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The power of community approach in Central-Asian countries

The power of community approach in Central-Asian countries

Financial Crime Compliance,
4 December 2023 | 4 min read

In the heart of Central Asia, the strength of community collaboration has been harnessed to foster a remarkable evolution for banks across the region. 

Within the financial community, collaborations and partnerships are often celebrated as a way of driving progress and overcoming shared challenges. And across Central Asia, we’ve recently witnessed a great example of this. Through community collaboration, banks throughout the region have come together to adopt services that help speed up transactions and reduce friction.

This first began in 2014, when financial institutions in Turkmenistan laid out their long-term vision for the adoption of financial crime compliance services and improvement of compliance regulation. This vision proved infectious, and before long, interest grew in neighbouring Uzbekistan too, where many banks began adopting Swift’s Transaction Screening and Payment Controls services. What made these moves so impactful was the collective agreement that this was a good thing for the Central-Asian financial community, combined with strong support from their central banks.

“Back in 2014, the Central Bank of Turkmenistan wanted to bring the Turkmen financial community to the next level in international compliance standards,” reflected Annamuhammet Atamyradov, Swift User Group Chairperson of Turkmenistan. “After analysing several solutions, they decided to mandate all banks to implement Swift’s Transactions Screening Service. They wanted this implementation to be fast too, with the governor requesting that banks do so within three months. As a way of building on this progress in 2023, the Central Bank of Turkmenistan also recommended that banks implement Swift’s Payment Controls Service to help fight fraud and solidify the community’s financial crime compliance defences.” This move proved effective, as it allowed several banks to collectively implement these solutions at the same time.

This makes it much more affordable. This way, medium and smaller financial institutions in emerging economies can begin using these services to protect themselves and their customers.
Irina Lohrer Country Manager for Turkmenistan, Swift

Paving the way for Swift Go

This community approach has not just helped financial institutions bolster their anti-fraud and compliance measures, it’s also helped transform the cross-border payments experience for consumers and SMEs through the adoption of Swift Go. Having learned that there was widespread interest in this new transformative service for low-value payments, we engaged with financial institutions across the region to seamlessly onboard them onto Swift Go.

Within three months, an astounding 90% of clients from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that signed up for Swift Go were already live. Most users implemented the solution as beneficiaries, illustrating their willingness to champion the initiative and offer an improved low-value payments experience for their international clients.

“In Uzbekistan, banks were primarily interested in how fast Swift Go would enable low-value payments to travel,” said Furkat Samarkhodjaev, Swift User Group Chairperson, Uzbekistan. “When they learned that payments must be credited within four hours, it began to attract a lot of attention. These speeds are thanks to community-wide service-level agreements that signed-up banks must adhere to. And the end result is that customers using the service receive their money much more quickly.”

Leading by example

Collaboration was an essential component of what made this region’s adoption of services so successful. Dedicated Swift onboarding consultants, endorsements from local user group chairpersons, and willingness from individual banks helped to drive rapid change across these Central-Asian countries. The result? Better security against fraudsters and other bad actors, stronger financial crime compliance processes, and a better low-value payments experience for consumers and SMEs. On top of this, it’s created a sense of cohesion and community amongst banks in the region.

“When you collectively commit to a community-adoption approach like this, it’s much easier,” concluded Furkat Samarkhodjaev. “Banks feel like they are part of a team, and that they are not alone in what they are doing. 11 banks were involved in this project, which makes up 30% of all banks in Uzbekistan and includes large market players. Together, we’ve achieved something really powerful.”