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World experience in combating money laundering – Joseph Сofer Black

In an interview with the newspaper Latvijas Avīze, Member of the Supervisory Board of Baltic International Joseph Cofer Black talks about world experience in combating money laundering and upcoming challenges on the Supervisory Board of Baltic International Bank.     What is the global situation with the dirty money in the world – is it improving or getting worse? Honestly, this question is almost like a question about religion – is its impact increasing or decreasing? Speaking on the macro level, I can surely say that during the recent period the flow of “dirty money” has always existed in the world. By the recent period, do you mean beginning from the September 11, 2001? Or is it when everyone started to pay attention to that? I would say earlier. At least looking from the US perspective, the story about the “dirty money” starts with the war against drugs. Disregarding the huge resources devoted to combat this phenomenon, very rarely were these activities able to significantly impact or change the “street price” of drugs. And if the price does not change – then there isn’t real consistent success in the fight against drugs. Yes, they shot Pablo Escobar and caught El Chapo, took down some of the drug cartels but others formed all too quickly to take their place. What to do next? In these circumstances, the law enforcement authorities came up with the strategy of “follow the money”. Logistics and putting the generated profit back into the financial system are the weak links of the drug distribution system. If we can’t win in the logistics area, then finances remain. I remember that during those times, in 1980s and 1990s when I was going to South America and visiting a port or beach, motor boats with powerful engines worth more than a million USD stood side by side just like cigarette packages on the shelf– dozens. They either belonged to the drug dealers or were taken from the drug dealers – and their task was to transport drugs. If your business can write off losing vehicles worth more than million USD as the cost of doing business – then your business is inherently highly profitable. These were the circumstances when the strategy changed – instead of trying solely find and disrupt the logistical side, try to follow the money and compromise the heads of the drug cartels. As you mentioned the September 11 attacks, they occurred when I was the Director of the Counterterrorism Center in CIA. In the beginning, we were not that successful with the concept of “following the money”, concerned that it might take away already limited resources in other areas. The second limitation was related to the fact that unlike the drugs target, terrorism does not require a lot of money. It was not expensive to organise the September 11 terror act, maybe a few hundred thousand USD. It is pocket money compared to the amount of funds involved in drug trafficking. It is difficult to trace a small amount of money. Still, gradually the intelligence organisations started to do just that in cooperation with international partners. I have to say that results were better than expected; still it is very difficult to disrupt financing of terrorist units. Best results are obtained when we monitor the financial system and search for anomalies therein but, of course, we also have to deal with political limitations. Speaking about limitation of “dirty money” and policy...I would dare to say that there is a feeling in the Latvian financial circles that the report of the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) about the ABLV Bank and the following actions were too harsh, unjustifiably emphasizing Latvia. Meaning that money-laundering problems exist also in other countries and Latvia already since 2016 started reinforcement and control of the anti-money laundering requirements. I have been to few countries where Americans are not considered part of their issues. And my Latvian friends think just like you. But what would you have us to do?  There are so many crucial questions/problems and we have to deal with them and the tyranny of time no matter how noble the intentions. But dissatisfaction by one partner with the other in a relationship may well be expressed in a clear and obvious manner. Let’s be honest – this is my 14th time in Latvia already, I really like Latvia and its citizens.  But before I made a decision whether to come and work here, I did a little research. Reputation of Latvia on the internet was not especially good and happily, incompatible with reality. However, during the last decade we have witnessed multiple violations of the anti-money laundering regulations. It is not fair to blame Americans that they are protecting their interests and deciding to send a clear message, in the situation when other methods have already been tried before. Only those who do not know the background of the relationship can do that. I have heard all the following - “this bank was made a victim”, “it is not true”, “this is false news” and even - “Russian special services stand behind that”. Nonsense! “Money laundering on the “systemic” level, as was reported in the FINCEN report – is a checkmate game. A charge not made lightly. Systemic is a serious term. Systemic – it means that an integrated system has been created at an organisational level, performing money-laundering activities regularly and repeatedly. And as a cherry on top - “money laundering on behalf of North Korea” cannot be ignored. Find me another country on the world map with whom US has relations that are more difficult and where money-laundering activities on its behalf could infuriate Americans more. What do you expect the US would do in this situation? And how long can Latvian banks participate in the money laundering activities for the financial system state reputation not to suffer?  In this case, you can call US action tough love; it is based on good intentions and genuine desire to help the system that is struggling on its own. As the Head of the FCMC Pēters Putniņš have stated publicly – in the case of North Korea, money laundering the means were coming from some European banks, passed through Latvia and returned to other European banks. Why the role of Latvia was emphasized? Why there isn’t similar FINCEN reports about other European banks? I am not in the situation to comment on statements by Mr. P. Putniņš. And there were reports about other banks as well that might not have attracted so much attention. Still, I stand by my words. The US administration has neither time, nor energy to deal with made-up things. Reading the FINCEN report in its entirety, it is clear that the US was highly motivated to send a clear message. And believe me – these reports were not compiled by a random official pointing his finger at a map and haphazardly choosing a country to target. Compilation of these reports includes combined work by many institutions and the results reflect a coordinated view. Majority of the money flowing through the Latvian banking system come from the CIS countries, first, from Russia. In considering the difficult relations between the Western world and Russia, why would we worry that money is flowing out of the Russian economy, taking away resources for investments, and being spent in Western countries, buying mansions on the Mediterranean coast, insanely expensive yachts and English soccer clubs? Here I agree with you – maybe we should not worry. Although the relations with Russia have become more complicated, still the majority of Americans like Russians – the way they perceive themselves has many similarities with the way we Americans perceive ourselves. We could ask why Russia had to adopt such quarrelsome and aggressive attitude regarding international issues and why Vladimir Putin has to publicly demonstrate short films about aiming of nuclear weapons on the targets in US. When Russians are buying mansions in Italy, I am more amused than worried. You want yachts – be my guest. Real estate in New York – wonderful. What concerns me is that the source of this money may originate from the diversion of state funds and fraudulent privatization. If you look what people are included in the US sanction lists – then the depressing majority are people who became rich using methods considered illegal in US. Some say that US is hindering the development of Russia.  Russia these days can be its own worst enemy. But democratic and stable Russia full of satisfied and content people is in the interests of US. And it would be much better to invest the money spent on mansions and yachts in Russian infrastructure, social services and education. Do you have many colleagues who with the previous work experience in intelligence services, combatting the financing of terrorism and money laundering, and diplomatic services start working in the banking system of the Baltic’s? It is a good question as work in the financial system has many similarities to intelligence and diplomatic services. Many principles are the same – know what you are dealing with, protect your own people and our friends, invest in the future, effectively use the limited resources to reach your goal. In fact combatting of money laundering is my main task as the Member of the Supervisory Board here in Baltic International Bank. One of the main directions of this work remains unchanged - establish and improve mechanism, system identifying risky clients, and determine potential risks in this area. Nevertheless, answering to your question – no, I don’t see the inflow of American specialists. I see more representatives of some other European countries.   Olafs Zvejnieks, Newspaper Latvijas Avīze, 14.05.2019   Interview Latvijas Avīze with Joseph Cofer Black (LV) 

