Interview of Ibrahim Amin, Chairman Dellsons Associates/Co-founder & Chairman, Pakistan Freelancers Association (PAFLA)
‘Digitalization enhances transparency and accountability, and helps address financial crimes’
Ibrahim Amin is the Chairman of Dellsons Associates and also the Co-founder and Chairman of Pakistan Freelancers Association.
He has worked extensively on training needs of the banking and financial sector specializing in payment systems and IT for which he established an associated firm under the name & style of M/S Dellsons Associates. This company has to its credit numerous conferences on the subjects of Digital Banking, E Money Institutions, Cyber Security, IFRS9 and Forensic Accounting and Fraud Risk Management, etc.
He has to his credit the introduction of an EBot which enriches the banking experience of the CIB through one click of a button. He executed induction of Cyber Security Control Systems in various banks and also started consultancy services to cater to their sophisticated needs by using the modern technologies for up-grading Operational Systems and professional competence of Human Resource amongst Banks & other Organizations.
He has also worked on a payment system to help improve the movement of finances for the freelancers of Pakistan and in order to broaden the scope of business-to-customer (B2C) transactions through legal channel, he established “Pakistan Freelancers Association” (PAFLA).
Following are the edited transcripts of a recent conversation BR Research had with Ibrahim Amin during the 4th Financial Crime Summit held recently:
BR Research: Tell us about your journey with Dellsons. What is the company about? What do you offer, and how is it helping in digitalization in the country?
Ibrahim Amin: I founded Dellsons Associates in 2013 in response to a need I felt for finding IT solutions for enhancing the customer experience in the financial sector. Then the company also started working extensively on training needs of the banking and financial sector specializing in payment systems. Our services include trainings, software solutions, evaluations, international credit reports, and credit support services, and consultancy on strategic banking matters. I believe we are making a significant contribution to enhancing digitalization in the country. Dellsons has now become one of the most respected brands in the field of Technology, Training, and Credit Risk Management in the banking industry.
We also organize conferences on subjects of critical national importance, like the recently concluded 4th Financial Crime Summit, attended by all leading stakeholders in the country, including regulatory bodies, banks and other financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, academia and others.
BRR: How do you see Pakistan's progress in getting out of FATF's grey list?
IA: A country placed on FATF’s grey list is subject to enhanced monitoring. It is an indication to the international banking system that doing business with that country has enhanced risks. For the country itself, it makes obtaining financing from global bodies like the IMF very difficult, besides the country facing the real risk of boycotts, and of the economy facing currency degrading, inflation, deficit in trade and so on.
Pakistan was on the FATF grey list since 2018 because of “strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies”, and it took a lot of effort to address FATF’s reservations and to come off the list. The progress was perhaps slow, but given the huge complexities involved, it was not an easy task either, and credit must be given to all concerned for the great work done to get Pakistan’s off the grey list.
BRR: In your opinion, what measures do different stakeholders in Pakistan need to take to stay out of the Grey List in the future?
IA: It needs to be noted that Pakistan has in fact been on and off the FATF’s grey list a number of times since 2008. FATF’s principal concerns have always been regarding possible money laundering and terrorism financing. When Pakistan was put on the grey list in 2018, it was given a 27-point action agenda by FATF, which was later increased to 34-points. So, there is no confusion about what all the issues that must be continually addressed to ensure that we stay off the grey list in the future. In this regard, the responsibility lies not only with the government and its different bodies, including the law enforcement agencies, but also with other stakeholders like the business and financial sector and institutions and still others.
We at Dellsons are proud that we too are playing a humble part in the overall effort, as enhanced digitalization which we are actively promoting, serves to control and choke illegal transactions. At the same time events like our series of Financial Crimes Summit serve to bring all stakeholders on one platform and exchange information, ideas and solutions on tackling financial crime effectively
BRR: Could you elaborate what measures in digitalization and innovation help addressing financial crimes?
IA: As I said earlier, digitalization enhances both transparency and accountability, and as such significantly helps address financial crimes. It enables a substantially higher level of monitoring and scrutiny to take place and closes loopholes and avenues which are used for financial crimes. At the same time, digitalization and the systems put in place must remain innovative and evolve, to be ahead of the game, because, let’s not forget, financial crime too is becoming more and more sophisticated and is all the time trying to beat the processes put in place to control it.
BRR: You are also the Chairman and Co-founder of the Pakistan Freelancers Association. What was the idea and objectives behind starting PAFLA?
IA: The Pakistan Freelancers Association or PAFLA is the biggest safety net for the independent workforce in Pakistan, providing freelancers a platform as well as a support group to help grow their career and overcome their challenges. Its mission is to promote the interests of independent workers through advocacy, education, and services. We build novel solutions to support independent workers so they can be secure and thrive, no matter how they work.
BRR: What kind of activities does PAFLA engage in or is already engaged in?
IA: Our primary focus areas are advocacy for policy changes that support freelancers’ needs and rights, creating a community to bring the diverse and disparate population of freelancers together, providing benefits like insurances, loans, discounts and legal and financial consultation, and building resources around the existing network of freelancers, aiding in more people and organizations becoming a part of this workforce.
BRR: What are the major bottlenecks, and how can they be addressed for the growth of the Pakistani freelance community and IT exports?
IA: Let me name here the 3 major hurdles in the way of growth of freelance work and IT exports. First is that there are much fewer payment options available. For example, the largest international payment method, Paypal, is still not available here, severely restricting access to global customers. Second is the great difficulty in finding clients and then retaining clients after finding them. Linked to this, at times clients are not consistent and at times are even not reliable and overseas clients especially cannot be pinned down. Third hurdle is that freelancers may be experts in their respective specialized fields, but they lack good communication skills and the ability to manage the various operational aspects of conducting a freelance business set up.
PAFLA has been actively working to address these and other issues, to try and mitigate at least their impact so that our freelancers, including freelancer IT exporters can grow individually and as and industry.
BRR: Finally, coming back to the 4th Financial Crime Summit, what in your opinion was the single most important learning from it?
IA: The 4th Financial Crime Summit was a great success. We are living in times of exponentially increased and much more sophisticated financial crime, globally. The Summit first of all succeeded in bringing all key stakeholders together on a single platform, to discuss and debate critical issues, and to consider effective solutions to address the issues. It gave a clear direction for the stakeholders and generated awareness of the new emerging challenges. Key conclusions of the Summit included emphasis on the need for intensely close collaboration within the industry and all stakeholders, highlighting the critical importance of accurate and timely data collection and analysis, focusing on staying ahead in terms of future-proofing the war against ever-evolving financial crimes, and as the President of Pakistan also said in his address, not only should there be effective laws, but these laws must be fully implemented in practice; catching the criminals is half the story; they need to be punished too.