIs. So you need to start creating an ecosystem of internal resources, projects and external partners and collaborators and then travel this path.

Elias Gagas, Chief Digital Officer, Payment Components Ltd

The next topic up for discussion was blockchain, or distributed ledger technology (DLT). All panellists agreed that it is unlikely that DLT platforms will become the norm in the financial industry any time soon, but that it is likely that over time, closed DLT platforms will develop, that cater for specific needs and that take advantage of the trust, traceability and immutability of blockchain transactions.  There are, however, still a number of challenges that needs to be overcome, in areas such as standards and interoperability, to name just a couple. “After all the efforts that have gone into integration we do not want the landscape to become more fragmented again,” said Zachariadis.

Referring to his own bank’s strategy, Petridis explained that whilst there are banks that are leading in the DLT area, his bank, which does not currently have the ability to do so, has chosen to be a fast follower and is evaluating a number of use cases in areas such as trade financing automation and KYC brochure digitisation.

Delis described DLT as a “foundational technology” rather than a “disruption of technology’ and likened the take up process to that of TCP IP when it first came to market. “It will take time, foundations will be built and then it will slowly take over. With TCP IP, at first there were very specific uses. This was then followed by localisation between small group of entities sharing common interests to create LANs, then ten years later the www became the standard. And we then moved on to the substitution phase, where amazon replaced bookstores. Now we are in the transformational phase. So it takes years for something that is foundational to establish itself, to be adopted by society, by regulators,” he said.

Gagas added that “we have a clear inflection point moving ahead. Open banking will drive change. Trade financing is a huge market in need of proper digitisation. I would see the consumer side interesting but the bottle neck is the education of the end users. In a retail consumer-based domain, education is the bottleneck in the adoption of any new type of technology.”

Reshaping correspondent banking

The transformation of cross-border payments with SWIFTgpi was next on the agenda, with Toso moderating a conversation between Chilosi and Efi Chatzantoniou, Senior Director Funds Transfer & Central Operations Division, Piraeus Bank.

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017Piraeus bank is one of over 110 banks that have joined the SWIFT gpi service. SWIFT gpi is revolutionising how international payments are made by combining real-time payments tracking with the speed and certainty of same-day settlement. Available since January 2017, more than 20 global transaction banks have begun actively using or implementing the SWIFT gpi service, with another 50 in the implementation pipeline. Hundreds of thousands of gpi payments have already been sent across more than 85 country corridors.

Chatzantoniou explained that there is a clear request from corporates to be offered a cross-border payments service that is faster, more cost effective, more transparent and more convenient. “It is no coincidence that both customers and regulators expect a better payments service. They want to have better cash forecasting and be able to optimise liquidity. Corporates want to be able to focus on their business, and payments are not their business but a means to an end. Today we have to go through complex investigations to track where a payment is and why the beneficiary hasn’t yet received the funds,” she said.

Chilosi supported Chatzantoniou’s points, adding that “The old ‘fire and forget’ approach to payments doesn’t work anymore. The corporates want their cross border payments to improve in the same way as domestic payments. Corporates have problems with reconciliation also, and the fees along the chain are very painful because it creates great inefficiencies. It is extremely important that we innovate now in this area and that we don’t sit around waiting for the next great technology to be ready.”

Explaining why Piraeus is the first Greek bank to join SWIFTgpi, Chatzantoniou said that seeing the gpi tracker was the turning point in her bank’s decision making process. “At Sibos last year in Geneva I had the opportunity to actually see the tracker working and that left no doubt in my mind that gpi is something that we need to do. We need to do something, we need to react and gpi is a must. If you don’t join it it’s like deciding that you are going to get out of the cross-border payments business,” she stated.

We need to do something, we need to react and gpi is a must. If you don’t join it it’s like deciding that you are going to get out of the cross-border payments business.

Efi Chatzantoniou, Senior Director Funds Transfer & Central Operations Division, Piraeus Bank

The challenges of multi-banking for a corporate treasurer

Bringing the customer viewpoint to the fore was a panel discussion on the challenges faced by multi-banked corporates. On stage to debate the topic were: Gianluca Marcolongo, Treasury Manager in the A&F Shared Service Centre of OTB SPA, Jenny Seitanidou, Group Treasury Systems & Projects Manager, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, Patrick Holemans, Treasurer, SWIFT and Helen Sanders, Editor, Treasury Management International, who moderated the panel. 

The conversation started with each panellist explaining the triggers for implementing SWIFT connectivity and the nature of each institution’s connection to SWIFT. Seitanidou explained that her company started off by adopting SAP as a common treasury platform and then moved on to connecting to SWIFT via a service bureau. “It was important for us to standardise, have secure connectivity, and be flexible and quick to adapt. Our set up is now efficient, hands off and standardised and we can focus on the important decisions rather than manual processing,” she said.