Responsible thinking becomes a building block for competitiveness - Viktor Bolbat

Sustainability issues are becoming more and more pressing and they receive greater attention from politicians. Viktors Bolbats, Chairman of the Board of Baltic International Bank, tells about the future challenges and the introduction of the ESG approach. This year's trends at European level, such as the idea of British politicians to exclude from London Stock Exchange companies who don't care about climate issues Two major political events have marked this year’s spring. In April 2019, the European Banking Authority and the European Banking Federation emphasised the willingness of EU supervisors, regulators and banks to move forward on the various challenges related to sustainable finance and engage in a structured dialogue for incorporating sustainability into EU banks' frameworks and risk management. Great Britain’s and Ireland’s parliaments decided to stick to climate change commitment. In May, MPs passed the largely symbolic motion to declare a climate emergency. The step followed a series of street protests by the Extinction Rebellion environmental campaign group.  This notable novelty reflects a change in mind-sets. We stand away from pursuing only our self-interest in terms of comfort, safety and wellbeing. We have gradually shaped our ability to think ahead, about the world our children and grandchildren will inherit tomorrow and the quality of their life. Businesses, including those in Latvia, transformed their mind-sets to see and do things differently. Views of Latvian society on sustainability issues What are the main environmental and sustainability issues included on the agenda of Latvian society? According to Baltic International Bank Latvian Barometer[4] (a monthly survey of public opinions and attitudes in Latvia), the key priorities include waste sorting (75% respondents), refusal to use plastic bags (46%), recycling and reuse of package and other materials (43%), and choices to walk or cycle more / to favour collective or public transport rather than use of personal cars (42%). The survey shows that people regularly and daily practise those activities. However, the number of the respondents is well lower because awareness of environmental and sustainability has grown while practical measures are insufficient overall. This statistics is indicative of that people actually need an extra boost or spur. Employers could undertake such roles and become setters of the good example. It sounds so reasonable, doesn’t it? Responsible action of a business gives a fillip to the employees, then to its clients, and thereafter to the families of the employees and to the people related to the clients. I strongly believe that businesses can achieve a better scale effect that normally is required to get a new idea to take root in the society or to catalyse action. Baltic International Bank experience Incorporating sustainability model Enviroment. Social. Governance. In 2017, we decided to base our further development on an internationally proven ESG approach (ESG is an approach that aims to incorporate environmental, social and governance factors). It was immediately clear that the transition would considerably change Bank’s day-to-day business. Be it making strategic decisions on Management Board-level or holding talks with our client on potential involvement of Bank in an investment project, we now view all of those aspects through the prism of environmental sustainability, social responsibility and good governance. The three main pillars on which our organisational business model rests gradually change the worldview of our employees, clients and partners. For this reason, involvement of businesses in raising awareness on sustainability issues is so important because businesses exert impact on the public agenda and pinpoint issues of concern. One year and a half after Bank has embarked on incorporating ESG considerations in its daily activities, I can say that we have set quite an ambitious goal, far from being confined to a mere formulation of messages and strategies, as it may seem to an outside watcher. For organisation, this implies implementation of specific steps and actions, including  employee training, raising awareness of clients on ESG approach, defining measurable goals and objectives of environmental protection (CO2 emissions, energy and water consumption, waste management, and others), promoting and upholding the principles of good governance, and everyday organisation-level integration of social issues. Further, we analyse those aspects with respect to our partners and potential clients.  To what extent do they adhere to the values to which we are committed on a daily basis? From this point, we start talking with our colleagues and peers from other organisations. The new mind-set already manifests itself explicitly, rather than ‘’I’m not interested in his viewpoints, they pay, that’s good... “. I intend to cooperate with you, therefore let me tell you why sustainable attitudes and behaviours are of paramount importance for me. The bottom line therefore is as follows: “Make today decisions that will not make you feel ashamed tomorrow.” I am not a convinced supporter of drastic initiatives proposed by some British politicians who weigh up delisting of firms from the London Stock Exchange if they fail to tackle climate change. However, it is imperative to raise awareness on sustainable attitudes and behaviours, including in business environment where people make long-term investment decisions. In the light of the fact that our ability to assume responsibility affects the future of ourselves and of our children, I firmly believe that a “component of responsibility” will become one of the building blocks for competitiveness among businesses.  Getting prepared timely is worth the effort.

