How businesses in the MENA region can enhance their due diligence processes
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How businesses in the MENA region can enhance their due diligence processes

How businesses in the MENA region can enhance their due diligence processes

Adequate due diligence can help prevent businesses from facing potential financial and reputational losses through their association with untrustworthy entities, says Antoun Massaad, CEO of Cedar Rose

Antoun Massaad is the CEO of Cedar Rose

What is the scope of services that Cedar Rose offers customers within the MENA region?
At Cedar Rose our objective is to build trust and drive smart decisions. We offer a full suite of credit and compliance risk solutions. Our products help prevent our clients from facing potential financial and reputational losses through their association with untrustworthy customers, suppliers, and other partners.

The Cedar Rose solutions include company credit reports which confirm the creditworthiness of a potential customer; KYC/KYB to quickly verify the existence of an individual or a company; compliance checks to identify potential red flags (sanctions, politically exposed persons and adverse media); and other business data that will help our clients make smart business decisions.

You recently unveiled an automated KYB solution. What is its USP? 
Cedar Rose is the first company in the MENA region to provide an automated Know Your Business solution with a global coverage of over 150 million companies. We make it possible for our clients to establish the authenticity of legal entities against trusted global data. In a matter of seconds, our clients can instantly verify if critical corporate information such as the name of the company, registration number, address or legal form is authentic.

It’s a valuable service for preventing fraud when onboarding new customers, converting more customers by building trust and making the verification process simple, and reducing operational costs by streamlining and digitising global business risk mitigation processes.

How has the nature of conducting due diligence and verification checks evolved since Cedar Rose was founded ?
My wife Christina and I founded Cedar Rose because we wanted to create a bridge between the Arab region and the rest of the world and improve business relationships through trust. The objective has always been to collect and analyse as much data and information as possible on local corporates and businessmen and to encourage companies in Europe, America, and Asia to trade more easily within this region.

Access to information in the MENA region has always been difficult compared to the rest of the world. It is not always digitised and isn’t centralised with many different independent jurisdictions. Financial information is rarely publicly available. Our expertise and 25 years of experience have allowed us to develop strategies and processes that provide access to this information, clean it, translate/transliterate it, and standardise it to facilitate easy comprehension for our clients.

Our internal systems have however changed radically since we started Cedar Rose. We have today a strong and dynamic Data Strategy team that have applied new technologies such as machine and big data parsing to automate the collection, processing, and analysis of the information. It helps our clients benefit from a quality and rapid service in a world that never sleeps.

What are the most common pain points that you encounter when undertaking investigative due diligence within the region?
Transparency and availability of the information are still the most common pain points. The region is evolving a lot though. For example, the UAE has recently implemented several new regulations to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism. They now force companies to reveal who the ultimate beneficiary officers (UBOs) are, which is a very important step in a country with multiple free zones.

The different languages in the region (Arabic, English, Turkish, Farsi, Greek etc.) have always created difficulties for international clients. Fortunately, we have been able over the years to implement solutions to automatically translate/transliterate and standardise this information into our database.

What are some of the new technologies/practices that you have employed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has impacted the way we work. For instance, collecting documents from corporate registries or meeting with local sources to enquire about a subject have been challenging. Our team has rapidly adapted to accelerate the automation of our data collection using machine learning and finding new ways of working with local partners. These are new internal processes that we have implemented to maximise our efficiency. I’m proud to say that our client’s services have been unaffected by the pandemic.

Which are the growth markets for Cedar Rose and will you be introducing any new verticals?
The initial goal of the company was to serve international companies who wanted to do business in the MENA region. Now that we have global coverage for all our products and services, our strategy is to grow our presence and coverage in the MENA region and the GCC, and help local companies grow their business with trust in their business partners.

We have recently opened a new office in Dubai for this purpose and our local team is increasing rapidly. The region is growing rapidly and has introduced lots of new credit and compliance risk regulations that compare with international standards. If local companies (and not only the ones active in the financial sector) want to avoid reputational and financial losses, they will have to implement some changes in their internal processes.

Our recent product launches (CR Comply, CR KYB and CR IDentify) have been well received by our customers and we have just developed a new service to completely automate the onboarding process. The service is currently available via API, and by the end of the year, an online platform will be available.

To know more about Cedar Rose call +971 4 374 5758 or visit www.cedar-rose.com

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