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017Marcolongo replied that OTB’s decision to use SWIFT was part of a treasury centralisation process. “We decided to go with SWIFT because it was consistent with our needs and a secure means of transmission. We are using Lite 2 because we decided to keep all payment processes within the group and didn’t want to outsource any of that process,” he stated.

All panellists agreed that using SWIFT to communicate with their banks enables them to do away with having to use multiple systems, security devices and cards and ensures that controls and processes are consistent across the organisation. It also offers them the benefit of being bank independent and makes onboarding easy as there is no need for additional infrastructure.

Looking at how SWIFT is used in practice in a corporate treasury context, Holemans reported that his team uses FileAct for payment factory and direct debit, FIN for high value payments and MT940 for statements. “I am also the guinea pig when it comes to corporate piloting. So I have a dual role in this area,” he added. Seitanidou stated that her company uses SWIFT for a very wide span of activities. “Wherever we have any communication with a bank our preference is always to use SWIFT. We do not use any banking software at all other than as a back-up option,” she explained. “Using SWIFT for direct debit collections is quite a big thing as most banks are not doing that. It was important that we had the right set up of our systems to reduce our costs and increase scope on SWIFT as much as possible. For any new partner that we are in discussions with, discuss with we impose SWIFT and FileAct. So that’s a key criterium in our choice of partner banks,” she said.

For any new partner that we are in discussions with, discuss with we impose SWIFT and FileAct. So that’s a key criterium in our choice of partner banksFor any new partner that we are in discussions with, discuss with we impose SWIFT and FileAct. So that’s a key criterium in our choice of partner banks.

Jenny Seitanidou, Group Treasury Systems & Projects Manager, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company

All three corporates reported great results from having implemented SWIFT. Amongst the benefits, they cited increased operational efficiency, cost efficiency, security, scaleability, transparency and visibility across the payment lifecycle and a very good control environment.

Speaking about plans for the future, Holemans stated that the biggest area of focus for him is security and ensuring that the full treasury chain is completely secure and compliant with SWIFT’s CSP requirements. Marcolongo reported that OTB now plans to extend the use of SWIFT to other countries and to payments on behalf of (POBO). There are also plans to start to use it for trade finance, specifically for the transmission of letters of credit. Lastly, Chatzantoniou said that her priority, after centralising 23 countries in 3 years, is to stabilise the new processes and spend a year reflecting on what more can be optimised and standardised.

To wrap up, the three panellists were asked, based on their experience, to give advice to other companies that are going through similar projects. Holemans argued that project management is extremely important, not only within the corporate but also on the bank side, because some banks are very good at migrating corporates onto SWIFT and others are less good. He also stressed the importance of testing, testing, testing. “Only go live when you are sure that it works perfectly. Since we went live it’s been flawless,” he said.

Marcolongo advised his peers to “have a clear and well organised integration strategy,” whilst Chatzantoniou’s advice was to work backwards. “Look at where you want your treasury to be in a certain amount of time. Then look at what you need to do to get there and work out the fundamentals. For us, SWIFT is one of those fundamentals. Be bold when thinking about changes. Rationalise, keep it well structured, keep it simple and efficient and all the pieces will fall in the right place,” she concluded.

Business Intelligence – using data for strategic decision making

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017Astrid Thorsen, Head of Business Intelligence solutions, SWIFT, delivered a presentation in which she explained how business intelligence can help strategic decision making. Using aggregate SWIFT data, she showed the audience the SWIFT traffic figures for Greece as compared to the rest of the world, explaining that for the last 5 years, Greece has been underperforming vs. worldwide averages and is not yet back to the levels of activity seen before the financial crisis.

Looking at the shorter term, she was able to demonstrate that there has been a pick up in activity over the past 15 months, which is a very positive sign. “Over past 15 months there is a positive trend in terms of transactions sent,” she said. “This is related to imports. The level of exports is also really progressing and payments traffic received has grown by more than 8%.” Going into more detail Thorsen showed that the main correspondent for traffic sent is Germany, followed by the UK, Cyprus and Bulgaria. When it comes to currencies, the Euro represents two thirds of transactions, followed by USD and GBP, which is a very similar pattern to the SWIFT totals. The top ten corridors represent more than 88% of Greek traffic sent, whilst 75% of traffic is within Europe and 25% with the US.

More detail on the top two corridors for Greek traffic reveals that when looking at Germany, it becomes evident that Germany is the ultimate beneficiary for only 25% of the transactions between Greece and Germany, which leads to the conclusion that Greek banks are using Euro clearing banks to reach final beneficiaries that are located in other countries, such as Turkey, for example.  This may indicate a preference to work with a limited number of euro clearing banks. The same analysis for the US shows that only 18% of payments sent to US, remain in the US, which would indicate a strong relationship US clearing banks. The charging details for transactions sent from Greece are mainly on the mainly on the beneficiary side, which is in line with other euro zone countries. But for CAD and AUD, the picture is very different. “Knowing this can help you to negotiate other conditions based on what you know your peers had,” said Thorsen. 