Is it possible to create world-class companies in Latvia? - Ilona Gulchak

Currently, in Latvia, university graduates who dream of becoming new Elons Musks and look for opportunities to express themselves take their first steps to starting business. Their ambitions are very high and start-ups seem to be a good opportunity to fulfil them. It is the right time for that too because today Latvian start-ups develop more evenly, and the environment is becoming more and more structured. There is also clear public support and a willingness to support start-ups. We have a well-developed start-up ecosystem which is getting better and better offering a solid model of cooperation between its members. A very attractive and supportive environment for scientific ideas is developing in Latvia - Ilona Gulchak Deep-tech – a newcomer to the exciting start-up world Many people know that in Latvia start-ups in the field of information technology, software, and fintech, short for financial technology, are quite developed and strong. A new, up-to-date trend – deep-tech, or science-based start-ups, – join this group. These are companies that combine business and science. Deep-tech is developing rapidly, with three to four billion euro annually invested in deep-tech start-ups in Europe. It is noteworthy that the Baltic States, especially Latvia, are formed as a deep-tech start-up centre which has also been noted and noticed by international representatives. Despite the limited industrial base, we have historical experience and historical links that enable deep-tech start-ups to develop in Latvia. In our country there is a scientific base that helps deep-tech companies to flourish. Here are skilled scientists, strong entrepreneurs, and extensive financial support from both European funds and private investors. It is gratifying that Latvia is gradually becoming an international centre where scientists can bring technology to our country to develop and commercialize it offering Latvia the right know-how and competence to implement the plan. Deep-tech companies can represent a variety of areas such as medical technology, chemistry, material science, nanotechnology, Artificial Intelligence (AI). It should be borne in mind that deep-tech start-ups differ from the rest of the start-ups with a longer path, a process to bring a product to the market. Because of the need for multiple tests, prototype development, development, validation, they also need to find the right ways to test the products they create. In the world, all of the above-mentioned deep-tech areas are developing very fast, and the environmental aspects, everything related to energy, clean energy solutions, wastewater treatment and waste management are also important here. Schaeffler Baltic's success story or deep-tech in action One of the most prominent domestic deep-tech success stories is Naco Technologies, a powerful, science-based technology company that was created in Latvia and acquired by German giant Schaeffler taking the company under its control and demonstrating its high level. In Latvia, the company's employees at the research centre are commissioned by Schaeffler AG to develop different new product types expanding the Group's inventive portfolio. They are engaged in the development of various technologies, tests, trials to pursue the plan. It is quite clear that their technology and product are innovative, with a high level of research and science. Commercialisation reactor and other start-up support options One of the ways in which deep-tech and other start-up companies can start their activity and development is the Commercialisation Reactor which offers the Accelerator Programme and investments in research start-ups. It is a way to combine entrepreneurial talents with scientific competencies, thus developing the science technology business. By bringing together entrepreneurs and creators of scientific innovation, it is possible to introduce significant innovations in different sectors. It is very important and benefits everyone – scientists and entrepreneurs, industries, investors and the country as a whole. Start-ups can also use a variety of capital attraction mechanisms such as public funding, various grants, and crowdfunding which is also available to start-ups. At the moment, start-ups have a clear-cut fundraising scheme ranging from acceleration funds that offer funding during the acceleration process to shallow fund investments that help companies grow further. At the same time, it is also possible to receive various grants from individual global corporations such as Philips, Merck, Pfizer, Sony and others that support certain accelerators because they are interested in different innovations and, by issuing grants, stimulate innovation in their industry. At global and Latvian level, investors are increasingly investing not only in R&D within companies, but also in start-ups and acceleration programmes. Banking support for start-up companies Of course, it is natural that through support to start-ups banks look in the direction of fintech start-ups. For example, Baltic International Bank offers an API Sandbox solution for Open Banking. It is a secure environment where third-party service providers can test ideas and innovations in asset management and finance. It is great that the solution is suitable for both large companies and independent developers, especially for anyone interested in new digital products, services and innovations. Business spirit and an excellent idea It should be borne in mind that different types of start-up companies have the opportunity to create their own business with a global view, potential and export ability in addition to expressing themselves and fulfilling their ambitions. Moreover, energetic entrepreneurs can turn to, for instance, innovation centres in different Latvian universities and, together with scientists, develop their business by developing new, unique, world-class products. The technologies developed by scientists are important for Latvian companies and promote product development with high added value. Based on scientific excellence, there is the opportunity to create technologically saturated companies with international growth potential. I wish Latvia to become a hub for high-tech start-ups in Europe! The author is vice-chairman of the Supervisory Board of Baltic International Bank

Changes in the Bank’s working hours on the National holidays

Dear Clients! In connection with the National holidays, the Bank’s working hours have been changed: 30.04.2019. - Baltic International Bank will be open for customers until 4 p.m. 01.05.2019. - Baltic International Bank will be closed  02.05.2019. - Bank will operate on a standard work schedule. 03.05.2019. - Baltic International Bank will be open for customers until 4 p.m. 06.05.2019. - The Bank will be closed for customers Please pay due attention to the above mentioned changes and plan your financial transactions in a timely manner. Sunny holidays!

