SOME COMMERCIAL BANKS HAVE PASSED THE BLAME ON THE NATIONAL BANKThe NBR has criticized banks that have closed companies' accounts without notifying them first

EMILIA OLESCU (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
English Section / 23 februarie 2021

The NBR has criticized banks that have closed companies' accounts without notifying them first

Vasilescu, BNR: "When some banks have to implement some European directives, they blame the NBR"

"Bankers' behavior on customers needs to be cordial and respectful in any circumstances", says Adrian Vasilescu

For a long time, when some banks have to implement certain European directives, they blame the NBR in order to justify themselves, said Adrian Vasilescu, strategy consultant at the National Bank of Romania. He points out that credit institutions ask customers to answer various questions, "annoy them" and tell them that this is what the National Bank asked them: "It is already a reflex for many banks."

First Deputy Governor Florin Georgescu sent a circular to credit institutions, warning them to take care of customers and consider them partners, not to behave with them as they would with financial terrorists.

In this context, the NBR once again cautioned the banks when it comes to their behavior towards customers. First Deputy Governor Florin Georgescu sent a circular to credit institutions, warning them to take care of customers and consider them partners, not to treat them as they would some financial terrorists.

It seems that as part of the procedures for implementing the Directive on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing, banks question customers in too much detail and even block their accounts, claiming that that is what the central bank requires.

Adrian Vasilescu told us: "Now it is a new situation. Saying that they comply with EU regulations related to the selection of customers according to certain requirements, the banks considered that the legislation applies to some important companies and closed down their accounts, thus causing major outrage. The banks said that that was what the BNR asked them to do. Of course, the National Bank always demands that the laws be obeyed. There are norms of the NBR that do not have the force of law, but complement and comply with certain requirements of European regulations. This time, banks have conducted data update campaigns, called customers to the bank and they felt hurt. But it is one thing to be bothered by the fact that you are called to the headquarters to fill in some data and another is to wake up with your account closed and with the bank's request to withdraw your money".

In Adrian Vasilescu's opinion, it is possible that some companies may even have transactions with foreign companies likely to be in contact with terrorists and these companies have had their accounts canceled. However, under these conditions, the bank must tell the customers what is up, the NBR representative says: "People need to know that this is a very firm EU directive that requires the selection of customers on certain criteria, especially not to be suspected links to terrorism, organized crime, etc., not to be told that this was what the NBR demanded. The National Bank found itself with complaints from companies, asking why it issued such directives and what connection the central bank has with their company. It was politely explained to them that the NBR does not work with bank customers, but since it is an EU norm, the National Bank certainly always reminds of the need to comply with the law.

Adrian Vasilescu emphasizes that banks must take note of the NBR circular and act accordingly. He concluded: "The first important thing banks need to do when a customer is suspected of certain behavior is to have a dialogue with that customer. There are banks that practice dialogue, others do not and just act. The banker's behavior towards customers must be cordial and respectful in all conditions. In Japan, there are banks where if the client leaves angry, the clerk is not asked "why did he get angry?", but "what did you do to annoy him?"

It is clear that banks must comply with European regulations, which are also national regulations, because the NBR has introduced all EU directives in domestic law, says economist Aurelian Dochia, financial analyst. "There is no contradiction on this subject, but there are discussions on the behavior of banks. Maybe there are banks that have not behaved properly, but I don't think we need to generalize. It is certain that banks must react and take action in accordance with European law. In addition to European regulations, all dollar transactions are subject to US regulations and banks are required to comply with them, because otherwise they risk not being able to work with dollars and no one can afford that".

Citibank said it has a solid partnership with its customers: "We appreciate the steps of the National Bank of Romania to support compliance with the legislation governing the processes of knowing the banking clientele, as well as promoting professional conduct in the relationship with the customers. Citi has a strong partnership with its customers, while maintaining an adequate control framework and compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. "

In addition to Citibank, Ziarul BURSA sent inquiries to the Romanian Banking Association, as well as to a number of about 20 other banking institutions, requesting an opinion on the subject, but none of them wanted to comment.

The European directive on preventing the use of the financial system for money laundering or terrorist financing has emerged as a result of sophisticated money laundering mechanisms, Hotnews says, explaining that the procedure is for each bank to make a set of internal rules that it sends for approval to the NBR. The National Bank looks over them and, if those rules comply with the minimum standards of compliance with the European Directive, then it endorses them. The NBR does not dictate to any bank what those norms should look like, these being internal decisions of the commercial bankers, the quoted source also states.

Many customers have filed complaints with the National Bank for clarification, according to Hotnews, which has published some of them:

◄"We showed up at the bank last fall to update our company data. With one trip, we were going to update the personal account data as well. We filled in the forms and the next day, surprise: our accounts were blocked. We asked for explanations and were told that there was a delay in internal data processing and that they sent us an email in the summer informing us that we needed to update our data. No such email exists."

◄"I went to update my company data, and the girl at the counter asked me if I was the sole partner of the company. I confirmed it, as shown by the documents submitted at the opening of the company's account. She then asked me where I get my personal income from. I asked if I was at the bank or at the tax office. The girl replied that the NBR gave a directive obliging them to request this data from customers and that it only applies what the National Bank requests. I told the clerk that he could see very well and alone where I get my income because my personal account is also open with them. All they had to do was check their computer to see where my money is coming from".

◄"They asked me how much money I estimate I would earn in 2021 per individual, as I was being there to update my company data. I told her that being a Lottery addict, I estimate that I will win one million euros, but that wasn't certain. They told me not to joke about such a thing, that it is a NBR Directive and that I am obliged to answer them!".


Hotnews published the internal rules of a top bank on this topic:

"List of activities and occupations considered to present an increased risk of money laundering:

The activities of Banking Companies and other financial services companies not properly regulated;

Retail trade activities of art and antiques;

Retailing, industrial and commercial activities of precious stones and metals;

Activities of charities which do not have an international, regional or local reputation;

Casinos, nightclubs and other entertainment activities;

Activities of Construction Companies, Other Large Enterprises and Organizations, Providing Products and / or Services to Governments, Government Agencies or the Armed Forces;

Organizations involved in the financing of political parties or the armed forces;

Persons holding an important public office locally (city or county).

Special measures taken to prevent the financing of terrorism

all the Bank's staff has the obligation to show a vigilant attitude on the occasion of opening the accounts and accepting the operations ordered by the clients;

the obligation to consult the lists of persons suspected of terrorism when opening accounts, performing external transfers and significant value transactions;

the management of the entities must put in place measures to enable its staff to carry out a careful examination of any official list containing the names of persons or organizations suspected of terrorism or other terrorist organizations;

In the situation of identifying a natural and / or legal person suspected of terrorist activities, the following steps must be completed:

For the persons on the lists, the procedure will be as follows:

- the bank's management and the Compliance Department must be informed immediately in writing (by email), with the identification data and the assets held in the accounts;

- the accounts of the person concerned and the products or services attached to them will be temporarily blocked, any transfer being prohibited, by any means;

- the funds or economic resources held by these persons, entities or groups, directly or indirectly, in any form whatsoever, will not be used by them or other persons, entities or groups;

- the Bank unit draws up a Report of Suspicious Transactions which must be sent immediately to the Compliance Department in order to notify the competent authorities according to the law;

b) for persons who are not actually on the lists, but from the client's monitoring activities it results that they have economic, commercial or financial links with persons suspected of terrorist activities or targeted by financial sanctions, the Bank will proceed similarly to the previous situation".

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