Following a brief description of the Business Intelligence offered by SWIFT and how they can help banks to make strategic decisions, Thorsen concluded her presentation telling the audience that “Business Intelligence be seen as a value added service, but it’s becoming more and more of a licence to operate in your organisations. It’s an important component to grow your business that can be embedded in your business strategy.”

Business Intelligence be seen as a value added service, but it’s becoming more and more of a licence to operate in your organisations. It’s an important component to grow your business that can be embedded in your business strategy.

Astrid Thorsen, Head of Business Intelligence solutions, SWIFT

The challenge of managing cyber risks

Opening the session on cyber security, Alain Drese, Senior Manager, Customer Security Programme – EMEA, SWIFT told the audience that the aim of the discussion was to “worry you rather than scare you, because being worried about cyber crime is the best thing that can happen.” Joining Drese on stage were Robert Goglis, Information Security Division Manager, Alpha Bank, Helen Mavroidis, IT Director, Bank of Greece, Michael Mavroforakis, Director Group IT Governance & CISO, National Bank of Greece and George Papaprodromou, Director Cyber Crime Unit, Hellenic Police.

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017Talking about the number and nature of cyber attacks, Goglis reported that whilst there has definitely an increase in attacks against financial institutions, what is more worrying is how much more focused and sophisticated they have become. “Financial institutions are seen are a lucrative target because that’s where the money is. There has been a shift in the last five years of the quality of the attacks, which aim to extract as much money as possible. So we need to stay proactive and protect ourselves,” he said.  Papaprodromou added that the critical point is the prevention then investigation and that the financial industry needs to build a culture of trust so that it can always stay ahead.

Mavroidis noted that with the move to a connected world and the Internet of Things (IoT), any IP address is a potential point of entry. Also, now that there is a market for cyber crime, and attacks can be purchased, it is likely that the number of attacks will increase exponentially.

Mavroforakis stated that “we have reached the era of malware as a service” and with the exponential increase in the amount of malware being released every single day, traditional anti-virus and anti-malware software isn’t an adequate solution anymore, given the levels of sophistication and intensity.

Moving on to talk about the impact on business of an attack, Mavroidis said that cyber defences need to be holistic, and that whilst prevention is fundamental, it is also crucial that an institution can detect a breach when it does happen, because it does, and have processes and procedures that improve detection and set out what to do when there is a breach.

All panellists agreed that it is critical to have access to information and to increase collaboration within the financial industry. “Technology and security alone cannot work in isolation. You have to collaborate internally and externally. People working together towards a common goal also raises awareness,” said Goglis, who also praised the Greek regulators for having mandated a series of actions that have enabled the banks to stay ahead of the game. He then added that the increased level of management and board attention to cyber security is also very welcome.

Technology and security alone cannot work in isolation. You have to collaborate internally and externally. People working together towards a common goal also raises awareness.

Robert Goglis, Information Security Division Manager, Alpha Bank

When it comes to building awareness, there was a consensus that it is essential to build a culture of security within the financial industry, with staff playing a fundamental role in the triangle of technology, processes and people. “Cyber security is an ongoing process, it’s constantly evolving, changing and the same must happen on the awareness side. We can’t stand still. Our staff need to face simulated situations that are close enough to reality to be confronted with what they may have to deal with,” said Mavroforakis.

Cyber security is an ongoing process, it’s constantly evolving, changing and the same must happen on the awareness side. We can’t stand still.

Michael Mavroforakis, Director Group IT Governance & CISO, National Bank of Greece

In closing…

SWIFT Business Forum Greece 2017In the closing plenary, Charoula Apalagaki, Secretary General, Hellenic Banking Association gave a comprehensive summary of the content covered in the course of the day, and thanked SWIFT and the NMG Chairperson for Greece for organising the event.

“SWIFT has adjusted itself to new requirements in our environment and there is no doubt that the network not only facilitates business growth but also cyber security and compliance,” said Apalagaki. “Banks today operate in a difficult and highly regulated environment. They have to adjust their policies, search for synergies and increase the attractiveness of their value propositions to compete with new payments services providers who are not subject to the same rules. Banks are lucrative target for cyber criminals and they need to raise their defence capabilities. Banks should also be transparent to SWIFT about breaches so that we can all learn from that transparency. Prevention and transparency are key. SWIFT gives us a very good example of safety, efficiency and collaboration, and I am very happy to have hosted this exchange of opinions.”

SWIFT has adjusted itself to new requirements in our environment and there is no doubt that the network not only facilitates business growth but also cyber security and compliance.

Charoula Apalagaki, Secretary General, Hellenic Banking Association

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