Extension of the deadline for publishing audited financial statements

JSC “Baltic International Bank” (Bank) will publish its audited 2018 Financial Statements until the 15th May 2019, later than the applicable statutory deadline (31 March). The Bank’s shareholders decided to change the statutory auditor in order to implement the European Central Bank’s guidelines and to comply with the highest international standards. Bank has chosen SIA “BDO Assurance” (BDO) to audit Bank’s 2018 Financial Statements. In view of the deadline set by the auditors, Bank has undertaken to make public its audited financial statements until the 15th May 2019. The Bank’s Management Board has informed the Financial and Capital Market Commission (a financial regulatory authority in the Republic of Latvia) and the Bank’s shareholders about its decision and the new deadline for publishing the audited financial statements. On 28 February 2019, Bank published its unaudited financials on Bank’s website. In practice, unaudited financial statements show, more or less, the same financial data as audited ones. Therefore, currently it is possible to get a rough picture of the Bank’s performance during the previous year. Unaudited financial data are available here.

Plenty of Challenges for Europe -Dr. Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz

In an interview with the newspaper “Dienas Bizness””, Member of the Supervisory Board of Baltic International Bank - Dr. Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz emphasizes that, given the rapid development of renewable energy resources, our only chance is to become “greener”. Would he currently invest into oil, gas or coal? He would most likely say - no. He would rather invest in new sustainable technologies. Although significant progress have been achieved in adjusting of the financial sector, industry still has to deal with many problems and risks. Dr. Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz, Baltic International Bank Member of the Supervisory Board, former State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office and German Ambassador to NATO, the UK and to Russia in an interview with business paper Dienas Bizness. He tells that attempts to adjust this industry on the European level are highly supported, emphasizing that various future challenges and risks await the industry players also further. How do you evaluate ongoing processes in Latvian financial sector – does society need to worry about stability of this sector? Banking industry is operating under stressful conditions all around the world. I can’t name a single country where people would not follow updates in banking sector due to various risks, for example, money laundering and terrorism financing. These risks are very challenging. I think that progress have been achieved in European Union (EU) countries, including Latvia, as to this matter, still it is not yet the time to relax and let our guard down. In recent years banks working with non-residents have encountered more problems. What is your opinion regarding this issue – have these banks really committed violations? Everyone can follow latest updates from Russia, Estonia, Finland and other countries. Of course, we can’t deny that violations did happen in separate cases but I don’t want to highlight any country in particular. It is clear that this issue still requires further efforts and task is not easy. Efforts of Latvia have been evaluated positively; at the same time we have to understand that improved international cooperation matters a lot. One cannot overlook that in this area sometimes good regulatory framework can be an obstacle to such cooperation. I think that banks are doing what it takes to eliminate risks related to non-residents. If I am accurately informed, during recent years dramatic decline of non-resident clients have been observed in Latvian banks. Regarding non-resident banks the loudest scandal in Latvia, of course, was ABLV Bank. How do you evaluate this situation? It is very sad that a bank of this size can file for bankruptcy within few days. It has a negative impact not only on clients concerned but also reputation of state and its banking sector. What should be done to improve Latvian banking system? In my opinion, the Latvian government, its regulators and the banking sector is trying to improve the Latvian banking system not only on the national but also Eurogroup level. I am afraid these efforts have to continue in all spheres, with special attention to improving the qualification of personal and technical resources. Sadly, those forces who try to break the rules do not give up their efforts to succeed one way or the other with their illegal activities. Both regarding employee qualification and technical equipment, and information exchange between banks, banking sector in every country still encounters very many challenges and risks. Power industry has become one of European priorities during recent years. What are global trends as to this area – are we becoming greener? Politically – definitely. Our publics are much better informed and ask for action. Therefore I think that we have no choice but to “greener”. Very ambitious goals were set in Paris Climate Conference related to global warming and climate change. Both EU countries and the EU in general are on the right track. For example, Germany reacting to the nuclear accident in Fukushima decided to completely waive use of nuclear power in the next few years. The risks involved in nuclear power plants is considered to be too high and dangerous for both environment and climate. In addition, Germany also wants to stop the use of brown coal – lignite in power plants in the near future and of other coal in the medium term. At the same time it is clear that demand for electrical energy will grow considerably in Europe as we use evermore electrical appliances on daily basis. How we are going to satisfy this dramatically growing demand? Renewable energies are one option and they are rapidly developing. Germany was a front runner and subsidised solar and wind energy at great cost, in particular to its consumers. The effect is impressive: renewable energies compete today successfully with fossil energy. Whether I would continue to invest into oil, gas or coal, I would most likely say - no. I would rather invest in new sustainable technologies. There are many negotiations related to high RES scenario and energy efficiency but frequently entrepreneurs emphasize high expenses in implementing of these solutions. Can we expect for green technologies to become cheaper in future? Of course, these technologies are expensive but we have to keep in mind that they were even pricier in recent past. Technological development is enormous, with emerging markets like China in the vanguard. At present, developed countries consume about 40% of energy and the high growth, economies of Asia 20%.  Experts predict that it will be the other way round in 20 or 30 years, but the global volume of energy consumption will be much higher than today!  So we have to act fast: The global train is gaining speed, and European economies occupy no longer the first carriages. Already today China has more electric cars than Europe. Several European countries have already expressed commitment to completely stop using fossil fuels. In your opinion, is this necessary and actually doable? When I arrived in London in 1999 as the German Ambassador to the UK, one of the first people I met was the CEO of British Petroleum (BP). We spoke for more than an hour but he hardly mentioned BP’s core business, petrol. He spoke about green energy and green technologies. He said it is our future, emphasizing that he as a CEO is responsible for this company to continue operating profitably. He was right, wasn’t he? So, you think that we can really stop using fossil fuels in future? There are more than meets the eye as to this. We need fossil fuels but it is stupid to burn oil for electricity or mobility. Remember that you can get to a goal in many different ways. Clearly our lifestyle will change in the future and I don’t think it is a bad thing. At the same time, I think that in future fossil fuels will be used more efficiently in many other areas. I hope that inefficient and environmentally harmful use of fossil fuels will be reduced but still these resources will find their place on the market. You mentioned that currently you would decline from investing in the fossil fuels industry. On what resources would you put your money on? Let me give you one example: There is an innovative company in Latvia specialising in the construction of large concrete floors, for example for large stores, warehouses and industrial buildings. Its new technology allows them to reduce the consumption of cement by 40%. Thus, they not only reduce the use of energy to produce cement, the entire construction process takes up less time. Thanks to a special new mix of raw materials, their floors are almost immune to cracks – which used to be a big problem of the industry. Three advantages in one technology - excellent! Would I invest in this company? My answer is definite - yes! I could give you hundreds of similar examples. You are the former German Ambassador to the UK. Currently many Europeans are concerned about this country and its further decisions. What should be considered after Brexit? I have noticed two opposing parties as to this matter. There are people considering Brexit as a relief because it has always been difficult to cooperate with the United Kingdom, the British were not even sure if they wanted to be part of Europe in the first place. The other group, to which I belong, thinks the UK leaving the EU will be a great loss. The future will be very different from the past.  Europe is no longer in the lead. The United Kingdom was large and powerful power in the 19th century. In the 21st century which European country is powerful enough to successfully stand on its own? Not the UK, not Germany, not France! In contrast, the EU is a very powerful organisation – a serious global player – but only in such fields as trade where its members have pooled their sovereignty in the hands of the EU-Commission. If and when Brexit happens, we will have to learn to live with the new situation, yet another challenge, but unfortunately “home-made”!   Armanda Vilcāne, Newspaper Dienas Bizness, 02.04.2019   Expert opinion. Interview Dienas Bizness with Dr. Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz

Baltic International Bank Implements Open Banking and Sandbox

According to a revised Payment Services Directive (known as PSD2) adopted by the European Parliament, Baltic International Bank offers its API sandbox solution for Open Banking. Open Banking is an open banking platform for cooperation with financial technology companies and other partners. API Sandbox is a safe isolated environment where third-party service providers are able to test their ideas and innovations in the financial sector in general and in asset management in particular. The solution is suitable for large companies and independent developers, especially for those interested in new digital products, services and innovations. “As an integral part of our new Internet Banking project, Open Banking will serve as a platform for developing new products and services in the future. We will roll out the new Internet Banking facility at the end of summer 2019. It will offer the users new functionality, security enhancements and a wider array of services. Some of the major challenges facing the financial services enterprises today include moving towards modern digital opportunities and implementing appropriate solutions”, Head of Digital Channel Development Jānis Osis explains. “Baltic International Bank not only goes hand in hand with the newest trends in the banking industry, but even stays ahead of the trends by implementing new technologies and digital solutions that allow boost the value of the services,” J.Osis emphasizes. Bank is offering its API sandbox solution whereby two Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are available in accordance with the second Payment Services Directive, or PSD2. API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to interact with each other both within and between organisations and share data with each other. The API sandbox solution implemented by Bank enables new players, both payment initiation service (PIS) providers and account information service (AIS) providers, to penetrate the market. Go to Open Banking   About Payment Services Directive (PSD2) The revised Payment Service Directive (PSD2) became applicable on 13 January 2018. The Republic of Latvia transposed the PSD2 into national law, namely, into the Payment Services and Electronic Money Act Maksājumu pakalpojumu un elektroniskās naudas likums] PSD2. The PSD2 opened up an opportunity to develop open banking models, thus helping clients to better monitor their payments and account information. It also fosters competitive rivalry on financial markets overall.

Baltic International Bank receives BBB+ financial crime compliance rating, with a positive outlook

