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James Dockerill, Financial Crime Prevention Expert

Helping to protect charities from cyber crime

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Helping to protect charities from cyber crime

Published: November 9, 2023

Our charity sector customers are of great importance to Unity Trust Bank. This is a sector that is crucial to delivering positive social impact.

James Dockerill, Financial Crime Prevention Expert

As a regulated financial institution, we provide tools to try to protect customers. We help businesses ensure they are not used as a conduit for financial crime. Sadly, the charity and voluntary sector in particular can fall victim to financial crimes such as first party (internal) or external fraud.

James Dockerill is Unity’s financial Crime Operations Lead. Here, he highlights the potential threats community sector organisations face. James also gives an overview of the advice and support available to them.

Types of financial crime

Financial crimes come in many guises, including money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation finance. It also comes through issues such as bribery, corruption or sanctions (especially financial sanctions).

  • Money laundering is the process of concealing the origin of money or assets, obtained from illicit and illegal activities. Funds may come from drug trafficking and corruption and be converted into a legitimate source through the financial systems.
  • Terrorist financing is often seen as the reverse of money laundering, where legitimate proceeds/donations are ultimately used for illicit purposes.
  • Bribery is an act of giving someone a financial or other advantage to encourage them to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward them for having done so.
  • Sanctions are mechanisms to enforce orders to obey with international laws or principals by limiting trade. These include prohibitions on activity or requiring licenses to carry out activity. Banks are especially affected by a suite of UK financial sanctions currently in force.
  • Proliferation Finance is the financing of weapons of mass destruction – either directly or through dual use goods which appear to have a legitimate, civilian use but also have a military use too (for example microchips).

Risks to charities

Charities operating internationally could also be exposed to significant reputational or financial crime risks despite the best intentions of the trustees or controllers.

Charities will be engaged in providing aid and support to those in need. However, this is often in regions experiencing conflict or areas close to geographies that pose a risk. This opens the charity to more exposure to the sanctions, terrorist financing or bribery risks posed above.

A practical example may be charities that operate internationally and seek to deliver immunisations to communities but would be expected to pay customs officials to unload the supply of immunisations at port (bribery risk).

Support from Unity

At Unity we believe it’s our duty to assist in any way we can. We want to ensure that charities are able to fulfil their duties while managing these risks accordingly.

Did you know that Unity offers dual and triple authorisation levels on accounts for making external payments? This may assist you in ensuring that your constitutional, policy, procedural or recommended payment governance obligations are met.

If you would like to find out more on how our dual or triple authority accounts can protect you, or if you would like to increase the levels of authorisation on your existing Unity account, please let us know. You can also visit our website to find out more:

Additional risk management

Whether your charity is registered with the Charity Commission of England and Wales or not, there are a number of resources that the Commission offers. This advice helps protect charities and navigate risks – including the Compliance Toolkit. Please see these links for further information which are also incredibly insightful for charities who operate internationally:

We believe the guidance here is relevant for all charities, even those registered with OSCR in Scotland or the Charities Commission for Northern Ireland in Northern Ireland.

Furthermore, even if you are registered as a charity with the Charity Commission of England and Wales, there may be additional guidance that you are not aware. Explore the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the National Cyber Security Centre.

Last but not least, please visit our Protecting Your Organisation From Fraud webpage for hints and tips on how to keep your charity safe from fraud and financial crime.