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As Pandemic-Driven Fraud Increases, Firms Respond with Accelerated Adoption of Defenses

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Firms fight back with automation and accountability

PORTSMOUTH, NH and Atlanta – February 10, 2021 — Today, Bottomline and Strategic Treasurer release the results of the 2021 Treasury Fraud & Controls Survey. This is the 6th annual survey between the long-time collaborators, whose research partnership also includes the annual B2B Payments Survey.

As in prior years, the 2021 survey gathered details about corporate and banking experiences, actions and plans regarding fraud. Results show that the pandemic accelerated both the threat of fraud and the response to it, with corporate and banking alignment on defensive automation.

Top Findings:

Spending more/significantly more on security is a 3-year trend (2019: 17%; 2020: 19%; 2021: 22%).

Eighty-six percent (86%) of bank respondents perceive Business Email Compromise/Authorized Fraud to be the greatest risk to their business over the next 1-2 years.

One-fifth of fraud experiences had a COVID-19 connection (21%).

Against a multi-year trend of increasing sophistication and automation of fraud, opportunistic criminals leveraged the pandemic-driven push to remote operations to strike in a blitz offensive. The rapid transition to a work from home (WFH) environment created exposures that outpaced structural and procedural defenses, resulting in accelerated threats and fraud loss.

Smaller firms were hit the hardest (26% of small business fraud had a tie to the virus, as opposed to only 17% for larger companies). Presumably, their potential payouts previously fell below the radar of criminals who now, with the development of greater automation and a backdrop of expanded vulnerabilities, have broadened their sights to include targets of all sizes.

Organizational responses have been intentional and multifaceted, enhancing both human and technical elements of defense:

Staff assignments in accountability for managing fraud have grown by 50% from levels measured just two years ago.

On the technology front, firms are advancing via increased levels of automation, use of backend functions like fraud interdiction, and improved customer experience (90% noted this as a key area of technology investment) for optimizing the use of these digital tools – a trend which overlaps both banks and corporates.

“Ultimately, we are seeing digital warfare escalation, in which firms are meeting the criminal use of automation with their own defensive tools and controls,” says Craig Jeffery, Managing Partner of Strategic Treasurer.

Omri Kletter, VP, Cyber Crime and Fraud Management at Bottomline, also commented on the escalation: “Investments to digitally transform customer experiences and power faster payments are met with equally dynamic threats. Survey results show ongoing concern about business email compromise, authorized fraud, and account takeover, as well as an increase in threats faced by small and medium-sized corporate customers. The results are a clear call-to-action, and Bottomline is on the front-lines of the effort with the protection of end-customers top of mind.”

The 2021 Treasury Fraud & Controls Survey ran in the last quarter of 2020, with nearly 100 questions and over 300 respondents globally. More extensive results from the survey are available via a downloadable report, an infographic, and a webinar today, February 10. Replays will be available on Strategic Treasurer’s website following the event.


Request Survey infographic here

Request Survey report here


Strategic Treasurer

Strategic Treasurer provides consulting services for treasury management, security, technology and compliance. Corporate clients, banks and fintech providers throughout the world rely on their advisory services and industry-leading research. Strategic Treasurer is headquartered in Atlanta, with consultants based out of Atlanta, Cleveland, and Detroit. To learn more, visit strategictreasurer.com.

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