Sigma Ratings, a New York-based rating agency, assigned BBB+ financial crime compliance (FCC) rating to Baltic International Bank placing it among industry leaders. Sigma’s report also noted that the bank’s outlook is positive. Sigma Ratings reviewed Baltic International Bank’s inherent risk environment and control effectiveness around FCC. The review included FCC factors specific to AML, CFT, sanctions, and aspects of other non-credit risk issues such as geo-political risk and national-level regulatory proficiency. Chairperson of the Management Board, Baltic International Bank, Viktors Bolbats told: “We are truly delighted by the positive assessment of the renowned rating agency Sigma Ratings as it demonstrates that our hard work and increased investment in the area of fighting against financial crimes have paid off.  Baltic International Bank firmly believes that privately owned banks need to shape a sustainable business model with the underlying corporate governance principles and transparency in all actions, including the fight against criminal crimes.”   Some of Baltic International Bank’s key strengths, according to the Sigma Rating report, include its increased investment in compliance, both in headcount and technology, as well as sophisticated transaction monitoring system (TMS) with a comprehensive list of detection scenario rules. Baltic International Bank has advanced controls in place in order to mitigate against financial crime.   Baltic International Bank deserves credit for embracing transparency and investing in its financial crime control environment.  The rating speaks to a relatively strong control environment and an engaged management team that recognize the importance of proactive risk management across all three lines of defenseStuart Jones, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of Sigma Ratings     In light of the overall situation faced by the sector, in 2018 Baltic International Bank invested money towards enhancing professional qualification of its employees and their expertise in the fight against financial crimes in accordance with international standards. For instance, all of the employees involved in implementing the Know Your Customer (KYC) and Know Your Customer’s Partner (KYCP) principles have undergone an in-depth AML/CFT training. The Bank has revised AML/CFT policy and related procedures and implemented new amendments requested by regulator. The Ministry of Finance (MF) and the State Revenue Service (SRS) have admitted Baltic International Bank to Gold Level of the In-depth Cooperation Programme or so-called SRS White List, thereby acknowledging the transparency of operations as well as tax compliance discipline.   Baltic International Bank Financial Crime Compliance (FCC) Rating Report   About Sigma Ratings Sigma Ratings, Inc. (“Sigma”) is a New York-based firm pioneering a technology-driven approach to assess governance and financial crime risk at the entity level. Sigma evaluates entities on non-credit risks, including financial crime compliance, governance, sanctions, corruption and reputation. Sigma’s methodologies are based on industry best practice that have been developed in consultation with the public and private sector. Sigma’s ratings are also reviewed by an independent Rating Committee before issuance. Sigma regularly presents to U.S. regulators and regulators around the world for further feedback and ideas. Sigma’s leadership team includes professionals with more than 100 years of combined experience, including deep domain expertise on counter illicit finance-related matters as senior U.S. Government, legal and development finance experts. Company clients include financial institutions and investment firms, multinational companies, insurance firms and governments in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

The Bank’s performance results demonstrate a positive trend

In Q4 2018, the Bank’s financial performance surpassed the cumulative financial result gained over the first three quarters of 2018. For the Bank, the 2018 was a busy one and its main features were Bank-specific changes and optimisation efforts. The Bank’s senior management successfully implemented its cost-optimisation and income-boosting plan. The total customer funds reached EUR 499 million. By the end of 4Q 2018, the assets under management totalled EUR 74.34 million.  The volume of financial instruments in brokerage service has also shown a positive. The Bank continues to contribute to its new business strategy geared towards customers who display investment needs and possess the investment potential. At present, the situation in the financial sector, both in Latvia and worldwide, is quite challenging. To achieve the Bank’s strategic goal, namely, to become a sustainable investment bank and continue as a stable business partner for its customers in the Baltic States and Europe, the Bank should work in two directions. Firstly, we ourselves need to perform maximally effectively and efficiently. We have invested towards developing new digital infrastructure and towards developing and implementing investment services, including arrangement of corporate bonds issue and improvement of customer service. Our second direction envisages a purposeful cooperation with public bodies and the Finance Latvia Association. We intend to attain, through a common dialogue, stringent conformity of the Latvian financial sector with international standards and to restore the country’s reputation and stability. One more task of paramount importance is to maintain a close relationship with our customers in Latvia and in foreign markets and hence ensure an ongoing provision 0f top-quality services. The Bank’s business-related strategic principles remain unchanged: we intend to ensure appropriate, compliant and transparent performance and to provide bespoke banking services while staying focused on sustainable investments-based approach. Viktors Bolbats Chairperson of the Management Board   In the light of the overall situation faced by the sector, Bank firmly believes that Latvia-based banks need to shape a sustainable business model with the underlying corporate governance principles, including the fight against financial crimes. In 2018, Baltic International Bank invested money towards enhancing professional qualification of its employees and their expertise in the fight against financial crimes in accordance with international standards. For instance, all of the employees involved in implementing the Know Your Customer (KYC) and Know Your Customer`s Partner (KYCP) principles have undergone an in-depth AML/CFT training. The Bank has also made relevant amendments to its AML/CFT policy and related procedures. In 4Q 2018, the Bank’s operating income totalled EUR 14.88 million. Compared to 2017, Bank succeeded to close the year 2018 with a higher operating income and more lenient operating expense. The Bank has increased its fee and commission income in a skyrocketing manner. The percentage of the net fee and commission income surged up to 56.9 percent compared to the same period last year when the net fee and commission income totalled 25.6 percent. The net interest income totalled 24.1 percent. The volume of administrative expenses totalled EUR 13.39 million. The Bank's senior management succeeded to combine cost optimisation and income boosting and hence achieve perceptible effectiveness and to explore and pinpoint possibilities for investing in the Bank’s development and improving customer service. The Bank made impressive progress towards gaining larger amount of fee and commission income for customer service, investment services, brokerage services and asset management services. Still, the Bank’s balance sheet remains conservative, and the Bank maintains the high liquidity ratio. The liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) was 247 percent. The net stable funding ratio (NSFR), characterizing the availability of a stable funding profile in relation to the composition of assets and off-balance sheet activities, reached 153.6 percent. The Bank’s high-quality liquid assets (assets carrying investment-grade credit rating and balances due from the Bank of Latvia) made up EUR 159.40 million or 56 percent of the total assets. Investments in government bonds accounted for EUR 17.5 million or 6.1 percent of the total assets. The Bank maintains a well-diversified structure of liquid assets represented by bonds (13 percent), due from credit institutions (7 percent), due from the Bank of Latvia (79 percent) and cash (1 percent). As of 31 December 2018, the Bank’s own funds totalled EUR 24.39 million. The Bank’s Tier I capital ratio (CETI) was 9.63 percent. The total SREP ratio (TSCR ratio) reached 13.70 percent. As the Bank continues to support Latvian literature and its development, it implemented a project titled “Library” in 4Q 2018. The project aims to educate the public regarding the importance of literature in people’s lives and to tell people about private libraries and collections held in private libraries, as well as emotional and educational attributes of the collections. The project involves Latvian literati and other active shapers of the literary life in Latvia. Baltic International Bank organised creative works competition aimed at school students. The Ērgļi high school was the first place winner and won the top prize, 100 books for their school library. The renowned jury that included a brilliant Latvian writer Nora Ikstena evaluated the student works. The Bank’s employees brought a plenty of books, and the Bank donated them to People’s Bookshelf (Tautas grāmatu plaukts) located in the atrium of the National Library of Latvia. Thus, the Bank has excelled itself by placing a strong emphasis on one of the Bank’s core values, namely, SUCCESSION. Books offer a unique opportunity to preserve legacy and pass on fundamental values to the next generations. To implement the Bank’s long-term plans, create a convenient environment for its employees and customers and foster its sustainability, the Bank launched an ambitious refurbishment and regeneration of the Old Riga quarter situated between Kalēju Street and Vecpilsētas Square. Within the 5-year timeframe, the Bank intends to allocate nearly EUR 12 million towards the project. During the first phase of the project, the Bank will provide its employees with modern workplace premises. During the second phase, the Bank will offer the local businesspeople premises for business development. Largely due to its business model and string adherence to corporate governance principles, sustainable business principles and socially responsible initiatives, in 2018 Baltic International Bank received the Gold Award from the annual Sustainability Index and the Family-Friendly Company Status. The Bank’s (Group’s) key financial indicators:   31.12.2018 30.09.2018 Assets: EUR 287,28 million (EUR 287,27 million) EUR 272,34 million (EUR 272,09 million) Value of financial instruments in brokerage: EUR 178 million EUR 199 million Loss: EUR 305 thousand (EUR 498 thousand) EUR 2,35 million (EUR 2,55 million) Liquidity ratio: 76,33% 72,96%   FULL FINANCIAL REPORT FOR THE PERIOD ENDED 31 december 2018  

