Vertical Markets

South West Fraud Forum launch

by Mark Rowe

Bristol was the venue for the launch of the South West Fraud Forum (SWFF) last Friday, writes Mark Rowe.

Pictured left to right are Mark Shelford, the Avon and Somerset local police and crime commissioner (PCC), who leads on cyber crime for the national association of PCCs; James Gliddon, a partner, at the law firm and hosts Foot Anstey and a co-chair of the forum; Baroness Morgan of Cotes, one of the morning’s speakers; and SWFF board member Dan White, a barrister and Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of Synalogik Innovative Solutions Ltd.

Dan was among the speakers at the Midlands Fraud Forum last summer, featured in the August print edition of Professional Security Magazine, and his firm offers data aggregation, automation and risk identification software for compliance and fraud investigations. He told Professional Security: “In the south west we have the biggest agglomeration of cyber businesses outside of London; it’s a real stronghold for businesses that help with a range of fraud related concerns, both in government and the private sector.”

Regional fraud forums are not a new idea; the South West did have one in the mid-2000s; the Midlands and London ones have stood the test of time the most. The reason for their existence has not gone away – and their time seems to have come again, for push and pull reasons. Businesses are pushing for more to be done about fraud, given that only a fraction – not even the tip of the iceberg – of cases that are reported to the police national reporting centre Action Fraud reach a prosecution. Police, as the launch heard, are receptive to meeting private industry halfway, simply to get a better picture of what fraud is out there.

While London is am obvious place to have a fraud forum, given that the City of London Police is the national lead for economic crime, and the City is the centre of finance (and financial crime), why have regional forums? Because as Dan and others told Professional Security, Bristol (like Leeds, Birmingham and Edinburgh – making it strange that Scotland has not embraced the fraud forum idea) has thriving and growing professional services – accountancy firms (PwC has offices next door to Foot Anstey’s, overlooking Temple Meads station), law firms and banks. Hence the audience for the launch (sponsored by software firms Synlogik and Altia), from those sectors besides from retail, the police and academia.

The launch heard first from another SWFF board member, Steve Richards, a partner at Foot Anstey, who leads on fraud at the firm. Then came Baroness Morgan, the former Conservative MP now a member of the House of Lords who as a committee chair led an inquiry (which visited the Midlands Fraud Forum as part of its evidence gathering) into fraud which reported in November. The Government’s response to the report happened to come only the day before the launch.

As that response set out, fighting fraud will take more than police and courts and the public sector, because it ought to take in ‘upskilling the public to spot scams, working with the finance, telecommunications and technology sectors to design out fraud and modernising the UK’s legislative framework’. As Baroness Morgan pointed out on the launch of her report; as most fraud happens online, it remains invisible. Hence the last speaker of the morning before a panel session was of interest: Dr Henry Hillman of the School of Law at the University of Reading, on cryptocurrency.

His thesis was on the legal – and money laundering – side of such currencies. As for whether or how to invest in it, his message was ‘buyer beware’.

To make better outcomes will take more money, for one thing to make the criminal justice pipeline larger – as Baroness Morgan’s report highlighted, fraud makes up a shocking 41 per cent of all crime against individuals in England and Wales; yet police only devote one per cent to tackling economic crime. It will also take data sharing between public and private sector, and political will, and industry to state what it wants – hence a UK umbrella body of the regional forums, chaired by Rob Brooker, who was among attenders.

More in the April print edition of Professional Security Magazine. See also article on the Foot Anstey website.

Visit https://swff.org.uk/.

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