Valeri Belokon: The existence of our nation in 200 years depends on literature

Valeri Belokon, the main shareholder of Baltic International Bank and the long-standing patron of Latvian literature, who also supports the current project ‘Library’ aimed at promoting reading, believes that the existence of the literary industry is of great importance for our entire nation. Preserving literature, we preserve the Latvian culture and language. What do we leave behind, apart from language? We leave the thoughts of our people. If we lose the word, we lose the thought. Books should be published to enable us to keep a big, complete, philosophical thought.Valeri Belokon   In the seventh interview in a series of video stories within the framework of the ‘Library’ project, Valeri Belokon gives a peek into his private library and tells about his personal motivation prompting him to provide support. The books have everything that we need for our life and for the life of our soul,’ he says. ‘Support to literature is my vocation and the voice of my heart. A person can support literature only if he or she understands it and needs it. It is not that literature goes with hat in hand.Valeri Belokon   The patron also expresses his views on the role of literature in the preservation of the Latvian language. ‘We are in a situation where we need to maintain our language and culture. I believe that this is what we are doing at the moment and what definitely have to keep doing.’ In an interview with Baltic International Bank, the main shareholder points out, through laughter and, at the same time, very seriously, that all the answers to questions can be found in books. ‘Nowadays, people think that Google has all the answers, but I have to disappoint them by saying that this is actually not true. Books provide all the answers,’ he says. Watch full interview The full interview with Valeri Belokon is available on the home page of the ‘Library’ project at There you can also find six other interviews published before: with writers Nora Ikstena and Māris Bērziņš, Zbigņevs Stankēvičs, metropolitan archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church, Andris Vilks, director of the National Library of Latvia (NLL), Kārina Pētersone, director of the Latvian National Library Support Society, and Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former president of Latvia. In the coming months, it is also planned to publish an interview with Uldis Bērziņš, poet and translator, Imants Lancmanis, Latvian art historian and heraldry specialist, and Sanita Stinkule, head of the Department of Ethnography of the National History Museum of Latvia. The project ‘Library’ has been created by Baltic International Bank, a long-standing patron of Latvian literature. The ‘Library’ initiative proposes to tell stories about the importance of literature in people’s lives, stories about personal libraries, their content, emotional and professional value. The development of Latvian literature is one of the long-term public support endeavours of Baltic International Bank. Believing that knowledge of culture and history of one's country is the basis of the national identity of each nation, Baltic International Bank financially supports the publishing of books of national importance and implementation of literary projects.

Baltic International Bank embarks on developing new internet banking facility while implementing new technological solutions

Some of the biggest challenges financial service companies face today are a shift towards modern digital opportunities and implementation of relevant solutions. Committed to providing greater convenience for the users, Baltic International Bank (Bank) has embarked on launching an improved version of its internet banking facility. The users will benefit from functionality and security enhancements and a broader array of services. The upgraded internet banking will represent a platform for launching new products and services in the future. Bank is developing the new digital infrastructure solution in liaison with ETRONIKA the leading fintech company in the Baltic States. Bank is planning to invest around one million euros in improving the internet banking facility. Bank has already finished the first phase of the project. In June 2019, Bank will give its customers access to test the features of the first version. At the end of summer, Bank will be gradually rolling out the new internet-banking version to all customers. The transition will run until October 2019. In October, Bank will make the new facility available to all customers. Highly competitive environment in the financial sector spurs us to respond quickly to situations, be innovative and take a strategic approach to decision-making. We therefore continuously develop digital channels and invest in our infrastructure. This is vital to ensure convenient and qualitative services for our customers. New technological solutions are conducive to increasing the value of the services offered by Bank. We will launch the internet banking through combined efforts of the sector professionals and after having explored usage patterns of our customers. The internet banking will enable the customers to obtain only useful and really necessary information, save time and plan finances better and make their investments and other financial deals in a timely manner while being 100-percent sure about safety and security of their data and money.Guntars Reidzāns, Member of the Management Board at Baltic International Bank   The envisaged improvements will also foster preparation of financial statements and execution of transactions in an easy and convenient way that in turn will enhance customer service experience. Bank will also make changes in the internet banking design. As Bank keeps up with and stays on top of emerging technology trends, it specifically focuses on a responsive design created to fit better various digital devices used by the customers. Thus, every user will be able to personalize the main screen by selecting the most current information and to adjust the background of the internet bank according to individual preferences. We place customer convenience and security at the heart of everything we do. A unified dashboard showing the accounts and products, a convenient internet banking navigation, and an improved OneSpan mobile Digipass solution that will allow authenticate the cardholder and authorise transactions by employing push notification to mobile phone will improve user’s experience overall. Bank is also improving already implemented AML system’s settings. In an effort to heighten Bank’s safety and security and maximise customer convenience, Bank will enable its customers to complete MiFID questionnaires and Know Your Customer (KYC) questionnaires in the Internet-banking environment (customer profile section).Jānis Osis, Head of the Digital Channels Development at Baltic International Bank   ETRONIKA, a Lithuania-based fintech company having almost 20 years of experience in the Baltic financial services sector, is the project’s developer. The company developed and offered innovative digital solutions with an emphasis on security and customer convenience. Regular improvements are very necessary. Developments and opportunities in digital environment come along with new threats. In highly regulated industries, we must also take into consideration ever-changing regulations and legislative updates. By improving digital interaction, we will make the internet banking platform more efficient and more user-friendly. As a result, both Bank and its customers will enjoy new opportunities.Arnoldas Jankūnas, the Chief Executive Officer at „ETRONIKA”   Innovative solutions designed specifically for payment processing will substantially boost the internet banking usage experience and will reduce the amount of time required for carrying out the activities involved. The new internet banking will enable the customers to ensure a multilevel signing of payments and a multilevel approval of applications. Bank has implemented instant payments, and customers can select them from the list of the beneficiaries. To process several payments in a quick and convenient manner, Bank has implemented batch processing functionality (or import of bulk payments) and export related to the generation of account statements, simultaneous approval of several payments, and a smart payment form that adapts itself depending on the customer-posted information. Even better communication with Bank, as provided by private banker, is available for the customers within just a ‘clickable distance’. The development of the new internet banking is only a part of the innovations that are underway. In the near future, Bank will roll out solutions such as instant payments, open banking (a platform-based business approach), investments and investment products available on the investment menu, and other solutions designed to enhance customer service experience.   About ETRONIKA ETRONIKA is award winning Nordic FinTech company, offering digital platforms for finance and retail sectors, digital and mobile signature, mobile payments, digital services for point-of-sales terminals and other services. Company is based in Vilnius, Lithuania and is a part of NRD Companies. NRD Companies – a global information technology and consulting group of companies specialized in governance and economic digital infrastructure development. NRD Companies are controlled by INVL Technology UTIB – NASDAQ Vilnius listed closed-end investment in IT Businesses Company. INVL Technology managed companies operate as a cluster and implement joint projects in more than 50 countries worldwide. BANKTRON is award winning smart e-channels platform which enables financial institutions to deliver seamlessly financial services across various devices.

Baltic International Bank has been Admitted to the Gold Level of the White List Maintained by the SRS and the MF

The Ministry of Finance (MF) and the State Revenue Service (SRS) have admitted Baltic International Bank to the Gold Level of the In-depth Cooperation Programme (Padziļinātās sadarbības programma) or so-called SRS White List, thereby acknowledging the transparency of operations as well as tax compliance discipline. The In-depth Cooperation Programme of the State Revenue Service has been improved this year to promote a closer and more efficient cooperation with responsible taxpayers. ‘Baltic International Bank is committed to responsible and transparent business conduct. In our work, we rely on the ESG (Environmental. Social. Governance) approach, where Governance (corporate management) is one of the main blocks. Baltic International Bank pays special attention to the principles of corporate governance, ensuring compliance with Latvian and international legal norms and timely payment of national taxes. Therefore, we welcome the Gold status granted by the MF and the SRS, which was awarded by evaluating the Bank's economic performance, the amount of taxes paid and a number of other criteria’, says Alon Nodelman, Member of the Management Board and Chief Financial Officer of Baltic International Bank. The sustainability and corporate responsibility of Baltic International Bank is evidenced by the gold award from the Sustainability Index received by the Bank for the second year in a row. The information published by the SRS shows that the In-depth Cooperation Programme or the White List is designed to promote a closer and more efficient cooperation with responsible taxpayers. Since 1 January 2019, participants of the In-depth Cooperation Programme are admitted to one of three levels: Gold, Silver and Bronze, depending on the volume of business. All companies are assessed on the basis of 15 key criteria to qualify for participation in the programme. Additional criteria apply to grouping, and they are different for each level. The Gold level currently comprises 79 companies. More information on the SRS website, in the section Padziļinātās sadarbības programma (In-depth Cooperation Programme).

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